The Belot Odyssey, Reprinted from THE NATIONAL POST (February 2, 1999)
July 31, 2017
February 2, 1999
Reprinted from THE NATIONAL POST, The Belot Odyssey,
by Isabelle Belot-Graveline
In 1946, my father, Louis Belot, emigrated to what was then the Belgian Congo, and started a 4,500 acre plantation and ranch with his brother. The land was located in the middle of the jungle in the mountainous region of Ituri, close to the Ugandan border.
In 1951, having developed the ranch sufficiently with all the bare necessities (water, electricity, a garden) my mother arrived from Belgium, and married Louis at the family plantation. After conceiving their first child, Myriam, in 1952, life in the Congo was good. The land was very fertile and coffee was grown as a major revenue source and cattle were raised as a secondary income. Homes were built, as well as a processing plant and a machine shop. The entire operation was almost completely self-sufficient as the closest town was 950 km away and nothing could be taken for granted. All buildings were built with handmade bricks and lumber from the jungle, and although it was hard work, life was rewarding in its simplicity.
In 1959 trouble began to brew in the Belgian Congo and by year's end, Civil War had erupted. The Belot family was forced to flee with just a few days notice. With more than a decade of work in complete ruins, the family returned to their native country, Belgium, and witnessed the birth of their second child, Isabelle. The economic situation in Belgium, however, was not very good. With high unemployment and lack of opportunities, the Belot's decided to leave Belgium to join Louis' sister and her husband in Norway as jobs were more plentiful. Immediately upon arrival, Louis began work as a 2nd engineer on board a Norwegian tanker and was pretty much away for the next two years. Alas, it was time to learn a new language and a new culture. While Dad was away we lived in a house (haunted, I might add) with a toilet 200 feet away in an old barn. The old place even had a name (Fleskebakken) or Bacon Hill. Boy, that place was an adventure in itself.
After being away two years, Louis returned to Norway and began working with an architect. At the same time, we built a new house in the mountains and along came child number three, Jean-Louis. We all began school one by one and life in Norway took on a new pace, certainly much different from the one in the Congo.
While travelling around the world, Louis started to experience pangs of wanderlust again and began to look further a field for another country in which to set down roots with his family. Though Norway was a beautiful country, it was socialist and thus was not a nation keen on entrepreneurial spirit.
And so, on to the next adventure ...
In 1967, Canada celebrated its centennial year and amidst all the flurry of celebrations across the nation, and particularly in Montreal, the Belot family arrived at Dorval airport on a hot August evening. Louis had already landed six months earlier and was already working for an architect in Cornwall, Ontario. Wow, what a big country to have arrived in! And you know, everybody spoke English and we didn't understand a word. Oh bliss, oh joy, says Mother, here we grow again.
In 1968, Louis began working for another architect in Pembroke, Ontario and two years later decided it was time to set up his own shop and finally satisfy his life-long yearning to own his own business.
And so, on to the next adventure ...
In 1970, sibling number four arrived as a very big surprise. Born eighteen years after his big sister, Jean-Paul very quickly settled in as the new center of attention and has been riding strong ever since!
Manumetal Limited was started in 1970 as a steel fabrication company. For the next ten years, Louis worked at developing a very strong company. Son, Jean-Louis began working alongside Louis while attending high school and very quickly started to get certified as a welder, rigger, crane operator, Class A truck driver and what was to become the family passion, motocross racing.
Well, let me tell you, this sport of motocross racing is a story for another day, for another crowd, told by another person because as sister, chief cheerleader, bike and boot cleaner, I can assure you this is not a sport for the weak-kneed. In the words of a very close friend, it caused my mother and I gratuitous stress to witness such macabre acts of sport.
And then there's adventure number 56. Well, actually that's how old Louis was when he decided to retire from the company he had founded, and buy his so-called retirement property. Situated on Kilmarnock Island with 1000 feet of frontage on the Rideau River, Louis decided Kilmarnock Orchard was the perfect retirement haven. And so, in 1981, Kilmarnock Orchard became the new family home with 23 acres and 300 apple trees.
Fast forward to 1999, and 3600 trees on 50 acres, a second house, a barn, a machine shop, 9 company vehicles, three tractors, a kangaroo and two mules. WOW!
Where, say you, is Kilmarnock Enterprise in all of this? After all, isn't that the company we've come here to talk about today? Yes, well that was started by Mr. Belot too. What began in 1981 as a small steel fabrication company exacting measurements for prototype projects with 2-3 people, has since become a company employing 32 people. In 1996, Jean-Louis, Jean-Paul and myself came on board at Kilmarnock Enterprise as equal partners and successors to the company first started by Louis. In three years, Kilmarnock Enterprise has grown 600% in revenues and has given all of us a great feeling of accomplishment.
As a privately-owned company located just outside Smiths Falls, Ontario on Kilmarnock Island, Kilmarnock Enterprise is within easy commuting distance to the entire Eastern Ontario industrial base. Our primary expertise lies in design, custom fabrication, machining, welding and installation of a wide variety of small to heavy industrial applications. Kilmarnock Enterprise specializes in mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum components and weldments, made to exacting measurements for prototype projects to production runs.
Welding stress relieving, heat-treating, machining, and painting are just some of the subsequent operations we perform on component parts, weldments and assemblies. Further to this, we also offer multi-trade industrial service which means we can supply our customers with a turn-key concept on small to large-scale projects. This results in more control for the engineering and fiscal management of each project and gives the client the option to proceed with either project management or firm price.
So now, the successors are on to their next adventures, and though they may not be as global nor as exciting as those of the founder, one never knows what the future will bring.
FAST FORWARD to SUMMER 2017
Eighteen years later Kilmarnock Enterprise has continued to grow and flourish. As we continue to scale up, we can clearly see that the entrepreneurial flame started by Louis Belot has woven itself through the fabric of the entire company.
The company now has two locations, one in Smiths Falls and the other in Trenton, Ontario. With a workforce of 95 tradespeople and managers, the company continues to operate with the founding philosophy of being the best and most innovative industrial company by its commitment to employee development in a family atmosphere. This guiding statement has served as our “purpose” and as we continue to refine our value differentiators with our stakeholders, we have come to learn that consistency in professional service provision based on trust and integrity is paramount to success.