Atom-Jet celebrates 60 years in business


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Sixty years of history were on display Thursday afternoon as Atom-Jet Industries celebrated a major milestone.

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Sixty years of history were on display Thursday afternoon as Atom-Jet Industries celebrated a major milestone.

Current employees, retired workers and dignitaries filled a tent outside Atom-Jet headquarters on Park Avenue to honour the company’s progress since it was founded in 1962.

As owner Barry LaRocque explained, the company’s name is an indication of the products it used to make before dedicating itself to machining work and making agricultural products, like seed openers.

Past and present employees of Atom-Jet Industries as well as local dignitaries came together Thursday afternoon to celebrate the company's 60th anniversary. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

Atom-Jet’s first product was a humidifier that atomized water and jetted it into the air. Though the company no longer manufactures the humidifiers, barbecues or farmyard power poles it was known for in the early days, the original product is immortalized in its name.

On a table inside the building, among several artifacts from Atom-Jet’s history, was one of those early humidifiers so guests could get a firsthand look at history.

LaRocque attributed Atom-Jet’s longevity to the company making itself a staple of Brandon and the communities to which it expanded.

“I think the company is based on the past,” LaRocque said, a nod to the former employees in attendence as well as Brad Wallin, the stepson of former owner Clare Coburn and a past employee of the company.

“They built the company, they were here long before me and a lot of the people here. I think they’re the foundation of what we have here today, so I wanted to pay homage to them and show that we respect what they’ve done.”

Sales staff for Atom-Jet from other provinces and cities were also in attendance, as well as employees from sister company Glendale Industries.

LaRocque expressed hope that Atom-Jet would stick around as a business to not just support the families of current employees but of future ones, as well.

This vintage humidifier is a surviving example of Atom-Jet Industries' first-ever product. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

Some of the modernization work being done to add computer numerical control machining as well as robotic elements will keep the company ahead of the curve, according to LaRocque.

Mayor Rick Chrest congratulated the company on its anniversary and shared a personal connection he has with Atom-Jet.

When his family operated Chrest Dry Cleaners on Rosser Avenue, the mayor recalled they would go to Atom-Jet to get parts made or fixed for their equipment instead of ordering them from somewhere far away.

“He was an extremely unique, highly intelligent, big thinker,” Chrest said of Coburn. “Which probably left his mark on this place to develop through Barry and all the people who work here.”

Also present was Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer, who remembered being tasked to bring a driveshaft from a machine at his family’s business, Shur-Gro Farm Services, down to Atom-Jet for Coburn to look at.

After his remarks, Helwer presented LaRocque with a signed certificate from Premier Heather Stefanson commemorating the anniversary.

Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) told the assembled crowd that Atom-Jet is an important part of the local economy not just because of how many people it employs, but because its long reach brings money into the community.

Guests at Atom-Jet Industries' 60th anniverary celebrations grab hamburgers and salads served by Assiniboine Community College culinary students on Thursday afternoon. (Colin Slark/The Brandon Sun)

Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Tanya LaBuick said her organization likes to champion every business in town, but especially ones that have lasted as long as Atom-Jet. As the owner of a business that is celebrating its sixth anniversary this year, she said lasting for 60 years seems like “one heck of an achievement.”

“Clare would have been absolutely amazed,” Wallin said of his stepfather.


» Twitter: @ColinSlark

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