Entrepreneurialism in his DNA
In 2019, Luke Dombowsky claimed a small piece of Saskatchewan Polytechnic history by becoming one of the first students to graduate from the Innovative Manufacturing program.
Today, Luke is the owner/operator of Metro Manufacturing, a machine and metal fabrication shop based in Moose Jaw. Established the same year Luke graduated from the Innovative Manufacturing (IM) program, the company has a simple yet effective recipe for business success: provide quality parts at reasonable rates and quick lead times.
For Luke, opening his own business was always the end goal of his post-secondary education. “I’m from an entrepreneurial family, it’s in my DNA. Growing up, I saw my dad running his own business and a couple of my brothers had their own businesses, so it just seemed normal,” he says.
“To be honest, I had zero interest in high school. But I did have a deep interest in machining and computer aided design and manufacturing. I took the Innovative Manufacturing program because it allowed me to bring these things together—my interest in computer aided design and manufacturing and my interest in business,” Luke says.
Luke describes the program as a cross between machining, welding and engineering technology. “It lets you get your feet wet in a lot of different areas and to build a basic understanding of each area,” he says.
The cross-disciplinary nature of the Innovative Manufacturing program is a direct response to industry demand. Saskatchewan manufacturers had been calling for the development of a multi-skilled workforce to meet the changing needs of 21st century manufacturing. The Innovative Manufacturing program gives students a breadth of knowledge and skills, from mechanical and CAD/CAM engineering technologies, to welding and machining, to project management and industrial design.
Luke was in his second year of the two-year diploma program when opportunity knocked. “I got the chance to buy a Haas CNC Mill, the same type of machine we were using at Sask Polytech. That machine launched my company,” he says.
“We started off doing CNC machining, vertical machining and manual lathe. At Sask Polytech, I had learned how to visualize and design products using CAD and 3D modelling, and that allowed the fabrication side of our business to take off—design, sheet metal, structural steel, joists, aluminum, stainless and prototyping. We can design and manufacture solutions to specific issues and fabricate structural steel according to client drawings.”
Metro also does contract manufacturing and small to large production runs. With its reputation for quality and timeliness, the company has been growing fast. Luke now employs 10 people, including journeyperson machinists and welders and two Innovative Manufacturing alumni (in addition to himself). And there’s bigger news on the horizon: Metro is moving from its current 6,000 square foot shop to a new 20,000 square foot facility being purpose-built just outside the city.
Although still a relative newcomer in the business world, Luke is keenly aware of the challenges of growing a business; perhaps that’s a benefit of having entrepreneurial DNA. He talks about the need for quality work, the need to deliver complex parts on tight deadlines and especially the need to recruit skilled labour.
“I’ve been super blessed with a great team. Having three Innovative Manufacturing alumni means we have the skills to design from scratch. Having journeyperson machinists and welders means we can do prototyping, machining and fabrication in house,” Luke says. “One of my goals when I opened Metro was to provide products quickly, which is why I brought equipment and skilled people in-house. We can’t afford to wait on subcontractors; we have to control the timing in order to deliver on deadline.”
Led by his own Innovative Manufacturing background, Luke has developed a multi-skilled workforce that will allow his company to pivot its services based on demand—a vital survival skill in today’s rapidly evolving manufacturing sector.
Published October 2021.