The co-owner of Lecours Motor Sales used to hold his breath every time one of the three local sawmills entered into contract talks because it inevitably led to a community-wide hold on spending. To minimize the impact on his business, Jean Lecours Jr. set his sights on servicing and repairing commercial fleet vehicles. In doing so, he realized that rail customers could provide his family-owned Ford dealership with a way to diversify its operations.
“By servicing Hi-Rail vehicles, we were not restricted to our designated franchise territory,” explained Jean Lecours Jr., Co-owner of Lecours Motor Sales. “Instead, this new niche market spans across Canada providing us with tremendous growth potential,” he added.
In 2014, Lecours embarked upon an ambitious construction project to increase the business’ square footage five-fold. When it opened its doors in December 2015, the new two-storey facility not only met the new corporate branding requirement, but also paved the way for the diversification of operations.
A loan from the 14 participating Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) through the Northeastern Ontario Investment Pool, administered by the Nord-Aski Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDC) in Hearst, helped secure a portion of the financing for the multi-million dollar construction project. As of November 30, 2019, the Northeastern Ontario Investment Pool partners, who had banded together in 2011, have financed 298 loans. Their investments totalling $96,850,000 have leveraged $332,648,000 from other sources and helped to create 1856 jobs and maintain 5073 others.
Nord-Aski REDC is one of 24 Northern Ontario CFDCs funded by FedNor. This community-based, not-for-profit organization offers free business advice and workshops, as well as commercial financing to entrepreneurs and those looking to start a business in its catchment area.
“Backing Lecours Motor Sales was an easy decision for us,” states Gilles Matko. “With our participation in the project, Lecours Motor Sales has been able to grow and service the increasing number of big units coming its way. That business might have gone elsewhere if the project had not proceeded. Instead, it’s staying in Hearst, creating employment in our community of 5000.”
Lecours Motor Sales opened its new dealership facility in late 2015. While it pursues new opportunities for growth, it continues to concentrate on customer service and satisfaction as it has always done since the business was established in 1956.
“We specialize in Hi-Rail modifications to allow light and medium trucks to be used on rails,” added Lecours. “In fact, we have one of the largest Hi-Rail parts inventory for light and medium trucks in the country and are the third largest importer of Hi-Rail parts in Canada after CN and CP.”
Lecours’ modification business has led to offering custom-built vehicle packages on any light and medium truck chassis for sale or lease. The custom design work, made possible due to the new 19,000 square foot facility, has resulted in the increase of 10 employees.
In 2018, Lecours Motor Sales won the CF Ontario Entrepreneur of the year award for leadership in diversifying the local economy. The award is proudly displayed in the dealership’s lobby.
“Unlike a dealership in a large centre, we do everything here, in large part due to our remote location in Northern Ontario,” says Lecours. “Working with friends, creating employment in the community and serving customers near and far are why I love going to work.”
To find out more about realizing your business dream, contact Nord-Aski Regional Economic Development Corporation at 1-800-495-6650 or at www.nordaski.com or your local Community Futures Development Corporation.