Since 2008, the CME’s SMART Advanced Technologies for Global Growth Program (www.cme-smart.ca) has helped some 1,100 eligible small- and medium-sized Ontario manufacturers (15–1000 employees) improve their productivity through the adoption/adaptation of new or upgraded advanced technologies, materials or processes. It’s a two-for-one grant system: The company seeking the grant covers 65 per cent of the proposed project cost, and SMART covers the other 35 per cent, up to $100,000
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“CME’s SMART Program is designed to help Ontario companies’ strategic investments to modernize their processes, improve their productivity and extend their international reach,” said Ian Howcroft, vice president of CME Ontario. “SMART is designed to make a real difference.”
SMART was originally funded by the Ontario government, though the federal government’s FedDev Ontario agency took over funding SMART in 2009. To date, FedDev has provided CME with more than $38 million to deliver SMART grants, with another $20 million in new funding approved as of this past December. They have so far supported more than 730 projects, created more than 5,400 jobs and maintained more than 11,000 positions.
Fort Erie-based aerospace subcontractor Fleet Canada received a SMART grant for $75,000 in 2013. “We needed the money to help buy a new five-axis CNC machine,” said Marika Kozachenko, Fleet Canada’s business development manager. Obtaining the new CNC machine was critical to Fleet Canada successfully bidding for a share of the US Air Force KC-46 aerial refueling tanker program. Based on the Boeing 767 aircraft, the KC-46 is replacing a portion of the US military’s aging KC-135 tankers, which use the obsolete Boeing 707 platform.
“Without this CNC machine, we would not have won a KC-46 contract,” Kozachenko. The stakes are high: With up to 179 KC-46s scheduled to be built, this contact “will provide Fleet Canada with a steady revenue source into 2029,” she said.
Plitron Manufacturing of Toronto has received two SMART grants totalling $150,000 to date, and is applying for its third grant under the program. Plitron makes toroidal transformers that are used in its Torus Power Conditioners to provide ‘clean’ low-noise electricity to sensitive electronic devices.
“Our SMART grants have helped us update our toroidal transformer winding machines – which were no longer supported by their German manufacturer – and to install an overhead hoist system to improve our production flow, and rationalize our transformer production process to reduce steps,” said Steve Nolan, Plitron’s vice president of sales and operations. “These improvements have significantly improved the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our plant operation.”
On a tastier note, Toronto’s Tradition Fine Foods Ltd. used its $57,000 SMART grant to help pay for a new flour delivery system in its pastry-making bakery. “This system takes the flour from our silos directly to our industrial mixing bowls,” said Catherine Glowczewski, Tradition’s vice president. “This has allowed us to boost our pastry exports by 50 per cent, and raised the percentage of our baked goods sold internationally to an all-time high of 90 per cent.”
All three of these companies speak very highly of the CME’s SMART Program, and the people who run it. “CME SMART Director Louise Rubletz and her associate Emiliano Introcaso have been extremely helpful and knowledgeable in guiding us through the process,” said Kozachenko. “These SMART people are very smart people.”
The SMART process is also straightforward, said Nolan. “You make your application, they go over it, and that’s it. There’s no going back-and-forth, being asked for more details and paperwork.”
Steps are taken to ensure applicants focus their proposals to meet the program’s guidelines. “Our people are happy to provide applicants with expert advice and support,” said Rubletz. For businesses that need assistance in identifying potential SMART projects, one option is to hire a professional consultant to assess the business for such possibilities. In these cases, the SMART Program will pay up to 50 per cent of the consultant’s cost, up to a ceiling of $15,000.
“SMART really delivers for Ontario business,” concluded Catherine Glowczewski. “If only all grant programs were this effective and well-run.”
To apply for a SMART grant online, go to www.cme-smart.ca. All the details are there to help your Ontario business get the financial boost it needs to improve its competitiveness, processes and productivity.