We were saddened to hear late lat week of the passing of Sid Braaksma, founder of Northgate Industries and Kan Bud. Sid was an incredibly successful, amazing and interesting man, yet completely approachable and down to earth as they come. Along with his wife Nellie and brother Jim, Sid and his employees were regulars at MBI's annual conference. In recent years, Sid and Nellie purchased and renovated the historic Magrath Mansion in Edmonton and opened it to public tours.
For his contributions in advancing the industy, MBI inducted Sid into our Hall of Fame in 2005. To honor Sid and to share his story of success, we are posting his 2005 Hall of Fame introduction here in its entirety. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Braaksma family and the Northgate and Kan Bud teams.
After completing High school, Sid Braaksma went to Southern Alberta College to graduate with a Mechanical Technology Degree. Unable to find a job, he was advised to use his credits towards a Machinist, Millwright, Welding Certificate, which he did. Working in a number of machine shops, fabrication and repair facilities, he finally wound up at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology as an assistant instructor.
During his years there, he led a group of 16 instructors to manufacture fold away camper trailers. Sid was appointed as the provider of the accessories for the tent trailer project, and called on the Atco Group to assist him to find these accessories. They did in a big way, and in 1968 assisted Sid with the purchase 26 unfinished R.V. trailers.
With determination, he alone did very well marketing these units. While his wife sewed the curtains and cushions, Sid completed the interior. One thing led to another and Sid started Northgate Trailer Industries in Feb. 1970, selling parts and accessories for R.V.’s and metal siding acquired from the purchase of Erin Manufacturing.
Northgate’s first year was rocky and by fall 1970 there was no work in the R.V. Industry. Sid returned to his old profession of repairing furnaces for mobile homes, and in 1971 set out in merchandising parts and accessories for RV’s, industrial trailers and mobile homes. That fall he purchased some industrial trailers, repaired them and rented them out. He also repaired other industrial units for several catering companies. Once again, one thing led to another.
Northgate began renting and leasing industrial trailers for the oilfields. By 1973 two facilities were operating in Edmonton, one specializing in RV repairs and metal siding fabrication, and another industrial trailer repair facility.
By 1975 Sid decided it was time to start manufacturing his own units. As demand grew, the first unit was an office trailer, followed by the manufacture of sleepers, wash cars, staff quarters, and well sites. The lease fleet went from 4 units in 1971 to 175 units in 1976. By 1980 Northgate had 320 units on lease with all the accessories and equipment to tackle all types of projects. Then, in 1980 the government introduced the National Energy Program Bill which stopped all oil exploration and almost completely shut down the operation.
RVs continued to make some money but this bill totally killed the industrial trailer market. By 1983, Northgate had one employee, namely Sid. But with determination and a new manager they started all over again. With many competitors now bankrupt, Sid again started to take a stab at the Industrial Market by buying equipment and reselling it. Refurbishing the old equipment proved successful and by 1985, he was well on his way to start manufacturing again.
In 1987 Northgate received a large contract at Nelles Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, moving 180 beds from Nevada to Cold Lake, Alberta. One successful contract led to another, for new mess facilities and new airport facilities. Northgate then moved into a new 65,000 sq.ft. facility in 1988, occupying both facilities for two years before moving into a larger facility in 1990.
Northgate continued to build up their lease fleet, and did numerous projects for major oil and gas companies, putting together finance programs to help get many projects off the ground.
In 1992 Sid ventured into the Russian East block after being assured by a major oilfield player that the current European product did not meet the needs of the Siberian market. Sid volunteered to travel to Siberia and check out their concerns and true enough, the product did not meet the climate conditions.
Sid made a deal on an 180,000 sq. ft. factory on 27 acres of land in Leszno, Poland. This company, Kan-Bud (meaning “Canadian Built”) continues to produce camp facilities for major players in the oil market, with a local leasing fleet of 560 units, expanding daily.
In 1997 Sid acquired a 25-acre, 247,000 sq ft facility in downtown Edmonton to provide turnkey service for some of the largest oil companies in Western Canada. The size of this plant allowed Northgate to build up to four units per day with a regular shift of employees.
In 2004 Sid opened a manufacturing facility in Montreal, Canada to supply the Eastern Canadian needs. This facility was previously a manufacturer for office trailers but is now used mainly for industrial products, Northgate’s specialty. The Northgate Group of Companies has completed projects in many parts of the world, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Europe, Gabon, Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela, South America, Cuba, San Salvador, U.S.A., Sachalin Island, China, Cameroon, Bosnia, and Croatche.
Along the way, Sid Braaksma has overcome many obstacles. MBI would like to honor Sid Braaksma of Northgate Industries by inducting him into our Hall of Fame.