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Company of the Year (16-50 Employees): J.D. Aero Technical Inc.

"They quickly earned a reputation for providing superior quality and workmanship and have become a key player in aviation operations worldwide."

Over the last three years, J.D. Aero Technical has become a top performer whose business is integral to the success of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.

Led by business partners Don McNabb and Julien Chin, J.D. Aero Technical offers aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (AMRO) services for airlines and operators from around the world. Clients include Porter Airlines, Bombardier and Air Canada Jazz.

The company offers clients indoor storage for their aircraft during the winter, which is a cost-effective alternative to de-icing a plane that's parked outside during the winter months. Clients also have access to on-site office space, which is available for conducting business while in transit.

McNabb and Chin have a long track record of success. The two were colleagues in the test-flight division at Bombardier when layoffs — following a slowdown in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City — found them out of work a year later.

The pair moved around Canada, working for a variety of companies, before they decided to settle down and form their own company, J.D. Aero Maintenance. It provides professional delivery inspection services for new and used aircraft, lease returns, maintenance consultations, and contract manpower support for maintenance needs or airline startup and support requirements.

It's involved in projects in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific, with a specialty in Bombardier Dash 8 (DHC-8) and Regional Jet (CRJ) aircraft maintenance and technical support.

In 2011, the company formed J.D. Technical, its sister company, undertaking a $3.3-million expansion, adding a 22,320-square-foot hangar and 39,600-square-foot apron to its operations. Since then, the pair has carved out a niche market while steadily building up a loyal roster of clients.

J.D. Aero is housed in a hangar formerly owned by NorOntair, the government-run airline that operated Twin Otter and Dash 8 aircraft out of the airport from 1971 to 1996. After being host to a handful of transient clients who used the space for painting, the hangar sat idle for several years and was in serious need of some upgrades.

With its reasonable operating costs, access to the Canada Border Services Agency, available land and proximity to Toronto, the Sault Ste. Marie airport is a strategic fit.

J.D. Aero employs 22 full-time workers and an additional 17 contractors, which are hired on an as-needed basis, depending on project needs.

Porter Airlines has been a client of J.D. Aero's since 2010. J.D. Aero provides Porter with an ongoing nightly maintenance program, as well as heavy check projects and field support when required, noted Richard Hill, Porter's vice-president of maintenance and engineering.

"J.D. Aero provides high-quality work and on-time delivery," Hill said. "We look forward to our continued business with J.D. Aero."

Terry Bos, CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corp., said the organization has been proactive in establishing the airport as a top-notch facility, and worked to attract private sector tenants to enhance the operation. The airport has seen a steady increase of traffic over the last few years.

"J.D. Aero has been an integral part of this success," Bos said.

Of McNabb and Chin, Bos said, "They quickly earned a reputation for providing superior quality and workmanship and have become a key player in aviation operations worldwide."

The pair met "a variety of challenges head on," he added, "taking a very entrepreneurial approach to business development opportunities."