SUDBURY -- The association for the mining supply sector in Northern Ontario has its first office, signalling a new era for the group as it looks to promote its interests domestically and abroad.

Local MPs Marc Serré and Paul Lefebvre were on hand for the virtual opening of the facility inside the NORCAT building on Maley Drive.

"Our considerable growth over the last two years has brought us to the point where we require a permanent storefront to better serve our members," said president Ricky Lemieux. "That is why we're here today, to officially open our new office, which marks a significant development as we continue to grow the organization as the trusted voice of the mining supply sector."

Lemieux, a business owner himself, and members of the executive have been busy during these last few months re-branding the organization formally known as SAMSSA.

"We decided just because of COVID it was a challenging time, it wasn't time to sit down so we double-timed the work - our directors went hard to work with our executive director," he said.

New name

At the start of the pandemic, they officially announced their new name of Mine Connect, choosing to rebrand the organization and the more of a regional approach as opposed to just representing Sudbury companies.

Since then, the numbers have been growing.

"Going through COVID has challenged us in many ways and we're adapting to that new normal," he said. "We're delivering a higher value while delivering a higher-value proposition, with a primary mandate of helping our members grow."

They've been working with companies in all five major Northern Ontario cities and everywhere in between in hopes of speaking with one voice for the sector.

They're also establishing a new office in Elko, Nevada, to help members further their business ties in the southwestern United States.

Executive director Paul Bradette said this signifies a new beginning for the group.

"And what it also enables us to do is to create a bit of a clubhouse with other like-minded organizations, whether it be the Canadian Mining Innovation Council, you know, where they can take part in the office here and we can share ideas," said Bradette.

Great day

Local politicians said it was a great day for the economy and a great move for northern Ontario as a whole.

"The members here represent 8,000 jobs but the mining industry in northern Ontario encompasses 25,000 jobs - jobs all around northern Ontario that depend on mining," said Serré, MP for Nickel Belt.

Lefebvre, Sudbury MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources, was also on hand for the virtual opening and to mark this moment.

"We needed to connect all these mining supply companies, that's why they titled it Mine Connect so it's a great day for Northern Ontario businesses," he said.

The number one customer of many natural resources companies is the United States. Lefebvre said they've been working to cement relationships with the American government.

Given the growing popularity in things like electric vehicles, he said both countries are going to need northern Ontario as leaders move towards electrifying their economies.

"We need to have faith that whatever decision they make, we will go down that path and continue to have those important relationships and build on those," he said.

Overall, members said they're encouraged with this new direction and what this could mean for the regional economy.

They say their goal is to build on northern Ontario's success as a hub in all things mining including gold and nickel.