After announcing its intentions to close the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) location in Portage la Prairie in the summer of 2022, the company has taken the 'For Sale' sign down and will keep its doors open. 

President and CEO of PAMI, Paul Buczkowski, says when he initially found out about the Portage closure, he was only six days into a treasury role.

"It was a very big introduction to a very big can of worms from an accounting perspective," continues Buczkowski. "As I moved into the new role of President and CEO in March of this year, I wanted to reexamine and look at the business plan and the business opportunities out in Portage."

File Photo. PAMI Senior Leadership Team: Bryan Lung, Director of Operations, Paul Buczkowski, President & CEO, Lorne Grieger, Director of Technical Sales

Buczkowski explains that when he first joined PAMI, things were looking pretty financially bleak, with COVID-19 in full force and many businesses struggling.

"We're a not-for-profit company, and we were running at a pretty significant deficit for a number of years and the decision was made to close the Portage facility."

As an engineering consulting firm that does mechanical testing, Buczkowski says face-to-face interaction with customers and vendors is essential.

"For those two years there, we lost a number of projects, lost a number of people, and unfortunately, that led to the decision of closing the Portage facility with it not being overly profitable at the time."

After making changes at the senior leadership level, PAMI and Buczkowski decided to look into a full reexamination of the decision to close the Portage location.

"We implemented a new marketing campaign that our Board of Directors approved, and we have a really good opportunity to take the 'For Sale' sign down and try to get the Portage facility back up and running."

Buczkowski says that just a few weeks ago, he and his team made a big presentation to the company's Board of Directors, highlighting the rise in interest in Portage due to this new business model. In the end, the Board voted unanimously to keep the location open.

"We're really excited about working with, not just their existing customers that we've served in Portage, but also new and exciting ones as we branch out into PAMI 2.0, as we call it."

He notes that with Portage's rich history in agriculture, PAMI is thrilled to keep the wheels in motion in the community. The CEO and President says that losing the Portage branch, the only other PAMI location besides the one in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, would be a massive blow.

File Photo.PAMI Conducting Agricultural Research in Manitoba using a Plot Combine.

"it was really exciting to let the staff know. Unfortunately, when those decisions were made prior, we lost some really good people. But we've been in the process of hiring some new people back. It's really one of those success stories now."

As a former 40-goal scorer for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, Buczkowski would go on to have a professional career in hockey, playing in Germany's Division 1 as well as the ECHL before transitioning to business. Buczkowsk says that his experience has helped him become the leader he is today with PAMI.

"I've learned through my hockey career and applied it to business and teamwork. The change in culture was really, really important to me."

Buczkowsk notes that the success of keeping PAMI open in Portage will be in the pudding, with a number of significant projects in the works. 

PAMI employs 29 staff and 13 contractors between the Portage and Humboldt locations.

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