A Quebec manufacturer of school furniture ignored in its own backyard

Quebec school furniture manufacturer ignored in its own backyard


The Quebec manufacturer of the famous orange chairs that we see everywhere in our schools finds it hard to digest that some school centers in his part of the country shun him and opt instead for furniture “ Made in USA”.

“I have 140 employees who pay taxes. I generate $4 million in salary a year in my five factories in the Farnham area,” sighs Gilles Berthiaume, CEO of Alpha-Vico.

“They bought American tables from KI at the Mgr-Douville School in Farnham. They paid more than $2,500 for them each (the 10-footer), while I made them at $1,500 (the 12-footer),” he says.

What makes it stand out is that the tables are not only more expensive, but shorter, so fewer students can sit on them.

Yet in Brome County -Missisquoi, the manufacturer Alpha-Vico is visible. He participates in the activities of the region. He and his sister, Claudine, sometimes even serve lunches for neighborhood students.

“American companies will not sponsor our sports teams. They don't make spaghetti suppers at our house,” says the one who manages sales alongside her.

“I don't understand why American standards are demanded when we're talking about the Basket blue and local purchase. It's not consistent,” drops Annie Messier, in sales with her, hanging between a customer visit.

While we tear up our chairs, desks and tables elsewhere, Alpha- Vico misunderstands the lure of “Made in USA” in the midst of the buy local campaign.

Enforced layoffs

< p>Today, some descriptions are even written in English with American standards to eliminate them, says Gilles Berthiaume.

“Not all schools do that. We have good customers across the country. There are some professionals,” he nevertheless insists on qualifying.

The fact remains that the decisions of some leave him with a bitter taste, which has impacts even on the factory floor. And what had to happen happened.

“I fired twenty employees last week because orders fell,” shares Gilles Berthiaume of Alpha-Vico with emotion.

What irritates the businessman to the highest degree, is that the chairs chosen are often more expensive in addition to being manufactured outside Quebec.

“They sometimes pay $135 for a chair, when they can have it for $35, so 1,000 chairs is $100,000 more,” complains the entrepreneur.

Centers on the defensive 

Questioned by< em>Le Journal, the school centers were quick to defend themselves.

“We will not grant an interview on the subject, because we spoke with them just yesterday [September 13], concerning the reasons for non-compliance for which the candidacy of this company was not selected during the public call for tenders”, replied Audrey Leboeuf, to communications from the Center de services scolaire du Val -des-Cerfs.

In the Journal, the center claimed to have complied with the call for tenders for the purchase of 16 tables via the Comite d'achats grouped de la Montérégie et de l'Estrie.

A hundred kilometers away, at Marguerite-Bourgeoys School Service Centre, its spokeswoman Mélanie Simard said that she did everything in order.

“As a public body, we make sure to apply and enforce the rules in procurement [goods and services] and work from the definition of a need,” she said.

“You will understand that we cannot provide details on filed by companies interested in the needs we have,” she summarized.


Foundation: < /strong>1980

Employees: 140

Factories: 5

Customers ( country): Canada, United States

Products: chairs, desks, folding tables, stools

Source: Alpha-Vico