Being early adopters of tech helped Central Saanich’s JSF grow

Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry series continues.

There’s a constant among most — if not all — the companies on the Saanich Peninsula chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry.

Not only are each of the businesses successful in their own right, but each of them have had to innovate to some degree in order to thrive.

Such is the case for Central Saanich company J.S. Foster Corporation.

Started by Joseph Foster in 1970, the business was a small machine shop with a few employees and “a modest assortment of manual machines and tools.” His son Jack, who still runs the business, grew up in the shop and embraced new technology as it came along. In the 1980s, his shop became known as one of the first to provide computer controlled machining.

Daniel Arnold, operations manager, led the tour, explaining portions of the machining process and introducing tour participants to their specialty products — developed out of the need to survive.

In 1992, the company branched out into sporting goods with Islander Reels, a big name in west coast fly and saltwater fishing.

In 2002, JSF Technologies was created and it’s tasked with developing and building solar-powered traffic safety signals and lights. Over the last few years, Arnold said, JSF Technologies has found markets around the world — the U.S., Africa, Dubai — and has made between 300 and 400 installations of their products throughout Greater Victoria.

“We’re doing it here, no where else,” said Jack Foster. “It’s our technology and it’s nice to be able to do something for ourselves.”

The machining, painting, mounting and assembly is all done at their Keating X Road site.

Most of their devices are sold and shipped to the U.S., Arnold added. Canada remains a growing market for them — where for some reason he said, they have to go out of their way to prove solar really works. It’s starting to catch on, he continued, noting Brentwood Bay even has a few of their signals up and running.

Weather-resistant and resilient in the face of extreme hot and cold temperatures, the warning devices built by JSF Technologies work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No trenches are required to install them and they are monitored by radio. All it takes to program them, Arnold said, is a USB connection.

Adopting new technology has been key to diversifying their product lines and workforce. Even their base business — the machining — has been affected by advancements in technology.

The work, Arnold explained, requires a lot of raw materials. Instead of losing some of it in the machining process, he said they can recycle a lot of it.

“Because metal and materials can be recovered, it can be reprocessed into raw bars again,” he said. “Today, there’s very limited waste.”