Partners and the public had the opportunity to see local social enterprises at work when Groupe CONVEX held an open house on June 14.
Groupe CONVEX operates seven businesses across Prescott-Russell. The not-for-profit businesses each serve a social purpose of ensuring employment for a diverse spectrum of the local population, including those who otherwise face barriers to employment. Groupe CONVEX businesses also provide important products and services that are essential to local communities.
Groupe CONVEX Executive Director Simon Durand said the purpose of the open house was to show the resilience of the organization and changes it has made during the sometimes-challenging past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, the Hawkesbury Antiques furniture refinishing business was closed, while other businesses acquired, relocated, and revitalized.
Groupe CONVEX entered the laundry business earlier this year when it acquired Buanderie Cayen of Hawkesbury. According to Durand, he began studying the opportunity and the organization approached the previous, private ownership of the laundry service.
“We entered into negotiations and reached a deal,” Durand said.
Approximately 17 people work at Buanderie Cayen, and everyone who worked for the previous owner kept their job.
“We wanted to keep everyone on board,” said Durand.
Buanderie Cayen is a commercial laundry that does the wash for Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, long-term care facilities, and restaurants.
“This is kind of a new model for Groupe CONVEX that allows us to have better social inclusion,” Durand said.
Groupe CONVEX owns and operates Recycle-Action, located on Spence Avenue in Hawkesbury. The facility receives, sorts, and sells all of the recyclable materials collected in municipal blue bin/box programs for every municipality in Prescott-Russell, except for Clarence-Rockland, and Russell Township. Approximately 28 to 32 people work at the recycling centre, ensuring paper, metal, glass, and certain plastics do not end up in landfills.
Trucks from the various companies which collect items in municipal recycling programs unload the materials at the docks at the Recycle-Action building. Inside the building, there are piles of recyclables growing, or shrinking, as they are fed onto a conveyor belt that passes by several workers, who quickly sort materials into their appropriate bins. The recyclable materials are then taken away by whichever company purchases them to use in new products. Lessard said the present sales market is strong for all recyclable materials.
Following the severe storm that hit the region in May, Recycle-Action was receiving more materials than it could handle. The extra materials were baled at Recycle-Action and sent to Tricentris in Lachute for sorting.
Recycle-Action also has a machine that reprocesses plastic items into foam, which is then used for manufacturing other plastic products. Unfortunately, plastic bags are not one of those items.
“Ninety per cent of our garbage is plastic bags that cannot be recycled,” said Director of Operations Robert Lessard.
Items are sold to the buyer who will pay Recycle-Action the best price for the materials.
“We sell to the person who gives us the most,” Lessard said.
Recycle-Action relies completely on the best prices on the market. It does not have fixed-price contracts with any packaging or manufacturing companies.
At Groupe CONVEX’s Prescott-Russell Packaging on Aberdeen Street in Hawkesbury, approximately 45 employees package consumer products and paper items for various industries. Products include bars of soap for Pharmacie Jean-Coutu, hardware for Alexandria Moulding, and hot dog wrapping papers for Lester’s.
According to Manager of Business Development Roxanne Courcy, the packaging business is building new relationships with clients and is getting steady work because of a shortage of employees in other packaging businesses. Prescott-Russell Packaging was formerly located in Rockland but moved to Hawkesbury in 2021.
The Harvesters is a Groupe CONVEX business founded in 2021 that operates a vegetable farm near Plantagenet, complete with six acres of fields and a 10,000 square foot greenhouse. The farm offers its produce to area residents through seasonal subscription baskets. Approximately 16 people work for the Harvesters, and Chantal Lavigne manages the business.
In addition to the vegetable farm, The Harvesters also provide farm labour services and travel to area farms providing assistance with planting, pruning, wood cutting, animal care, milking, and of course, harvesting! No herbicides or pesticides are used on the vegetables grown by The Harvesters.
Groupe CONVEX also owns and operates Café Le Plateau in Hawkesbury, the Express Net cleaning and property maintenance service, and the Casselman Woodshop, which does carpentry.