Company celebrates 40 years strong in Welland

by Laura Barton, The Tribune

PanAbrasive, a steel shot and grit manufacturer in Welland, was celebrating 40 years of operation on Friday.

Ron Sauriol, plant manager, explained a bit more about what the company does. He said steel shot and grit are used to treat metal surfaces, such as bridges or ships, before they are repainted or have other work done on them. It’s similar to sandblasting, he said.

At the plant, he said workers recycle on average 200 tonnes of scrap steel a day, turning it into the shots and grits to be sold.

He’s worked there for 12 years, the last two-and-a-half as plant manager and before that he was maintenance manager. He said it’s a great place to work and he admires and appreciates the hard work and dedication all of the employees have.

That was a sentiment shared by each of the people who work at the plant. While PanAbrasive is celebrating its 40 years, Walter Mattiazzo is also celebrating 40 years with the company.

In a short speech to the crowd, he expressed his love for all of his co-workers and their families.

“I love the company,” he said in an interview afterwards. “Everybody is great. Everybody is treated with respect, which is the main thing.”

In late October, he’ll be retiring since his official 40-year mark is October 25.

At the end of the year, the PanAbrasive name is set to retire as well.

Richard Jackson, managing director for Winoa North America, which owns PanAbrasive, told the workers, family and friends gathered that the company would change to be called Winoa Canada.

He described PanAbrasive as a strong contender in the steel abrasives market, saying it has become a leader in Canada and is well on its way to becoming so elsewhere as well.

He applauded the company for how it has not only survived, but excelled in a rough industrial market such as Welland’s.

“We’ve really showed a commitment to the city and the city’s shown a commitment to us,” he said. “During the tougher economic times that we’ve seen here in the city of Welland and southern Ontario, we chose to stay here and continue to invest where others moved on.”

Jackson attributes that success to the workers and Sauriol agreed. He said another factor in the company’s success has been keeping up with the times, adapting the way they do things, and overall making the practices more efficient.

The 40-year celebration took place on PanAbrasive’s Rusholme Road poperty, where there were games, face painting and a barbecue lunch courtesy of St. Catharines-based PigOut Catering.

During a short bout of speeches, Ward 6 Coun. Jim Larouche spoke on behalf of Mayor Frank Campion, congratulating the company on its 40 years and calling it a “big deal in the community.” He presented them with a plaque to honour the occasion.

According to its website, PanAbrasive was established in 1977 by CAE Industries and Cleveland Metal Abrasives, but wasn’t called PanAbrasive until 1989 when it was taken over by Wheelabrator Allevard.

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