There’s a Sudbury dentist who’s a driller. How’s that for a stretch?
Dr. David Morris freely admits diving into mineral exploration business was a bit outside his comfort zone.
But his diamond drilling company is fast proving to be yet another success venture launched by the energetic 32-year-old Nickel City native. He has two flourishing dental practices and has branched out his interests to serve the North’s industrial sector while doing his part to help revitalize Sudbury’s downtown core.
“No question, I was definitely entering unknown territory,” says Morris, who partnered with geologist Jamie Cecchetto earlier this year in launching Morris Diamond Drilling Inc..
It’s the newest venture in his stable of four companies that include a portable industrial trailer company, a trucking firm and a popular downtown Sudbury nightclub.
Experienced drillers and equipment are in short supply, so when they secured a contract this year from Canadian Arrow Mines to drill the first 5,000 metres of a highly prospective nickel deposit, it was critically important to make a good first impression.
“The big risk is they’re always looking for people, but if you (screw up), you’re done.”
The $800,000 investment they’ve made in their drilling company has generated enough work to keep their 10 employees and two drill rigs busy into next year with contracts worth more than $3 million.
As a self-admitted number-cruncher, calculated risks come with the territory for Morris.
In seven years, the Morris Group of Companies employ 40 full- and part-time employees and expects to generate more than $6.2 million in revenue for 2007.
But he places more value on improving people’s lives.
“I believe in the North, I believe in the community and now with the workers we have, it makes for a good team.”
Getting into the modular trailer business made perfect sense to Morris, even if the eyes of the bankers initially clouded over.
“They didn’t believe in it. They thought it was a silly idea.”
After striking up a conversation one day with his squash partner, Keith Denis, to talk about his work servicing and installing trailers for companies across the North, Morris was intrigued.
With an initial investment of $90,000 to purchase seven rental trailers, Morris Modular Space Inc. was established in May 2004.
Even father Richard thought David was throwing away money.
Three years later, their fleet has grown to more than 150, catering to mineral exploration and industrial clients, and generating more than $1 million in annual revenues.
“That’s why I’m so proud of where this is gone. We had no help or people opening their arms and saying this is a great idea.”
The modulars are full office complexes with washrooms, shower systems, water storage containers and bunkhouses used by companies such as CVRD Inco and De Beers Canada at its Victor diamond project near Attawapiskat.
“Keith has done a ton of work and I’ve done a lot of negotiating and haggling, and taken a huge personal risk with much of my own capital for three years.”
Born and raised in Sudbury as the oldest of four children, Morris followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the dental profession, graduating from University of Toronto Dental School in 2000.
It might have been easier to set up a cozy and quiet practice in Sudbury. He could have stayed in southern Ontario to satiate his entrepreneurial ambitions where bank financing is easier to obtain.
“I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker,” says Morris. “I like the challenge.” And he wasn’t willing to relinquish fishing and water skiing at the family cottage.
He returned north to establish a practice east of Sudbury in Warren-St. Charles before opening a second office in Lively.
“It’s been a very rewarding thing personally,” says Morris of his thriving Warren practice. “I make less money, but I enjoy it for the change of pace and we provide a good service.”
Many rural folk, some on social assistance, were in need of treatment there. “The people are very appreciative of it and for me, it keeps me really checked in reality.
He’s also done his part to spruce up Sudbury’s downtown with an upscale night club.
Realizing there was no eclectic gathering place for young professionals flush with new money, Morris and another partner, MacGill Monteleone, opened S.R.O. Lounge (Standing Room Only) in October 2006 following five months of building renovations to a former bar.