Getting off the ground

Rob Antle
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Manufacturing Northstar working to establish aircraft plant in province

Before Northstar Network Ltd. can get to work in a facility building aircraft, it must assemble some building blocks of its own.

Two of those blocks fell into place in recent weeks.

First, Northstar achieved the rigorous AS9100B standard set by QMI, North America's leading management systems registrar, for aerospace industry suppliers.

Northstar Network Ltd. of St. Johns is working on a plan to potentially set up an aircraft manufacturing plant in Newfoundland, according to company president Howard Nash. Submitted Photo

Before Northstar Network Ltd. can get to work in a facility building aircraft, it must assemble some building blocks of its own.

Two of those blocks fell into place in recent weeks.

First, Northstar achieved the rigorous AS9100B standard set by QMI, North America's leading management systems registrar, for aerospace industry suppliers.

Second, the provincial government inked an agreement with Quebec-based Bombardier Aero-space to buy four new waterbombers. In a separate deal, Bombardier signed an industrial benefits package worth $30 million in Newfoundland and Labrador over the next decade.

Northstar is looking at that commitment - and the potential of getting a piece of the Bombardier pie - as another building block in its ultimate plan.

"It's our goal to put an aircraft manufacturing plant here in Newfoundland," Northstar president Howard Nash told The Telegram.

"We've got the business plan pretty well in place. We know all the equipment we're going to need. The floor plan has been laid out. What's holding us up at this point is the firm orders."

Nash said Northstar currently has around $10 million worth of orders on the books. But the company needs to get that number to the $30-million range before starting to talk about where to put the plant.

Achieving AS9100B status was a major milestone, Nash noted.

"To do business with Boeing, for example, you've got to have AS9100," he said. "If you're not an AS9100 company, they don't even talk to you."

Boeing officials visited the St. John's company recently to discuss upcoming opportunities, Nash noted.

He said Northstar is just one of a "handful" of companies in Atlantic Canada with AS9100B status.

"It's going to mean that we can bid on significantly bigger contracts. We can bid on contracts with customers like Boeing and the other aerospace suppliers, aerospace parts suppliers."

To date, Northstar has done extensive work on submarines and frigates, along with some aerospace work. But Nash hopes AS9100B status will open more, and bigger, doors for entry into the aerospace sector.

"It's one thing to manufacture a part that's going to go in a car, or in a tank, or in something that's on the ground," Nash noted. "When you're flying at thirty or forty thousand feet, the companies you deal with (have) to have reliability in the company that's supplying the parts that go into that plane."

Northstar has met with officials in Argentia about potentially setting up there, Nash said.

He noted that government support will be helpful, but it's not just a matter of money.

"Government lobbying with you, and banging on the table at Boeing or Bombardier, and saying that we need business in Newfoundland goes a long way," Nash said.

Northstar provides a wide array of engineering, fabrication and manufacturing services, working mainly in the defence, aerospace, marine and homeland security fields.

The firm directly employs 16 full-time people in Newfoundland, but outsources the majority of its fabrication and manufacturing work to other companies in the Atlantic region.

Northstar hopes to employ 50 people at start-up if the company's manufacturing plant plan gets off the ground, Nash said.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Northstar, Bombardier, Boeing The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, North America, St. John's Atlantic Canada Argentia

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  • j
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    great idea...i hope you're successful. if you are...start with something for the offshore helicopters...maybe then our workers will feel safe!

  • Skeptical
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    That MADE RIGHT HERE brand-logo assumes poroducts made in NL will only be sold here. I was at a Sobeys in Nova Scotia and the Purity products had the MADE RIGHT HERE logo on them. Anyone not famailiar with Purity products could assume they were made in NS, although the NL provincial flag is part of the logo. Confusing yes? It seems whoever thought up the logo didn't realize NL products carrying that logo would ever be marketed outside NL. And we wonder why NLers aren't very entrepreneurial.

  • j
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    great idea...i hope you're successful. if you are...start with something for the offshore helicopters...maybe then our workers will feel safe!

  • Skeptical
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    That MADE RIGHT HERE brand-logo assumes poroducts made in NL will only be sold here. I was at a Sobeys in Nova Scotia and the Purity products had the MADE RIGHT HERE logo on them. Anyone not famailiar with Purity products could assume they were made in NS, although the NL provincial flag is part of the logo. Confusing yes? It seems whoever thought up the logo didn't realize NL products carrying that logo would ever be marketed outside NL. And we wonder why NLers aren't very entrepreneurial.