After more than two decades as an executive in the environmental engineering sector south of the border, Scott MacFabe was looking for the right offer to lure him back home.
When his old friend Roger Woeller announced last year he was stepping aside as CEO of Ottawa-based cleantech firm BluMetric, MacFabe started thinking maybe that time had come.
“I’ve known the firm for many, many years, even before I went to the States,” the 55-year-old graduate of the University of Waterloo told OBJ in early March, four days into his tenure as BluMetric’s new chief executive.
“The opportunity to come back to Canada was always in my mind. When I heard that Roger was looking to step down and other friends of mine who were on the board had mentioned that they were looking for a CEO, I offered to help.”
MacFabe, a hydrogeologist by profession, helped drive major business growth as a senior executive at global engineering firms Malcolm Pirnie, ARCADIS and Kennedy/Jenks Consultants during a 23-year career in the United States.
BluMetric, which specializes in water and wastewater treatment technology, is a small outfit by comparison with 175 employees and annual revenues in the $30-million range.
But MacFabe believes the company – which was founded in 2012 after Seprotech, a designer and manufacturer of water treatment and wastewater solutions, conducted a reverse takeover of Ottawa-based WESA Group – is barely scratching the surface of its potential to serve clients as diverse as mining operations and craft breweries.
With offices in eight Canadian cities and El Salvador and customers in more than 60 countries, BluMetric already has a strong foundation for growth, MacFabe said.
“We have an extraordinary stable of very, very smart professionals and we have an extraordinary suite of technologies that we can bring to bear for our clients,” he said. “When you put those two together, we can deliver some pretty elegant solutions for our client base.
“I think (the company) is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. I look at the foundation that’s been laid post the (reverse takeover); it’s really ready now for us to design the ascent.”
BluMetric initially struggled to gain altitude, posting annual losses as high as $7 million in fiscal 2014 thanks largely to client-driven project delays and a soft overall market.
The turnaround really began when Woeller, a longtime WESA employee who’d spent a dozen years as that company’s CEO, took the reins four years ago.
Under his watch, the company landed a number of multimillion-dollar contracts with the federal government, primarily for remediating contaminated water supplies in Canada’s north, and has turned a profit for the past three fiscal years in a row.
“My job was to get the wings level and get this thing pulling out of the dive, setting up conditions for growth for the future,” Woeller said last June, adding he felt it was time for someone with a different background to guide the company through the next phase of its evolution.
Woeller told OBJ the next CEO would need to have a solid understanding of the firm’s solutions as well as the leadership and business acumen that he described as the “special sauce.”
MacFabe praised Woeller and interim CEO Dan Scroggins for righting the ship at BluMetric.
“Roger has done a tremendous amount of spade work to get this firm on solid footing,” he said. “That’s not easy.”
Now, he says it’s time for the firm to take things to a higher level.
“We’re going to take a good, hard look at our strategy and make sure that we’re all clear in agreement on all the markets that we really want to focus on, all the geographies we want to focus on, and make some good decisions about how we’re going to smartly grow them,” he said, noting the company is looking at opening an office in Thunder Bay to serve the northern mining market.
“In some cases, we will divest and in others, we’ll grow. At the end of the day, we’ve got to show shareholder value. The firm has produced profit, and Roger and the team have done a great job of getting us above the water line, but I know this firm has yet to realize the value that it deserves.”