Who says we don’t grow plants in Barrie?

When Steven Spielberg shoots a film on location, it’s very likely a light made right here in Barrie that shines on the set. Here’s the story…

When Michael and Cheryl Bilyk moved to the Barrie area, it was to buy a house they could afford while they raised their family of four busy boys. Mike is a sheet metal worker with an artistic bent (pun intended) who joined the tide of commuters making their way to Toronto each day.

Somebody mentioned a little sheet metal company near the South End which was up for sale, and suggested Mike should have a look. The company had a contract to produce the housings for the high intensity lights used in the entertainment and film industry. Mike had a look. Mike and Cheryl decided they might be able to handle the venture. They negotiated a price and a loan and made a down payment on the company, changing its name to MC Lights. The MC is for Mike and Cheryl.

Mike kept his Toronto job to bring in the money to fuel the Barrie company. He’d get home from work and go to MC Lights, set up machines for the next day’s work, teaching Cheryl how to negotiate next day the manually operated equipment which created angle after angle to be assembled into lighting housing. Eight hours on the job in Toronto, another eight in Barrie. And MC Lights held its own.

Time went along and Mike and Cheryl decided that they could pump out a lot more work if their equipment was more automated. Piece by piece, they relegated the manual and food pedalled equipment to the back of the shop as they bought a new piece for this movement and another new piece to perform a second function.

Their biggest (and scariest) investment was a state of the art laser cutter which has virtually exploded their business into one of Barrie’s topflight manufacturing facilities. The laser beam allows the folks who work with Mike and Cheryl to make any cut to any thickness with complete accuracy, with edges so smooth a nylon stocking wouldn’t catch on them. While the laser was initially purchased to serve the lighting part of the company, its potential launched MC Lazerwerks, a service company which is doing custom laser work of regional proportion. It’s become the jewel in the MC crown, relegating even more equipment to the back of the shop.

The laser cuts any shape, curves, angles, straight lines, optical effects. It has shortened the working cycle, and augmented the output.

With so much custom work coming in from so many companies, opportunity again presented itself and Cheryl and Mike were quick to respond. Barrie region companies working with iron were bringing their raw material for laser cuts in the door daily. What was happening to their assembled work… you know, the wrought iron railings; furniture pieces like beds, tables, chairs; garden arbours etc? It was going back out the door and into somebody else’s door or back to its originator to be spraypainted for delivery. Why not add a line that not only spray painted the finished product, but coated it in such a way that it would never rust?

MC Powder Coating has taken over the back of the Bilyk’s Saunders Rd building where Cheryl oversees the part of the MC busy-ness that she feels is really her own. It’s the end of the line for product that often goes through many processes under the Bilyks’ guidance and it feels like a job well done.

So, why do I want to write about Michael and Cheryl this week? Well, because I’m impressed by their commitment to their business, to their community, and to young people coming in to the metal working field. They continue to invest in their business, building on their base of equipment, adding their first official marketing pieces to their growing line of capabilities. Michael is generous in his praise of the employees they’ve been able to hire, most coming to them through one of several government-supported programs. He credits this as an excellent example of a working partnership between government and industry and says every single government program they’ve dealt with has been excellent.

I’m also impressed the M and C ability to focus. They’re still living in the original house that attracted them to this area in the first place. Cheryl still works part time selling clothing through home party sales. She puts in a full day at the office, and is turning her sales skills into additional sales in the evenings and on weekends. They could be spending on themselves, but instead they’re spending on their future. This decision takes with them new employees, new opportunities, new horizons.

They take time to give back, too. They provide on site experiences for high school and college students needing to hone their emerging skills. They provide incentive for students taking metal working courses through financial recognition. They work with apprenticeship people to recognize the validity and value of the metalworking trade. They care.

MC Lights. MC Lazerwerks. MC Powder Coating. It’s a great variation on a terrific theme.

Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Cheryl.