Machine shop owner suing Innovation Centre: Rudnicki Industrial claims government-funded innovation lab is doing more than prototype work.

Author:Ross, Ian
Position::NEWS
 
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A Thunder Bay machine shop owner contends a tax-payer-funded milling centre, owned by the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, has been used to poach manufacturing work from his company.

Mike Rudnicki has filed a $3.5-million lawsuit in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the not-for-profit organization and Kam Valley Industries, the private operator of the centre's advanced manufacturing lab.

In his statement of claim, filed Feb. 15, 2015, Rudnicki is suing for misrepresentation and breach of contract related to having access to a state-of-the-art CNC milling machine located at the college.

The Innovation Centre, which operates on a mix of government funding dollars, is considered the go-to place in Thunder Bay for fledgling entrepreneurs to get assistance with business planning, marketing, writing grant applications, and to find experts to help in manufacturing processes, engineering and patent law.

Rudnicki claims he was led to believe the Mi-Zone lab was to foster local innovation through manufacturing and to keep that kind of specialized work in Thunder Bay that otherwise might have been contracted out to more firms outside of northwestern Ontario.

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The equipment, he was told, would not engage in general manufacturing, and would only be used for innovation items that could not be done in Thunder Bay, such as medical parts, for sanitation reasons.

Rudnicki, the owner of Rudnicki Industrial, claims Kam Valley is using the lab's publicly-funded equipment for its own business purposes in operating as a commercial manufacturing facility.

He argues the Mi-Zone lab has gone beyond its original innovation mandate and has now become a platform for Kam Valley to pursue clients and manufacturing opportunities in the area.

The MI-Zone (Makers and Innovators) advanced manufacturing lab was established in 2013 to work with their clients, startup companies and entrepreneurs who need technical design capabilities. Kam Valley Industries was selected to run the facility, located in the McIntyre Building on the Confederation College campus.

Rudnicki claims a major client of his --Cinevate, a Thunder Bay film equipment company--was stolen away by Kam Valley and Tyler Bragnalo, a former employee of Rudnicki Industrial. The loss of Cinevate, he claims, has conservatively cost him more than $3 million in lost business, and five of the nine employees at his Dawson Road shop who were dedicated to Cinevate parts production.

Bragnalo worked for...

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