Over the past couple of years, I have been touring businesses on the Saanich Peninsula and Southern Gulf Islands and sharing my experiences on my blog in a series called “Championing Local Business.”
The idea came from the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and their annual Tour of Industry. For about a decade they have been organizing busloads of local business and political leaders and touring them through some of the peninsula’s incredible businesses.
I was on Central Saanich Council when they first started the tour and I believe the initial premise was that decision makers did not have a good enough idea of the quality and quantity of innovators and change-makers who employ thousands of people, powering the local economy. At least from my perspective they made a correct assumption.
Over the years I have made sure to attend the tour to learn about what is behind the many non-descript doors in the Keating and Sidney/North Saanich business areas. Since my election as the MLA it has been increasingly difficult to attend a full day tour so I have attended the luncheon keynote address and had there not been a scheduling mishap I would have been there in January for the latest episode.
The value was so great that I decided to continue the tour in my current role so as to never forget the critical importance of the entrepreneurs who are investing in the local economy and contributing to the fantastic quality of life in our riding. Also, I need to hear firsthand how the provincial government can better service those areas to improve business retention and attract new businesses.
If my memory serves me well on that very first tour we stopped at a company, perched above the Keating gravel pit, called Quester Tangent. They were the latest stop on my most recent tour.
K.D. Singh opened the doors to me at their new location in Keating on Bertram Place. The rapidly growing company has expanded substantially in the past decade supplying custom-built train electronics, including train control and monitoring systems, passenger information systems, and display systems to train builders in the international marketplace.
They work with a majority of train builders in the world like Bombardier Transport, Toshiba, Kawasaki, Hyundai, Alstom and China Rail, who are building state-of-the-art transit systems in major centres across North America. From their headquarters in Central Saanich this hidden gem holds ~ 30 % market share of their train electronics market in the North American market place.
With about 50 engineers (software, hardware and mechanical), a full complement of administrative staff (human resources, accounting, sales and marketing) and a team of employees designing, developing and manufacturing their products on site, in total Quester Tangent employs 86 highly skilled professionals.
Quester Tangent has just made a large investment in state-of-the-art equipment that allows them to build their electronic circuit boards. This allows them to control their intellectual property, save time and lower production cost by as much as 30%.
An important aspect of their business is after-market support and obsolescence management, serving their customers for up to 20 years. On the manufacturing floor are dozens of new monitoring and control units processing through their stringent testing sequences to ensure reliability and quality. There are also malfunctioning units that have been returned for repair, all part of the quality assurance they offer their clients.
While Quester Tangent is a glowing success story on the Saanich Peninsula, they are in a difficult and highly competitive business. They are surrounded by businesses who are also competing locally and globally. This is where local, provincial and federal politicians need to pay close attention.
As with many of the other businesses I have visited the main challenges for the local business community is housing affordability, access to reliable transportation and the availability of a skilled workforce. These are areas that I remain committed to focus my effort with colleagues in all governments.
I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Quester Tangent again and for their continued investment in our community. I raise my hands to the Chamber of Commerce for continuing their efforts to tell these stories through their annual Tour of Industry, and look forward to the next stop on my monthly tour.
This MLA Column was originally published on February 22, 2020 in the Saanich News.