“We will manufacture and sell and rent them,” Bazinet said, during an August 28 phone interview. The Embrun entrepreneur announced the launch of his Liberté Caravans project during an official groundbreaking ceremony at the Limoges Business Park. Present for the occasion were The Nation Mayor François St-Amour, Ward 4 Councillor Francis Brière, Caisse populaire Desjardins representative Philippe Laflèche, and Marc-André Decoeur of Absolute Architecture + Design.
Bazinet is a mechanical engineer, whose professional background includes working as a chief engineer for the Canadian military on several infrastructure projects at radar sites in the Canadian Arctic. For the past year now he’s had an idea for designing the perfect made-to-order travel trailer able to deal with Canada’s unique climate conditions.
“I saw a need,” he said, adding that most of the recreational and professional travel trailers available for purchase are built in the United States and, while they are adequate, they are designed with touring around America in mind.
“I thought that we could do better,” he said, “both in quality and in meeting Canadian needs."
One of Bazinet’s hobbies, as a mechanical engineer, is building or renovating “teardrop” trailers, the type of compact travel trailer that most people think of when they think of going on a road trip or camping with a trailer. He combined his hobby design experience with the practical work he did for the military on compact infrastructure design for the Arctic climate and came up with the prototype design for his caravan.
Bazinet and his present crew are putting together the prototype in a temporary workshop in Saint-Albert. The two-acre site in the Limoges industrial park will become the permanent home for the Liberté Caravans manufacturing plant in November, starting with a 4000-square-foot facility, which Bazinet expects will expand to 10,000 square feet after the first year or two of production as orders build up.
During the first year of production, Bazinet estimates the factory will employ about a dozen people to assemble between 20 to 30 trailers for clients. Later expansion projections call for a 15-person workforce to handle production of between 40 to 50 trailers.
Bazinet is confident that his compact trailer design will prove popular for both recreational use and also for companies that need temporary but comfortable accommodation for employees in the backcountry regions of Canada and other countries.
“We’ve designed the caravan to provide the most comfortable shelter for our customers in extreme temperatures,” said Bazinet, “including down to minus 50 degrees Celsius.”
Bazinet’s business plan calls for focusing on the Ottawa-Toronto-Montreal sales market area for the first year of production, while developing partnership contacts for marketing elsewhere in Canada and the U.S. during the later expansion phase of the business. The world market for compact trailers will follow later in the plan.
Bazinet noted that the Canadian market alone for compact travel trailers is between 42,000 to 50,000 in sales numbers, but less than two per cent of those new trailers are made in Canada. The majority come from the United States. He expressed optimism that the Liberté Caravan plant will prove an excellent addition to the economic profile of Limoges and to the Prescott-Russell region overall.
“If I can offer a trailer designed and manufactured for Canadians by Canadians,” he said, “this can only be beneficial to our economy.”