|Omni-Lite Sets Pace for
Innovation and Design
from the Calgary Herald - "Western Canada's Financial Capital"
December 16, 1997
compiled by Kari Belanger, Sherry Butt, Lorena Johnson, Jennifer isaac, and Jacqueline Louie
It's a sure bet that few chief executives can lay claim to an Olympic gold medal like David Grant.
Grant, chief executive officer of Calgary-based Omni-Lite Industries of Canada, invented the feather-weight ceramic track spikes which propelled Michael Johnson to a gold-winning finish at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Johnson's record-breaking performance in the 200-metre race capped a meteoric rise from Omni-Lite's humble beginnings in 1992 to a client list which includes Chrysler Corp., Nike, and the U.S. Army.
Here's another fact. Omni-Lite's patented spikes helped athletes win 20 gold medals at the Atlanta games-- enough to rate a major marketing deal with Foot Locker, which will sell them in 350 American stores this year.
Great track record for Grant, an over-achieving graduate of the University of Calgary's civil engineering program.
"That's not bad for a company I started in my living room," he said in a recent interview.
A self-styled tinkerer, Grant recalls he ruined the living room carpet in the early days after using it as a workshop. And despite total assets totalling $1.9 million Cdn, Omni-Lite still retains the small-scale feel.
The company has only on full-time employee-- the bulk of operations from its offices in Cerritos, Calif. and Sundre are fully automated. Tooling design and metallurgical support is provided by consultants.
"We invest a lot in mechanization. Everything's monitored by computer-- it's the only way we can do what we do," he said.
Calgary's business expertise is usually linked to the oilpatch, but few people realize this city is firmly plugged in to high-tech enterprises.
The secret of Omni-Lite's success is the 65 products made of lightweight metal matrix composites and carbon fibre, which are sold in 140 countries world-wide.
And this week, Omni-Lite inked a long-term deal with Valentec International for projects as diverse as specialized air bag components and 40 mm ammunition clips.
"The reason we're involved is because of the specialized fabrication techniques and the composites-the super light-weight materials. These projects are important to us because we'd like to diversify," Grant said by phone from the California office.
Grant launched Omni-Lite in 1992 after years of research. The composite track-spike system boast one-third the weight of traditional steel track spikes. Special spikes were also created for golf shoes, which are marketed across Canada by Canadian Tire.
And the successes keep rolling on.
Omni-Lite has generated eight continuous months of record revenues. Total revenue for the first 6 months of fiscal 1998 exceeded $887,000 Cdn.-- a 262% jump over the same period in fiscal 1997.
Last month, Omni-Lite received conditional regulatory approval for it purchase of Formed Fast Inc. This $3.8 million acquisition places Omni-Lite as the chief supplier of a critical component in Chrysler transmissions.
This purchase follows Omni-Lite's major transaction in November under the Alberta Stock Exchange's Junior Capital program, giving Omni-Lite an even higher corporate profile.
If you ask Grant for the secret to his success, he'll tell you it's because of the home-grown work ethic so common amongst Albertans.
"Without Calgarians, we feel there wouldn't be an Omni-Lite. I've worked in 30 countries and I don't think you'd see what we do at Omni-Lite," he said.
"In Alberta, you can still do business on the shake of a hand."
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