BC’s technology minister praised a local company during a visit to Nelson last week. Andrew Wilkinson toured D-Pace, which makes components for particle accelerators.
His first question for design manager Thomas Stewart and product development manager David Potkins was: “Why are you here?” Glancing at a poster in the office, he quipped: “If I needed a high energy beam line for boron neutron capture therapy, I’d not think ‘I’d better go to Nelson.’”
The answer was that company founder Morgan Dehnel is originally from the area, and after completing his education moved back with his family.
Potkins is also from here and worked in the biotech sector before returning to Nelson two years ago. Stewart worked in Vancouver but was looking for something smaller when he responded to an ad. He had never been to Nelson, but has now been with the company 16 years.
D-Pace, which started in Dehnel’s basement, recently moved to the third floor of the Cornerbrick building at Hall and Front streets, having outgrown its Baker Street office.
Although some component assembly is done in Nelson, the machining is done in New Zealand, where a company purchased a 50 per cent stake in D-Pace, giving them access to capital. D-Pace has clients around the world — Dehnel was meeting with a customer in Belgium when Wilkinson came to town — and a partnership with TRIUMF, a University of BC physics lab.
The boron neutron capture therapy Wilkinson mentioned is an experimental treatment for highly metastasized cancer cells.
“This company is remarkable,” he said. “They could have set it up anywhere in the world and they’re here in Nelson doing cutting-edge physics and engineering work for scientific applications at the most highly-developed facilities in the world, which is wonderful to see.”
Wilkinson asked about the company’s biggest challenges and was told transportation and logistics are easily at the top. Getting people and materials in and out of the area can be costly and unreliable, Potkins said, although visitors appreciate being here and often want to come back, especially in winter. While it’s a federal issue, he suggested instrument landing capability at the Castlegar airport would be a big help.
Wilkinson, a medical doctor and lawyer before entering politics, also visited Pacific Insight and tech companies in Rossland, Trail, and Castlegar.