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Renfrew County redefines work-life balance

Engaging career opportunities make work part of the fun of living in the Ottawa Valley


Mike Ackman is developing a knack for finding value where others see waste.

He’s the Renfrew-based general manager of Ensyn Technologies, a clean-tech company producing renewable fuels from forestry residues.

That fuel is sent through a filter before it’s sent to customers. Traditionally, the filtered materials were sent to a landfill.

But Mr. Ackman is working on a process to burn it instead to heat the facility’s dryers used to remove moisture from wood before it’s turned into biofuels.


He figures he could cut Ensyn’s natural gas bill by a whopping 60 per cent.

“We’re going to take our own by-product, combust it and reduce our consumption of natural gas,” says Mr. Ackman.

Some people define “work-life balance” as desperately trying to carve leisure time out of their day-to-day grind. In contrast, many Renfrew County residents spend their weekdays at highly engaging careers where they apply their skills by finding creative solutions to real-world problems.

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And, once the workday is over, the area’s outdoor lifestyle awaits with activities that include paddling the Ottawa River, cycling on scenic country roads or through forest paths as well as tackling ski hills and trails in the winter months.


Mr. Ackman is among the growing number of skilled workers in Renfrew County employed by some of Eastern Ontario’s most innovative companies.

Alongside agri-businesses and tourism operators, Renfrew County is home to leading nuclear science companies. This includes Bubble Technology Industries, a security firm that develops radiation, explosive and contraband detection systems used at Super Bowls, the Olympics and global political summits.

Renfrew County also features manufacturing facilities such as fibreboard producer Pembroke MDF, which initially drew Mr. Ackman to the area.

A native of downtown Montreal, Mr. Ackman moved to Renfrew County with his family by way of Sault Ste. Marie in 2001 to work as a plant engineer.

As he later did at Ensyn, the engineer spotted an opportunity to improve Pembroke MDF’s operations by applying some innovative thinking.

Pembroke MDF generates large volumes of wood dust during the fibreboard manufacturing process. Mr. Ackman asked what could be done with the by-product and helped turn it into heat by burning it, displacing natural gas used at the plant.

“We took a raw material that used to be considered waste and turned it into a valuable product,” he says.

Outside of work, Mr. Ackman says he’s developed a love for the outdoor lifestyle Renfrew County offers, namely skiing in the winter and golfing in the summer.

“Every time I go back to the big city, I think it’s great for about five minutes. But then I get stuck in traffic,” he jokes. “Here, we have a quieter and more relaxed lifestyle.”

Help wanted

Looking for fresh career opportunities? A lifestyle change? Renfrew County can lead you to your next job.

Many of the Ottawa Valley’s growing companies are looking to hire individuals for a wide variety of exciting opportunities.

These positions include openings for industrial millwrights, engineers, accountants, hydrogeologists, industrial hygienists, scientists, editors, writers, welders and jobs in the healthcare and administration sectors.

The economic development team at the County of Renfrew will connect prospective job-seekers with employers. Contact Alastair Baird, the manager of economic development at the County of Renfrew, at 1-800-273-0183 x466 or