Above (from left): OSO Hotwater Group CEO Roy A. Magnussen, Saint John Energy President and CEO Ryan Mitchell and Sigurd Braathen, owner of OSO Hotwater Group.

A culture of innovation by Saint John Energy, Port Saint John expansion spur firm to establish Canadian operations in city

Guest Commentary by Roy A. Magnussen, CEO of the OSO Hotwater Group. Shared with the author’s permission.

A lot has been written about the need for businesses to be competitive in a global economy. We know a thing or two about that at OSO Hotwater. We’re Europe’s leading manufacturer of world-class stainless steel hot water cylinders, and we’ve been manufacturing hot water heaters in Norway since 1932.

We decided to establish our Canadian office in Saint John, New Brunswick, largely because of two businesses you have that are internationally competitive: Saint John Energy and Port Saint John. From our perspective, these are tremendous assets for your community. They are opening doors to international trade and fostering the growth of new Canadian industries with global reach.

OSO Hotwater has a long business relationship with Saint John Energy – more than 25 years – and this has given us plenty of opportunities to appreciate the qualities that make it competitive. Saint John Energy is renowned for its commitment to innovation and reliability. This starts at the very top, with President and CEO Ryan Mitchell and his team. They are smart, creative, and have a keen understanding of how the world is changing and how businesses and communities can change with it.

Leading edge

One of the greatest changes in our generation is the transition to greener energy sources and higher efficiency energy systems, supported by smart electrical grids. Smart grids and smart appliances, like our water heaters, enable people to accomplish the same tasks with less energy and more sustainable load management. Saint John Energy and other utilities in Atlantic Canada have been working at the leading edge of smart grid development for two decades, and the innovations being tested here are being watched closely all over the world.

Consider the technology that OSO produces: the water heater. Traditional water heaters have been very heavy with limited volume because they are typically lined with glass or ceramic. They also leak a great deal of heat. With all that heat escaping, the water coming out of your showerhead or faucet often wasn’t very hot at all. The working life of these heaters was quite short.

Our water heaters are different. They are made of light stainless steel and last 30 years. They give off less heat than the average light bulb, and they are capable of superheating water while regulating the temperature output, so the water you get in your shower is exactly the temperature you want. Because they are super-efficient and equipped with the latest smart technology, they enable power utilities to regulate when the heating element is turned on without restricting your access to hot water.

Very welcoming

A year ago, OSO partnered with Saint John Energy in a $1.25 million pilot project to test our smart water-heating technology. The pilot project has gone very well, exceeding all expectations. This is just one reason we are establishing a Canadian office in Saint John.

Saint John is a very competitive jurisdiction for companies from northern Europe that wish to enter the North American market. You have a large and growing deep water port that operates year round, with rail connections that reach across Canada and into the United States. The cost of doing business here is lower, especially in advanced manufacturing. And Saint John has been very welcoming to us, as we seek to expand our business into new markets.

Our Canadian operation will start small, with just two to five senior staff building a market and customer support. We are interviewing with the goal of having people in place for early next year. As the market grows, we will grow with it, building our strategy business segment by business segment and region by region. We are already working with five Canadian utilities. We see growing interest in our products and great potential from Atlantic Canada to the West Coast.

Saint John might one day become the headquarters for all our North American operations, because if we do well here in Canada, we could expand into the United States.

International reputation

All this potential for growth exists because Saint John Energy has established an international reputation as an effective innovator, and because Port Saint John has built commercial relationships and transportation linkages that connect your city to every part of the continent, and to Europe and the world.

In our increasingly globalized society, all futures intersect at the point of innovation where excellence emerges. For us, that point of innovation is here in Saint John.