What One of Canada’s Richest Men Really Cares About When It Comes to Global Trade

Barry Zekelman's story sounds like the typical American dream — a tale of how he and his brothers were thrust into their father’s fledgling business after his sudden passing. Zekelman left college to help save the steel pipe manufacturer.

He and his brothers innovated to help transform the firm from a $2 million company with five employees and no profits into a $1.2 billion behemoth by 2006. They then combined it with JMC Steel Group to form Zekelman Industries, now a $2.1 billion company, according to Forbes, of which Barry is executive chairman and CEO.

But, to hear him tell it, he cares more about how his company can help build a lasting community than profit margin.

In this latest podcast episode of our sister site MetalMiner's new series, "Manufacturing Trade Policy Confidential," Zekelman discusses consumer inflation, tackles the "Cato Institute arguments" that import curbs will harm consumers, and what he’d like to see the Trump administration implement from a trade policy perspective — all from his keen manufacturing point of view.

(Plus, he paints some killer examples involving Cadillacs and skyscrapers.)

Listen to more episodes and follow the MetalMiner Podcast on SoundCloud.

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Voices (5)

  1. PWLG:

    Given the current threat of tariffs on all steel and aluminum imported to the US how will your Atlas Pipe plants in Canada be impacted? How much of the pipe in Canada is imported to the US? Will $1,000 bonuses for employees of these plants make up for any loss of work or earnings?

    The article here stated, “We are vigorously fighting dumped OCTG and will continue to do so…”. Are you fighting this only in the US or in Canada? Where is pipe that proposed Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain Pipeline coming from, and where will TransCanada procure its pipe for Keystone XL? Where is the pipe that’s used for the numerous pipe replacements in Canada coming from? Canada has a consistent trade deficit with China and South Korea.

  2. LeboD:

    If you’re looking to blame someone for Welland, then you can start with the politicians who allowed foreign pipe to be illegally dumped in the US and Canada. Barry lost millions in Welland and Thomasville, Alabama with the purchase of Lakeside Steel. While you’re at it, you can also blame the union leadership that made the labor force too expensive, inflexible, and entitled.

  3. Wayne:

    Barry cares so much about building communities that he closed a plant in Welland Ontario that operated for over 100 years and moved the production to his American plants. As a Canadian if he cared so much about ” building communities” he would have kept the plant in Welland running. The closure was just another devastating blow to a city (Welland) that had suffered many such closures.

    1. Barry Zekelman:

      the plant was closed when the energy market collapsed and both Canada and the U.S. we flooded with massive imports of energy pipe primarily from Korea. The production was not moved, in fact we also had to close 3 plant in the U.S. 2 in Alabama which remain idled and one in Arkansas which is just now starting up running non energy product. Almost every energy tube producer in North America idled their plants. We are vigorously fighting dumped OCTG and will continue to do so until we can bring back all of these plants and build more. I care deeply about these communities and in fact lost $75M trying to keep these plant viable while getting crushed by imports>

      1. Tushar:

        Dear Mr. Zekelman,

        I listened to your interview with a keen interest. You had mentioned there are kids graduating from universities that are baristas at Starbucks, I am one of those students. My generation, comprising of millennials, faces possibly the toughest job market in modern history.
        Would you be so kind as to grant me a few moments of your time to conduct an informal interview?

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