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“Re-Purposing”: New Life or Sad Story?

Oct 28, 2013 | Posted by Matt Elson

For current (and recovering!) road warriors, one thing is common: you see a lot of different places, some vibrant and growing, and some not so much. It’s one of the positive aspects of being on the road.

One thing that has always struck me on my travels are the abandoned, derelict factories. You know the kind…huge brick buildings, full of graffiti, broken windows and rusted metal. They have always brought to my mind a mixture of sadness and anger about what was and what could have been. One location in particular drives the image home: Detroit. Home to the most abandoned buildings and factories in North America.

Packard FactoryMcClouth Steel PlantMerkur Steel Plant

I always wonder: What happened? Did they not see what was coming? Where they not able to re-act in time? Did they not know how to improve, innovate and capture new customers?

You also hear a lot of media stories about the “re-purposing” of old, abandoned industrial sites…frequently heralded as “a new chapter” or “new beginning”. To be sure, a lot of very skilled professional effort goes into this kind of activity. Like this Montreal train factory transformation. Great work, and glad to see that it is being used again! But did it have to be this way?

I was reading a great article in the Globe and Mail recently entitled “Made in Canada“, which outlined six companies that are still manufacturing in Canada. Some of the information was how much time it took to make each of the products. I kept thinking: “I wonder what they are doing to reduce that? How are they improving their processes?”

I find that I obsess about these things because I want to make sure that our companies in North America are strong and competitive. I want to make sure that we have high value added work here. I want to make sure that we reduce the turmoil that results when we don’t keep innovating and improving. As these six companies (and many more!) have proven, it is possible!


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