Building an empire, one tree limb and cottage hook-up at a time

CEOBrian Hollywood is leading St. Thomas Holdings Inc., through a period of expansion, albeit one small step at a time.
The most recent announcement came to light ten days ago when the purchase of Tal Trees Inc., of Belleville, Ont., was proclaimed to city council at the close of regular business.
But what exactly have St. Thomas taxpayers, the real shareholders in St. Thomas Holdings, acquired in Tal Trees when the deal is finalized on July 2?

According to Hollywood, the 15-employee firm specializes in building high voltage substations and has experience with wind and solar energy.
A quick visit to their website should provide further insight into the merits and technical expertise of Tal Trees.
Hmm, they must be awfully busy because they have no visible presence on the Internet.
tal trees
All right, surely they must advertise their services, which would offer a clue as to their strengths.
One ad we found announces the company is a “cottage hydro service specialist.” Good news for shareholders who can afford a summer home.
Another ad lists the following areas of specialization: tree service, trimming, topping, brush chipping and stump removal.
But nary a mention of wind and solar experience, although you could argue trimming trees on a breezy, summer day would involve both.
Our sister publication in Belleville quoted Hollywood thus, “With this new partnership, we’re well poised to take advantage of emerging opportunities.”
tall tales ad 1
Further in the very brief article, Arnold Portt, who owns Tal Trees with brother John, noted the purchase of his firm, “provides our employees with new opportunities and improved job security.”
I wonder how St. Thomas shareholders who have seen their jobs evaporate feel about offering job security to some residents of Belleville?
When approached by the Times-Journal about the purchase price of Tal Trees, Hollywood insisted this was “confidential.”
Why is it two days later, Chatham-Kent Energy had no qualms revealing it acquired Dutton Hydro for an estimated $500,000?
Immediately after the Tal Tree announcement, this corner was approached by On Communications of London, Ont., which is handling public relations for St. Thomas Holdings, about the possibility of our interest in talking to Hollywood to discuss the newest member of the family.
We’re still waiting for the opportunity to have the St. Thomas Holdings CEO provide honest answers to our growing list of questions.
No doubt, the shareholders would likewise appreciate further insight into Tal Trees and their projected financial contribution to the bottom line.

Now that the city has taken a progressive step in the provision of waste removal services for condo dwellers, is that the end of trash trials and tribulations?
Somehow we don’t think controversy will cease with the emptying of the first dumpster.

As the skeletal remains of Sterling Truck were picked over this week as the company auctioned off the last vestiges of its presence in St. Thomas, you can’t help but reflect on the thoughts of Maurice Beaudry, former manager of the Economic Development Corporation in the early 1990s.
Beaudry played a pivotal role in attracting Freightliner to the city, only to have the firm shoot itself in the foot by parking that trusted name in lieu of the Sterling moniker.
“They changed their brand,” he told City Scope last November. “They went to Sterling. Why didn’t they test it in the U.S. instead of here?”
The Freightliner name was a trusted brand for a convoy of truckers in Canada, he reminded.
“Freightliner had 25% of the market and at the time, truckers were asking for Canadian-made Freightliner trucks. They like them better than the ones made in the U.S.”
Beaudry remains bitter about the tragic turn of events and is not shy on airing his frustration.
“They owe us. They made a mistake by going to a new product line when you had 25% of the market. Why would you go to a new line? You made the mistake, why should we suffer. Why should the people of St. Thomas suffer, the taxpayers as well as the employees?”
You wonder if the people of Saltillo, Mexico have an understanding of just how transient are the owners of the flashy new plant that will begin to roll out vehicles this summer.
Trucks that should be humming off the line here in St. Thomas, proudly assembled by a workforce that turned out damn fine trucks emblazoned with the Freightliner badge.
Excellence like that you don’t put on the auction block.

“It’s been hard seeing it collapse, this has been like a long good-bye.”
Heather Dobbin, a systems analyst who is one of the last still employed at Sterling Truck.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@

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