Power People of Eastern Ontario’s transportation sector

The lifeblood of business

transportation sector
transportation sector

If goods can’t be delivered in a timely and efficient manner, customers are less satisfied and the manufacturer loses business. And if manufacturers can’t find competitively priced ways of getting their goods to customers, they become less competitive in the economy. In short, transportation is essential. Eastern Ontario, fortunately, is well served by its transport and logistics firms. Here, supply chains operate smoothly, adding another facet to the relatively low-cost business environment enjoyed by companies and residents alike. 

Across the region, large international businesses are setting up warehouses. Trucking companies compete ferociously to serve the many manufacturers — steadily increasing in number — that call the region home. Add in the superb transportation infrastructure — highways, rail services, airports — that facilitates easy shipment of goods to the region’s huge commercial catchment area that boasts 20 million customers within a 450-kilometre radius, and you begin to understand why the regional economy continues to grow.

Terry Wills

president of Wills Transfer 

Terry Wills was born to become the president of Wills Transfer in Brockville. When he joined the company, in 1979, he was part of the third generation of his family connected to the business.

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Terry Wills

He’s enjoyed every minute of it. “Working with people, both in our organization and in our clients’ organizations, to build relationships, teams and logistics solutions is a passion of mine,” he says.

In 1976, he graduated from Carleton University with a bachelor’s in commerce, accounting and economics. In the later 1970s, he spent four years with Ernst & Ernst in Toronto as a chartered accountant.

Wills Transfer is a third-party logistics company that partners with clients to provide warehousing, material handling, transportation — or, as Wills puts it, “that whole inventory thing right up to delivery, the point at which a business transaction is completed.”

Wills believes his biggest contribution has been the company’s purpose statement, which focuses every single employee’s commitment to enhancing the customer’s success. He calls this “the single biggest game-changer in my whole career.”

John Hubbard

 vice-president of Giant Tiger

John Hubbard

As vice-president of distribution centre operations for discount store Giant Tiger, John Hubbard led the team that designed and built the company’s 600,000-square-foot distribution centre that opened in Johnstown in 2018. The project included fully automated order picking, the company’s first use of such technology.

Hubbard joined the company in 2006, after serving in management positions for several other companies. He had earlier earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, accounting and human resources at Concordia University, and a bachelor of business administration from the University of Ottawa.

For Hubbard, the lure of a career in business operations is “the continuous change, adaptation and fast moving pace.” He also credits the company’s quality mentoring and training. He expects to enjoy his biggest challenge yet — staying current with the rush of new technologies in the industry.

Yves Poirier

president of Minimax Express Transportation 

Yves Poirier

Minimax Express, headquartered in Cornwall, is an LTL specialist — “less than load” — meaning it delivers small shipments for clients in Ontario and Quebec.

“Our priority is simple,” Yves Poirier says. “We deliver goods on time and with no incidents.”

Minimax is a Poirier family business. Father Paul Poirier founded Minimax in 1991 and is chairman of the board. Brother Marc Poirier serves as vice-president.

Just getting out of high school, Poirier earned a commercial pilot’s licence, but decided that career was not for him. He then got a business diploma from Algonquin College before joining the family business. “I grew up in trucking and learned a lot of it around the supper table at home.” His father has worked in trucking for nearly six decades.

The family’s achievement has been “to grow a business from nothing to 130 trucks and 200 trailers with five service centres in Ontario and Quebec in three decades,” he says.

The company has even established a division called MX Logistics, which can ship goods anywhere in the world.

Clayton Jones

president and CEO of CREWS and Jones Rail Industries 

Clayton Jones

Clayton Jones, president and CEO of CREWS and Jones Rail Industries in Kemptville, has sometimes been called a railway tycoon of Eastern Ontario. 

Jones Rail Industries, founded in 2007, provides maintenance and repair of tracks and locomotives. CREWS (Canadian Rail Equipment Works and Services), founded in 2012, provides railcar storage and switching services to large rail companies.

Jones earlier spent two decades working for CP Rail and the Ottawa Central Railway.

His biggest accomplishment has been building the company’s railyard in Johnstown. The yard, on which work began in 2016 and is ongoing, accommodates railcar storage and loading. “But our expansion is continuing,” Jones says. “We plan to expand into three or four places in Ontario and, down the road, into Quebec and a couple of other provinces.” He won’t give details, but says an announcement will be coming later this year.

Bob Gauthier

president of Seaway Express 

Bob Gauthier

Seaway Express in Cornwall is a trucking company that has decided to do one thing and do it surpassingly well.

In 1990, the year Bob Gauthier and wife, Linda, founded it, Seaway Express had only one five-ton truck and the simple goal of serving Eastern Ontario and part of Quebec.

“We created a really strong market niche,” Gauthier, still president of the company, says. “And doing that one thing for three decades allows you to become really good at what you do. We don’t want to be a carrier that goes everywhere.”

Gauthier worked in the transportation business from the time he left high school. “Transportation and trucking were always in me. There was always something challenging, something new.”

His greatest accomplishment is to have moved up from that single original truck to a fleet of 25 trucks and 50 employees.

He insists he didn’t do it alone. “Every company has the same equipment and trucks — what makes the difference is to get good people, treat them well, and let them shine.”

Testifying to that approach’s success is a slew of awards from business groups, trucking organizations and the transport ministry.

Aron Winterstein

manager of the Kingston Airport 

Aron Winterstein

Aron Winterstein knew from his early years he wanted to manage an airport. As far back as 2004, he got a diploma in aviation management from Georgian College. He then managed a number of small, remote airports in northern Ontario, and spent a decade working as an airport zone supervisor for the transport ministry, before finally becoming airport manager in Kingston in 2019.

His time in Kingston has been eventful. His biggest accomplishment has been helping staff adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. A major problem was the suspension of flights by Air Canada, the only major airline flying into Kingston.

Winterstein says the airport will be redefining itself after the pandemic. The first order of business will be to re-establish air service to Toronto and then to expand the number of routes coming into Kingston.

“We’re very confident that the future will be bright,” he says. “Finding a new airline partner will open up new opportunities.”

Ben Doornekamp

owner of Doornekamp Lines

Ben Doornekamp

In a kind of corporate Houdini act, Doornekamp Construction has turned itself into a seafarer. The Odessa-based firm has created Doornekamp Lines, a scheduled maritime shipping service that moves containers and bulk cargo between Halifax and Picton, just west of Kingston. That cargo may have originated anywhere on the globe.

“Shipping on the water is cheaper than shipping on land, and it’s far better for the environment,” says Ben Doornekamp, whose family owns the construction company and its maritime shipping sibling.

Doornekamp Construction bought the Picton Terminals site in 2014 and retrofitted the port to store thousands of containers. The company fleet includes two container ships and two tug boats. In the past two years, it has shipped $30 million worth of goods. If regulations permit, the company hopes to soon begin shipping cargo to cities along the Great Lakes. And if combining construction with maritime shipping seems a stretch too far, Doornekamp doesn’t mind. “We’re trying to diversify as much as possible,” he says. “We’re never going to be an all-eggs-in-one-basket company.”

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