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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Family, community and 80 years of boat building and repair celebrated at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd.


METEGHAN RIVER, N.S. – The financial investments, the changes in technology, the product diversification and the reputation for quality workmanship have all contributed to the success of A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. But as hundreds gathered to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the boatyard this past weekend it was evident the things most important to the longevity of this company boil down to the basics – family and community.

It’s what Augustin (Gus) Theriault and his wife Elizabeth brought to the table when they founded the Meteghan River, Digby County, company in 1938. And it's the foundation that a second, third and fourth generation of the Theriault family have continued to build on up to the present day in 2018.

To demonstrate just how important family and community is to this business – the largest and oldest family-run boatyard in the province – the Oct. 20, 80th anniversary celebration was also expanded into an Employee Appreciation Day and a Family Day for the community at large. A ribbon cutting for the company's new office building also took place.

A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOT

Premier Stephen McNeil, who spoke at the event, referred to the business and its history as “an outstanding journey of great success.” He said one of the things that impressed him most was witnessing the generations of the Theriault family that have been involved in the continued growth of the business.

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“It’s not too often that I get to walk into a business in any part of this province . . . (and) see the kind of demographic that I saw in there, ensuring that our sons and daughters and our granddaughters and grandsons recognize that they can live and prosper and build a life for themselves in the community,” he said, noting 80 years is a long time, and a timeframe, no doubt, in which things were not always easy.

“The sign of a good company and community is when the difficult times arise we don’t all go and look for another place. We double down, we invest heavy, we put our shoulder to the wheel and we look for new opportunity,” he said, adding the confidence the business has shown in the community, and vice-versa, will help it to build on the next 80 years.

At an event at the boatyard months ago, reference was made to a turning point for the company when 25 years ago the company was faced with a choice – scale down or diversify. Truthfully it was never really a choice though, managing director Gilles Theriault said at the time. Scaling down would have had a negative impact on the local and regional economy, he said.

And so the choice was made back then to go big and that philosophy hasn’t stopped.


FROM THE ARCHIVES:

APRIL 2018: A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. embarking on $6.65-million expansion project

MARCH 2018: On the job: A sense of pride following completion of Halifax ferry named Vincent Colemen

2014: Hammerhead milestone celebrated at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. 

2010: A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. target drones helping against terrorism


Six months ago a $6.65-million expansion was announced that would increase the size of the company’s workforce – which now sits at over 225 employees – and would double the work capacity being done.

At that time the Government of Canada announced a $2,315,000 repayable contribution to A.F. Theriault & Son Limited through ACOA’s Business Development Program, and Nova Scotia Business Incorporated announced $1,536,877 in support through its newly launched Innovation Rebate Program.

A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. A new marine railway is part of the improvements that have been made here. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. A new marine railway is part of the improvements that have been made here. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Much has taken place since that April 11 announcement. Construction of a new office building is nearing completion, as is work to a new marine railway that will increase vessel haul-up capabilities from 600 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes.

Other infrastructure upgrades of the past year have included the purchase of a new 80-tonne mobile rough terrain crane and the purchase of a new 100-tonne hydraulic boat trailer complete with the construction of a new boat launch.

Gilles Theriault, part of the third generation of Theriaults that work here, says the company is beyond proud of the investments that have been made and agrees a constant throughout the decades of work continues to be an emphasis on family and community.

And like those traditions, the list of vessels built and repaired here over the decades is also long.

Graham Oakley, the vice-president of new construction, says in the last 80 years more than 900 vessels have been fabricated at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd., evolving from the wooden boats of the past to state-of-the-art aluminum, steel, fiberglass and composite vessels, research vessels, patrol vessels, fishing and aquaculture vessels, workboats, pleasure crafts and passenger ferries. He’s especially proud of the fact that the company constructed the five harbour ferries sailing that will sail between Halifax and Dartmouth.

He said the company’s success, creativity, craftsmanship and innovation – that ranges from traditional boat building techniques to innovative manufacturing technologies in the marine industry – continues to shape the economy and reputation of southwestern Nova Scotia, while also bringing a global market to the doors of this rural N.S. business.

Among those on hand to help the business mark its anniversary were representatives of Nova Scotia Business Inc., which previously selected the business as the first recipient of funding through a newly-created Innovation Rebate Program.

And throughout the anniversary event many other speakers took to the podium.

West Nova MP Colin Fraser credited the business for continuing to capitalize on opportunities to improve, grow and connect with customers locally, provincially, nationally and globally.

“There’s no doubt that this company plays a role in the sustainability of rural communities by creating new opportunities and strengthening our labour force here in southwestern Nova Scotia,” he said. “It has taken chances, and it has paid off.”

Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson touched on the relationships the business has created with its customers.

“It’s more than what this company does, it’s what this company is – family, we keep hearing it,” he said. “That is an example for businesses in rural Nova Scotia, right across Nova Scotia, right across Canada on how we should work, how we should build our relationships.”

Clare Warden Ronnie LeBlanc touched on the importance of the company to the local economy and spoke about the company’s founders – Gus and Elizabeth – and how they not only opened their business to the community but during their lives they also opened their home to others as well.

A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

“The two things that stick with me is kindness and a sense of community and a sense of family,” he said. “I know if they could be here today they’d not only be amazed by what they see here, but they’d be proud to see that you've done all of this without losing your sense of community and your sense of family.”

Generations of the Theriault family spoke, including Nicole Theriault, the daughter of the late John Theriault and the great granddaughter of the business’s founders Gus and Elizabeth Theriault and a fourth-generation Theriault at the boatyard. She referred to Gus as a man of vision and strong, quiet leadership and to Elizabeth as the backbone of the family and the family business, who had both an easy-going manner and an endless amount of energy.

“Through their love of family and community, they instilled the values that sustain our company and family today,” she said.

WHAT PEOPLE HAD TO SAY:

“Today we are honouring the legacy of my grandparents, Elizabeth and Augustin Theriault, my father and uncles, and moving toward future growth. We strongly believe that our dedicated team of over 225 employees can innovate and can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the industry—as 80 years of quality boat building can attest.”

– Gilles Theriault, Managing Director, A.F. Theriault & Son Limited



“Congratulations to A. F. Theriault and Son Limited on 80 years as an industry leader in quality marine construction. The company has long been a strong contributor to an evolving and increasingly sustainable economy in Atlantic Canada. They have capitalized on opportunities to grow and improve, connecting with global customers to bring our country’s innovative goods, services and ideas out into the world.”

– Colin Fraser, Member of Parliament for West Nova


“A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. has been long recognized for driving innovation in a traditional industry. For these 80 years, the company has been a significant employer in rural Nova Scotia, making valuable contributions to the community and sector as a whole. It is a great Nova Scotia story, and I wish them continued success as they embark on the next 80 years.”

– Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia


“Congratulations to A.F. Theriault & Son for what has been 80 years of innovation and development. The investments they have undertaken will increase competitiveness in both national and global markets. We're pleased to have been able to partner, in support of your export growth.”

– Laurel Broten, President and CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc.


“The Municipality of Clare congratulates A.F. Theriault & Son Limited on the boatyard’s 80th anniversary. As a champion for innovation and rural economic development, A.F. Theriault & Son’s successes continue to benefit the community of Clare as a whole.”

– Ronnie LeBlanc, Warden of the Municipality of Clare


A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. in Meteghan River, Digby County, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Oct. 20. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

QUICK FACTS:

A.F. Theriault’s scope of work includes the construction of state-of-the-art fishing vessels, passenger vessels, workboats, research and patrol boats, and ocean pleasure craft.

A.F. Theriault has over 200 employees working onsite at its shipyard in Meteghan River.

In 2013, A.F. Theriault was awarded the contract to build the Halifax Regional Municipality passenger ferries. The last of the series of five vessels, The Rita Joe, left the boatyard in September 2018.

Since 1938, A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. has built over 900 boats.

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