A 109-year-old manufacturing company in Chester, N.S., says it will soon add a second shift to handle all the work it's getting making winches and marine lift products.

"For us, the future looks fantastic. We're in a huge growth mode," says Paul Phillips, general sales manager of Hawboldt Industries, a division of Ontario-based Timberland Group.

This week workers at Hawboldt Industries are preparing to ship the first winches, cranes and  launch-and-recovery systems for three new Coast Guard science and fisheries vessels being built by Seaspan shipyard in Vancouver.

Steady work. No lay-offs. That's a big thing in the Maritimes.  - Welder Keith Mitchell

"This is the first time we've designed something of this complexity," says Phillips.

Because Canadian scientists want to match the data they are getting today, Hawboldt had to maintain the way sensors are launched and retrieved from the new ships.

"The way it goes in and out of the water is very important to them."

Neither Hawboldt nor Seaspan has disclosed the contract value, but Hawboldt concedes it is many millions of dollars.

For Hawboldt's 55 employees that means stability.

"Steady work. No lay-offs. That's a big thing in the Maritimes," says welder Keith Mitchell, who has been working at Hawboldt on and off and under different owners since 1984.

The shipyard contract prompted the company to bolster its engineering and production team, leading to more work.

"It allowed us to design equipment that we can then sell elsewhere which is really what the heart of the [National Shipbuiding] program is," Phillips said. 

This week the company  was awarded a $4.7-million contract for winches that will install and remove tidal turbines from the Bay of Fundy, starting later this summer.

Rising China tide lifts Hawboldt

The tidal winches contract is a smaller job compared to the custom designed lift systems Hawboldt is supplying to Chinese research vessels. It will outfit four Chinese ships this year.

China now accounts for a third of Hawboldt business.

"They want to become a world renowned leader in that space. You see tons of research vessels being built because they are playing catch up," Phillips said. 

The Chinese customer was in Chester Thursday reviewing factory acceptance testing and learning how to run and service the equipment .

Hua Yang of Hefei Sunwin Intelligent Co Ltd says Hawboldt is a trusted supplier in Asia.

"This is only our first order and Mr. Yang believes they will buy more from Hawboldt," Yang said through translator Jackie Guo.

A Chinese national living in Nova Scotia for the last 10 years, Guo was hired by Hawboldt in April as export business development manager "to help us go for that market in an even bigger way," says Phillips.

Guo is not the most recent hire.

That's welder Chenda Levy from Chester Basin, who graduated this week from community college and got a job close to home.

"I love it here. The people are great," she says.

Hawboldt has come a long way from its days supplying the local fishing industry.

It still makes propellers for fishing vessels in Atlantic Canada but its growth comes from exporting beyond the region.

Welder Chenda Levy landed a job close to home, thanks to the booming business.

Welder Chenda Levy landed a job close to home, thanks to the booming business. (CBC)