Les LaRocque: Alberta’s 2014 Construction Person of the Year
It’s time to give LaRocque his due after more than three decades in the construction business
by Allison Myggland
Photograph Curtis Comeau
Les LaRocque may be a humble, salt-of-the-earth type of guy, but he is also a tour de force in the construction industry.
“I really have a passion for the construction industry,” he says, “and I’ve watched it grow from being the secondary choice of individuals looking for a career path to now being a real, primary pathway for people.”
In addition to running a successful business, LaRocque, president of mechanical contractor Botting & Associates, has actively shaped the standards in the industry and is working to advance Alberta’s training and apprenticeship program. Fabrizio Carinelli, president of CANA Construction in Calgary, emphasized the role LaRocque has undertaken as an industry leader. “The biggest thing about Les, from the work-side perspective, is the amount of time that he gives back to the community with respect to the industry,” he says. “He’s involved in so many different aspects, whether it’s the youth employment program, or the registered apprenticeship program, or an education fund with the Calgary Construction Association or getting involved with the Canadian Construction Association. He’s always looking at what can he do, what can he give back – to make the industry better.” Dave Smith, president of the Calgary Construction Association, agrees. “He’s one of the most unique and dynamic individuals I’ve ever met,” he says. “He’s energetic and very hard-working. He’s always looking to better enhance the construction community.”
LaRocque says he has always felt that apprenticeship opportunities are key for both young people and the industry, and from 2002-2007, he served as part of the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board. He helped develop the Alberta government’s structure around apprenticeship, and worked with government and industry to ensure there were enough training spots available to address the needs of both young people searching out a career in the trades and the industry looking for those people to be the next generation of apprentices and journeypeople. “That was some of the most rewarding work I have ever done at the association level,” says LaRocque.
He also plays an integral role on several industry-related boards, Carinelli says. “He’s not afraid to put up his hand to contribute to any issue that you might ask him about, and he’s not afraid to ask questions. And I think that’s really important – I think it drives people to really think about the issue and not be afraid to table something that needs to be tabled.” Smith says that while LaRocque is a great industry leader and a successful businessman, “one of the most unique things about Les is he’s very unpretentious and he’s a very modest and humble individual.”
LaRocque credits his mentor, Walter Botting, for his success. “He was a huge influence on me. I learned all my business sense and everything in this industry from him and I owe a lot of what I have and what we have as an organization, to him and his guidance and philosophy,” he says. “He was very much a people person, he always showed nothing but respect to all the people within our organizations – from the youngest apprentice to the most experienced journeyman, supervisors, superintendent on site, he would always give all of them respect and knew that they were important to our organization. He instilled that kind of respect for people at all levels within an organization within myself, and you know, I’ve really tried to foster that same approach.”
Smith speaks highly of LaRocque’s personal attributes. “You quickly realize, once outside of the hustle and bustle of the business world, Les is a very warm individual – and you can trust him. The construction community is – or can be, very litigious at times, but when you’re dealing with Les LaRocque, a handshake is a contract with him. That’s the type of individual he is. He is very ethical and upfront.”
Ultimately, for LaRocque, his work is more than just a job. “I just have a strong passion for our industry. I think it does a lot of good, it drives the economy. It’s a huge net adder to, not only our provincial economy but also our national economy, and you know – I’m a fan.”