Rick Morin was driving to work once day 15 years ago when he viewed a cloud of dust lofting from his sandblasting shop.
The sight of the striking image marked a turning point for the owner of Morin Industrial Coatings who decided to profoundly change the way his industry is generally viewed, by elevating its profile from having a “dirty” tag to an environmentally friendly one.
“We had to figure out a way to control this,” said Morin. “Now reclaiming and recycling is a big thing for us.”
Morin Industrial Coatings grew out of the former Chenard Industrial Sandblasting, owned by John Chenard, who Morin began working for straight out of high school in 1985.
Founded in 1992 in the Sudbury suburb of Lively, Morin started in a 2,800-squarefoot shop with four employees and a secretary who still remain with him today.
Today, it is a specialized and diversified industrial blasting and coatings company that handles a variety of heavy industrial, commercial and institutional work.
Now with a new 13,000-square-foot shop, built three years ago, he employs a full-time workforce of 16 that expands to as many as 40 during mill maintenance shutdowns.
For decades, the practice of sandblasting, using high pressure air to remove contaminates from substrate, hadn’t changed.
Many companies will blast outdoors or inside barn-style facilities, surrounded by mounds of spent and contaminated media that’s costly to get rid of or won’t be accepted by landfills anymore.
“When you blast outside in the traditional way, you’re blasting off something that has grease or contaminants on it,” said Morin. “If it rains, it might wash into streams and the watershed. We don’t have that issue anymore.”
Making the investment in a new facility was done to “step up our game,” environmentally, and keep the business viable for future generations.
Without any government regulations prompting him to do so, he installed in-house and mobile dust and material collection units and vacuum systems to collect the debris generated from blasting.
“If we kept operating in the old traditional way, it’s just a matter of time before everything shut down.”
All blasting is done indoors, to reduce the environmental impact, and dust is collected to provide a better working atmosphere for employees.
The company also employs an array of different abrasive and non-abrasive media in their blast booths and on job sites, such as steel shot, cryogenic ice, glass and plastic beads.
“It’s almost like having every club in the bag. We get on projects and determine what media we should be using,” said Morin.
By recycling and reclaiming this media for repeated use, it replaced and eliminated thousands of pounds of spent sand that would be generated from each job.
To impress the major Sudbury miners like Vale and Glencore, Morin knew he had to make the investment in developing a first-class professional shop with leading-edge technologies.
“Dust is a big issue in mining. They’re trying to control dust so we’re following suit,” said Morin.
“With dust collection, we now can blast in hospitals and we’ve worked in SNOLAB,” said Morin. “We’ve spent time and money to turn a fairly dirty industry into a fairly clean one.”
To Morin’s supporters, the company is a true expression of his values and beliefs.
During the early years, he displayed a total dedication toward growing his company and worked some powerful hours. His nominators call him an “inspirational leader who instills confidence in his team.”
Tired or sick, Morin would lead by example, and from the front, working multiple shifts so employees would have family time. The job had to be done right and ‘above spec.’
To some long-time customers, Morin and his crew are “No. 1 in their field,” with a total commitment to the job at hand, a willingness to always be available, and an ethos to never let the customer down.
“You always want to keep setting that bar high in order to stay competitive,” said Morin.
“We work with companies that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Morin said. “We have to assume that we’re there (for them) too.”