Marc Bolduc pivoted, at a younger age, from a potential career in government and global affairs to a successful corporate life that has encompassed Canada, Japan and a host of other nations. Personable, trilingual, well-versed in Japanese business practices and with a solid Chamber pedigree, the CCCJ’s new chair was the
Marc Bolduc works for Intralox, a company that supplies technologies and solutions that smoothly and efficiently move products from place to place, solve logistical snafus, and power the manufacturing and e-commerce world. He’s the country director there, heading up the industrial food business, helping ensure food safety for Japanese and foreign firms.
French with Irish/Scottish blood, he’s also the Chamber’s first chair to hail from Quebec. “Growing up in Montreal was very enriching and multicultural, with its well-defined neighborhoods and various ethnic identities, including Jewish, Greek, Italian and Portuguese,” he says. “I was discovering the world every day. We had many overseas students at my school, too, and some good friends were from Asia—Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese.”
Like many relatively recent imports to Japan, Marc Bolduc’s interest in the country was initially stoked by watching anime as a child. The Bond movie You Only Live Twice and TV series Shogun later reinforced that fascination.
He also inherited a passion for travel from his parents, who summered every year in Florida, where his father had met his mother. “My interest in overseas life became stronger after a summer in Europe when I was eighteen,” he says. “I met other people travelling from around the globe, which inspired me to study political science during my undergrad at McGill University.”
Already fluent in French and English, he says his initial desire was to work in global affairs, so he decided to pick up some other foreign languages. He ended up studying Japanese and made some Japanese friends. Visiting Tokyo in 1996 on a summer vacation, though, was his true pivot point. “Immediately, for me, Japan was the place—a strong and unique culture but also lots of similarities with the West. And it was just so clean, organized and easy to fall in love with.”
Bolduc needed a place to study Japanese, and settled on a professional training college near Kannai Station in Yokohama. “I’ve read that a lot of missionary priests came from Quebec as well to build schools out there. Yokohama looked like a very nice city because of its history, its link with the West and foreigners.”
He also picked up work as an ESL teacher in Yokohama, and spent about a year and a half in the city before deciding to return to Canada to look at his options for graduate studies and eventually an MBA. “In the interim, I came back to Japan and worked for another year. After finishing my MBA, my career aspirations began shifting away from global affairs, such as working for the Canadian government internationally. I decided to give the business world a try.”
He was eminently successful at that. “I’ve had the pleasure of working for two large Japanese companies—Hitachi and Sumitomo—and have learned a lot about the pluses and minuses of corporate Japan,” Bolduc states. “That’s helped me take on my new role at Intralox.”
What did he get out of interactions at that level? “You understand the mindset, how things are structured, how long sometimes decision-making processes take,” he responds. “And continuity. There’s a lot of corporate knowledge, institutional memory, because people stay at their companies for a long time.”
Even though Intralox is based out of New Orleans in Louisiana, he notes, it deals with a lot of Canadian companies, such as McCain and Maple Leaf Foods. “Getting to know the leadership here gives me and our company insight into what’s happening across the Asia-Pacific region as we look at projects.”
How does Intralox view the responsibilities that go with this new role? “Well, companies are always wanting optimal productivity and focus to their work,” he answers, “but there’s also a sense of pride because they realize that people in the Canada-Japan business community wanted me as chair, so it reflects well on the firm in the sense of having the right local leadership in place.”
“When I came back to live in Japan in 2009 and was working for Hitachi High Technologies, I decided to get involved in the larger international business community,” Bolduc notes. “I turned to the CCCJ and joined some committees. My involvement got more pronounced in 2011 after the Tohoku earthquake and disaster. I wanted to do more for Japan and help our business communities. Wilf Wakely saw my interest and got me involved in Chamber and Tohoku-related events and activities, which led to me becoming a governor and eventually vice chair.”
He learned a great deal from Wilf, he says. “Wilf was a very well-read man, and always stayed informed about what’s happening in Japanese and Canadian politics as well as in the business communities. So I make sure to look at the Nikkei Shimbun every week to stay informed on the Japanese side.
“The second thing I got from Wilf was engaging with people,” Bolduc continues. “He was very good at reaching out to people, making them feel valued in the organization. So I maintain strong relationships with the other board members, the committee chairs and the like. Committees are so important to what the Chamber does.”
Bolduc anticipates a lot more interaction with other chambers as well. “It’s not just us and the Japanese, and we’re part of this bigger trading block now,” he says. “And it’s important to reach out to these chambers because that will give us even more chances in the Asia Pacific for growth for both Canadian and Japanese companies.”
If he could rework/refine just one facet of the Chamber, what would it be, and why?
“The Chamber can be many things for many people,” he responds. “What I want to see is more focus on Commerce with a capital ‘C.’ I believe that’s where the Chamber can be more impactful. I’d like to see more events focused on the changing realities of our Canada-Japan business environment, more open discussions on topics related to innovation in technologies such as green tech, AI and so on, and cross-border trade and investments.”
Related to that, Bolduc mentions a big delegation of businesspeople coming from Canada in October—a revival of the Team Canada delegations. “That’s going to keep us busy,” he says with a grin.
In terms of the bilateral relationship and advocacy, Bolduc mentions the big changes in the political and economic landscape between Canada and Japan. “With the CPTPP gradually coming into effect, we’ll have more trade and investment opportunities between our two countries and other member states,” he says. “The other is the new Indo-Pacific strategy for Canada and the implications that this will have in the region with Japan as a strategic partner.
“Of course, keeping our liaison with the embassy strong is vital, especially when we talk about the Indo-Pacific strategy or the CPTPP,” he continues. “Our ambassador, Ian McKay, whom I respect very much, is now also overseeing the Indo-Pacific strategy out of Japan. He’s the main liaison as the man on the ground, coordinating a lot of the activities for the Canadian government across Asia Pacific under this new strategy. Staying close to him is essential.”
Intralox keeps Bolduc travelling frequently across Japan and internationally. In his free time, however, he pursues mountain sports such as skiing and snowboarding. “It was my thing growing up as a child, including ski team competitions. Now, when we go up ski up in Hokkaido, my wife and I like to bring our nieces with us. Hot springs and skiing goes very well together.”
He also loves going to Kyoto and Kanazawa for cherry blossoms and the like, and and the beaches of Okinawa. “Okinawa is Japan, but it’s its own world. I’d certainly like to do more of all that, and thanks to the remote work capabilities I think I’ll be able to in the years to come.”