Apr 3, 2017

By Owen Hurst

In 2012 Boating Industry Canada had the pleasure of interviewing Wally Szwez, President of Dock Edge + Inc. We noted then that after more than 40 years in the business Wally was still enthusiastic about the future of his company. Time has proven his enthusiasm to have been well warranted!

In September 2016 Dock Edge + and Canada Metal Pacific (CMP) formalized a partnership to the advantage of both companies. John Mitchell, President of CMP, stated that the merger would allow “both companies to leverage significant synergies and efficiencies in order to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.” And Wally Szwez said the “alliance will add to Dock Edge’s product range, and will give the company access to new global markets. Our customers will benefit with more efficiencies and new, innovative products.”

Photo left-right: Christopher Szwez, David Szwez, Wally Szwez, John Mitchell, Michael Szwez

Now almost 7 months into the alliance Boating Industry Canada was able to sit down with John Mitchell, Wally Szwez and Michael Szwez. Wally’s sons Michael, David and Christopher joined him in the merger, each becoming shareholders of CMP. Michael has since taken on the immense task of International Marketing for Dock Edge + and CMP products, including Martyr Anodes, Titan Marine Products, Rocna Anchors, Octopus Autopilots, Intellisteer Remote Steering Systems and Legend Products.

Sitting across the table from these gentlemen feels less like an interview and more like a gathering of friends. They exude an atmosphere of confidence and knowledge, and enjoy having a good laugh swapping stories.

Getting down to business they were more than happy to detail at length how the partnership has evolved to the substantial gain of both companies. John initially noted that they planned to leverage the synergies of each company, and after 7 months they have learned that there are far more synergies than they had initially thought. And John made sure to point out that “that is always a good thing.” And there is no plan to stop here, Tyler Seebach, VP of Marine Sales for CMP and Michael are continually looking to expand, seeking further opportunities with new partnerships.  

Wally and Michael had fantastic things to say about John and their CMP relationship. Wally points out that there is always a learning curve but things have been going very well. He discusses how advantageous the distribution network CMP has developed has been for Dock Edge +. CMP has established facilities in Australia, China, Italy, and Virginia in the US. These facilities have significantly advanced Dock Edge +’s ability to reach markets in Europe through CMP’s Genoa facility, in Australia, and the United States through the Virginia operation. But the relationship is symbiotic in its ability to bolster the distribution channels of both companies. CMP has established facilities around the world, but had yet to establish themselves with a location in central Ontario, which Dock Edge has provided with their state of the art manufacturing facility in Woodbridge, On.

Dock Edge + has also engaged in numerous contracts with retailers and distributers. This has provided CMP with new avenues for North American distribution. Together Dock Edge + and CMP are quickly taking on the full global market.

John shared that one of the most valuable synergies that CMP brings to the table is their corporate culture. CMP has a stable foundation and is focused on helping grow the base of Dock Edge + as both companies look toward expansion in the future. John mentioned when the talks first started that one key point for Wally was for Dock Edge + to continue to grow and maintain its position as a Canadian success story. The merger with CMP delivered that opportunity.

John says the focus now “is to build the foundation of Dock Edge + so that they can sustain the growth that they (CMP) are going to be putting them through.” They are working together to hire new people, expand manufacturing, and introduce new equipment, including a new foundry at the Woodbridge facility, which they estimate will be operational by this fall.

John sees significant potential for Dock Edge + to grow not only in their traditional market of marine products, but also into the industrial sector, manufacturing and construction related products.

Not surprisingly the discussion turned toward the economy, demographics, and the fact that the industry is largely reliant on disposable income. It didn’t take long for both to highlight how beneficial it has been for each company to expand their product lines to better service their customers and branch into new global markets where their products may have been previously unavailable.

Looking at Canada we are a country of boaters, and although the statistics on the number of Canadian boaters fell because of the recession the numbers have shown a resurgence. Of course, there are always areas that lag, but in 2015 the National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada estimated there to be $2.1 billion in the sale of new boats and outboard engines, a 3.8% increase compared to the previous year. This is good news for Dock Edge + and CMP. Boaters love to accessorize!

We specifically discussed demographics of Canadian boaters, which has tended to be well established families with substantial disposable income. Michael points out “that right now we have an older demographic in boating and we are not filling the gap with a new demographic which is younger people, immigrants, and people that have not typically had boating as part of their culture.” But increasingly companies like Dock Edge + and CMP are paying attention this new wave of boaters in Canada and beyond.

We asked about the potential of this new demographic to embrace our sport. John was quick to answer and highlight just how beautiful our waterways are here in Canada. Among our recreation activities boating has a unique ability to draw people and this new group will have little choice but to embrace boating. John and Michael also couldn’t help but point out that people can’t help but falling in love with boating in Canada once they have tried it.

There is the obvious concern surrounding the high cost of boating. But the group was unanimous in pointing out that new trends are showing that younger individuals and immigrants are finding new ways to get into the sport without breaking the bank or risking their economic future. For those Ontario residents one need only look at the traffic heading north from the GTA every weekend throughout the summer. The highways heading northward become parking lots as people move toward our prime recreational areas, including the beauty and boating potential of Georgian Bay.

Another indicator can be seen in the groups discussion of boat retailers. The sales of boats in Canada for rental use has seen a sharp increase. John muses that when he himself is on the water he sees more and more people utilizing rentals to gain access to this expensive recreational activity, including the popular rise of house boats that can be rented by several families at once. Renting provides access without the massive investment needed to own a boat and all the accessories that go along with it. More boaters are always a good thing!

Also, being Canadian companies Dock Edge + and CMP are dedicated to being environmentally friendly and providing green products, including CMP’s new non-toxic Martyr premium anodes. This focus fits well into a culture that is increasingly conscientious about the products they purchase. With the internet, today buyers are more informed than ever and driving companies to provide environmentally friendly products.

We finished up the interview with a great photo of CMP President John Mitchell and Dock Edge +’s Wally Szwez, VP of Marketing Michael Szwez, General Manager and CFO David Szwez, and Operation and Supply Chain Manager Christopher Szwez. The group was extremely jovial when put together and is clearly excited about how the merger has progressed thus far. And it only takes a minute talking with them to see that their excitement about the future has anything but diminished. The merger has been a success with further opportunities in the union still being discovered.

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