We’ve all experienced power outages, but few of us know what’s actually involved in turning the power back on. We just light candles, break out the flashlights, and bust out the board games to pass time while the grid gets back up and running again, as it always does.
But fixing the cause of these outages, which is oftentimes a damaged transmission tower, isn’t easy. It’s a highly specialized and technical business that must be completed under tight deadlines, lest the novelty of board games by candlelight wear off and the citizenry grow angry.
Understandably then, demand for expertise in this field is considerable, and stretches anywhere electricity is transmitted by above ground power lines… which means pretty much everywhere in the world.
One small company located in Markham, Ontario is making the most of this demand.
Formed in 2002, Tower Solutions specializes in temporary transmission towers used for emergency restoration of high voltage transmission lines.
CEO Ciro Pasini explains that the company was born from the industry’s need for a better way to manage emergency power line maintenance. “Our society is evolving to require higher voltage power, delivered in more challenging conditions,” says Ciro. “We knew we had to develop a more sophisticated solution to quickly restore power when infrastructure fails.”
Replacing a standard transmission tower can take months, which is where Tower Solutions comes in. Their Emergency Restoration Towers (ERTs) are temporary aluminum power transmission towers that can be installed in just a few hours. Light, durable, and the same height and strength as traditional towers, they create a seamless fix to keep power flowing in emergency situations.
And despite their name, ERTs aren’t limited to severe weather events, says Ciro. They’re also useful for maintenance, as they can be used to temporarily hold power lines up while existing towers are repaired or replaced. “They can be installed quickly and with less manpower than traditional solutions,” says Ciro. “That’s our value-add.”
It’s a niche market occupied by some big players, so innovation is critical to Tower Solutions’ success. “We focus on being the most technologically advanced and forward thinking company in the industry,” says Ciro. “Our close relationships with our customers allow us to develop innovative and creative solutions; we think it gives us an edge over the competition.”
A powerful solution for Saudi Arabia
A prime example of Tower Solutions’ innovation can be found in Saudi Arabia – a key market for the company’s future growth.
Installation of infrastructure is particularly challenging there because the sand makes it difficult to install the necessary foundation for the towers. Traditionally, large cement blocks were used to keep electrical towers in place – but at over two tons each, they can be difficult to transport, adding extra cost and complexity to a project.
So Tower Solutions developed Box Anchors. “They work just like the fold up boxes you’d see in an office,” says Ciro. “We fill these metal boxes with sand to weigh them down–it’s much easier to transport and more cost effective.”
The company also offers adapters to transform the ERTs into a crane. “In developing nations like Saudi Arabia, it’s important to come up with innovative ways to work with the tools they already have at their disposal,” says Ciro.
Energized for exporting success
So what’s the key to exporting to the Middle East?
Patience, says Ciro.
“Large projects don’t happen overnight. Do your homework, develop a good business plan, and make sure you have a good partner for the financial peace of mind to reach your exporting goals.”
It can be especially challenging for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to do business in places like the Middle East because of the potential instability of the economies in the region. To help mitigate against these risks and to support their expansion in the region, Tower Solutions turned to Export Development Canada (EDC) as a partner.
“Our challenge in these countries is ensuring we’ll get paid on time,” says Ciro. “EDC’s knowledge of the risks and opportunities in the market was a big help in making sure we were working with companies we could trust.”
EDC used its market connections to facilitate Tower Solutions’ expansion into Saudi Arabia, and provided $500,000 in financing to support their first contract in the country.
“We aim to make exporting as easy as possible for small businesses because when they’re not worrying about financing or getting paid, they have more time to spend on growing their business,” says Kevin Sullivan, EDC Account Manager for Tower Solutions.
In addition to supporting Tower Solutions’ expansion into the Middle East, EDC’s local representatives in India and Colombia were able to help Tower Solutions find opportunities with major buyers in those markets as well. With EDC backing Tower Solutions financially, prospective buyers can be confident that the SME has the financial support necessary to deliver on large contracts.
“Tower Solutions has considerable potential to grow because of how unique their product is, and how innovative and adaptable they’ve shown themselves to be,” said Sullivan. “We look forward to seeing them succeed in their expansion, and will continue to keep an eye out for potential foreign buyers to connect them with.”