Big Things are Happening for McLean Chimney Co. Limited

In Editor Choice, Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Big things have been happening for decades for McLean Chimney Co. Ltd., and their most recent big news is that this dynamic-but-low-profile company is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Founded in Grafton by the late Ed McLean and his wife Lynn, the business now offers services throughout Canada for maintenance, painting, installation, repair and even demolition of industrial smokestacks.

Over the past decade, it has come under new ownership (that would be Chief Operations Officer Suzanne Tilley and her business partner, President Shawn Rowell) and a Cobourg location at 170 Furnace St., the former Markland Plumbing building. Instead of operating out of a small rural location, the business now houses a front office, a warehouse and fenced yard.

The line of trailers parked side-by-side in their back lot await that time when an employee will bring his truck along, hook one up and travel across Canada to the next job at a manufacturing site, university, cement plant or hospital. Or that trailer might be bound somewhere local, like Cameco or Northumberland Hills Hospital.

Their satisfied customers keep coming back, Tilley said, some of them since 1984.

And big plans are on the horizon to expand beyond the industrial side of things to move into residential chimney services. This will have a two-way benefit, she explained, allowing them to access employees working at a residential level and move their career into industrial.

And it works the other way around, she added. Not every employee wants to travel across Canada and work at heights of up to 600 ft. in every kind of weather. As some of their employees grow older, they want to find ways to change their duties and keep them on the team.

“It’s a company-owned business,” Tilley said.

“Shawn and I were both employees – now we own the company.”

In fact, Rowell is now prominently featured on a poster at Watton Employment Services in Cobourg, since that’s how he originally got the job. And they still work closely with Watton for their staffing needs – which are expected to grow as they expand their field of operations.

The company takes pride in its COR certification, which means that they hold a Certificate of Recognition from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association for their health and safety program. Tilley said that they invested “an incredible amount of time and energy” ensuring that both their crews and administration team achieved that accomplishment.

“It’s a provincial registration – every province requires you to have that certification. We have our Ontario one, and reciprocity in the other provinces that allows us to be a bit more competitive, and offer services where customers have peace of mind when they hire us because of our safety standards.”

She gives a lot of the credit for this achievement to Manager of Safety Admin and Projects Carol Thorne, who has been in the industry for years and even worked for a competitor.

“There are not a lot of companies that can provide the type of services we provide, nor do they have the industry experts in this field that we do.”

The recent website refresh was an opportunity not only to update their information but also celebrate their accomplishments as this milestone anniversary approached.

With 20 employees, they subcontract some of their work occasionally, and keep an eye out for opportunities to supplement their staff with summer students.

And for their permanent employees, there’s a real family feel to the team. They were recently treated to a trip to the Dominican Republic to celebrate the big anniversary. And they find management agreeable when they want to upgrade their skills.

For example, Tilley said, “We work collaboratively to get funding for guys who want to get their welding certification. We fund some of it and the Canadian government funds some if it,” she added, referring to the Canada-Ontario Job Grant.

“We were one of the first companies that applied for that funding. We’ve helped a lot of our team.”

And they’ve also helped the community in such ways as supporting NHH and providing sponsorship for the annual Handbags For Hospice event that raises funds for Ed’s House.

This week found four golden mylar balloons could be found floating in their lobby, letters spelling out MCCL – not to celebrate the Roman numeral 1,250 but to stand for McLean Chimney Co. Ltd.

A giant cake waited in the lunchroom, for employees, past, present and future to gather and celebrate with their suppliers, customers and community supporters.

For all to enjoy a few minutes’ fellowship among a close-knit team – that just may be growing again in the near future.

“As we grow into the residential business in Northumberland County, I would say we will quickly be growing out of our operations in this building,” Tilley predicted.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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