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Meet the rest of 2013’s Contractor of the Year award winners

Presenting the winners and finalists in the categories of heavy civil, trade contractors under and over $15 million, and general contractors under and over $50 million

May 2, 2013

General Contractor Under $50 Million

Winner: Rockwood Custom Homes
CEO: Allison Grafton – Calgary

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Everybody wants their dream home, but the task of actually building it tends to come with the stress of blown budgets and missed deadlines. But that’s not the case with Rockwood Custom Homes, a boutique builder that prides itself on delivering both the dream home and the dream experience. “There aren’t houses being built like we build them,” says co-founder Allison Grafton. While the company only builds or renovates 10 homes per year, it completes all the construction, architectural, and interior design work with an unusual amount of care and attention.

Rockwood builds luxury homes that range in value from $1.2 million to over $10 million, and despite the lofty price tag – or, perhaps because of it – the company prides itself on being transparent about where money is being spent. “There’s never a big surprise at the end of the project,” says co-founder Grainger Nimmo. Rockwood carefully estimates costs for every project and then tracks spending, updating clients on a monthly basis. As a result, 98 per cent of Rockwood homes have come in on or under budget.

The company’s dedication to integrity also applies to the actual construction of the house. “None of the home buyers know anything about construction,” Nimmo says. “It’s important for us to make sure that the bones of this – not just the bling – but the bones are exceptional.”

Rockwood doesn’t forget to pay attention to the small things either. The company uses high-quality craftsmanship for everything from fixtures to flooring. Plus, the Rockwood team works hard to make sure the home is in move-in ready condition, complete with surprise gifts given to the clients on move-in day. As Grafton and Nimmo tell it, it’s all about making the client experience the best it can be. “You hear these horror stories about people building homes and we haven’t had one,” Nimmo says. “We want our clients to be our friends five years from now.” Evidently, their clients are satisfied. Their project list has grown solely through word of mouth.

Finalist

Seagate Contract Management
CEO: Greg Nash – Edmonton

Seagate Contract Management has been specializing in contract management for interior commercial spaces in Edmonton for over 20 years. In addition to retail spaces, Seagate also specializes in salons and spas and professional spaces such as medical offices.

Finalist

K&D Turnaround Services
CEO: Francis Kloster – Nisku

K&D Turnaround Services is an expert at the installation of mass transfer equipment for the petrochemical and refining industries and has offices in both Houston and Nisku.

General Contractor Over $50 Million

Winner: Strike Energy Services
CEO: Stephen Smith – Calgary

With more than 800 employees spread across 14 different locations it might seem difficult for Strike Energy Services to keep everyone on the same page. But the oil and gas construction and services company has made it a priority to promote a culture of employee engagement, and if Strike’s low turnover rate is any indication, it’s working. “Our employees are proud to say they work for Strike,” says co-founder and CEO Stephen Smith. “Our culture is a loyalty-based culture.”

Founded in 2004, Strike offers a wide range of construction services from fabrication to electrical services in locations across Western Canada. And while it helps that Strike offers so many different services in a variety of places, according to Smith the company’s success starts with its people. Strike began fostering a culture of loyalty by making the company employee-owned right from the beginning. “We wanted the management to have a stake in the game,” Smith says. Not only did this attract some strong industry leaders when the company was setting up shop, it’s also given Strike the advantage of having owners on the ground across its 14 business units. “People work and act like owners in our company,” Smith says. “They’re certainly more dedicated and loyal to the business and that’s important to our success.”

And while Strike’s seasonal employees are not owners, the company has other ways of fostering engagement. Strike has contributed to more than 100 charitable organizations in the communities it operates in, and if an employee is involved in a non-profit or charity, the company will support it.

This emphasis on loyalty has served the company well. “We treat our employees as we’d like to be treated ourselves,” Smith says. “As a result, we have an engaged, loyal group of employees that can really deliver.”

Finalist

PCL Construction Management
CEO: Paul Douglas – Calgary

One of Alberta’s most prolific civil builders, PCL Construction has completed numerous projects including bridges, light rail transit, pipelines, and more for clients such as the City of Calgary and the City of Edmonton.

Finalist

WorleyParsonsCord
SVP: Brad Van de Veen – Calgary

WorleyParsonsCord is a major industrial construction contractor and one of the largest providers of modules in western Canada, delivering more than $750 million in project work in 2012 for clients such as Suncor, TransCanada and Enbridge.

Trade Contractor Under $15 Million

R3 Deconstruction
CEO: Travis Blake – Edmonton

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Demolition companies may make money by ripping things down, but R3 Deconstruction is all about building people up. “We get some of the worst resumes you’ve ever seen,” says president Travis Blake. But rather than tossing them in the recycling bin as most employers would, the demolition company instead prefers to invest in training unskilled labourers.

R3 makes an offer to its prospective employees. If they commit to the company for one year, R3 will provide training and leadership opportunities, giving them the chance to transform what would otherwise be a short-term job into a career. After a year, many of them choose to stay on at R3, and for those that want to pursue another trade, they’ll have gained great experience and a referral from Blake.

R3’s approach is unique in an industry that often employs temporary workers, and though it hasn’t been without its challenges, Blake says it’s worth the effort. “There are a lot of people that don’t have Grade 12 or can’t afford to go to school, and we need to get them into the system because they’re here,” he says. And it’s not just new employees that get opportunities to grow with R3. The company, which has a full-time staff of 23, prides itself on caring about its people, whether that means offering them free legal services or help with making better financial decisions.

While that may sound costly, R3’s investment in its people has paid off. The company was only incorporated in 2010 but made over $2 million in revenue in its most recent year. For Blake, it’s a reflection of the company’s willingness to take a wider view of its business and how to run it. “Demolition – we love it, it’s great,” he says. “But at the end of the day, this is a much bigger thing.”

Finalist

EverLine Coatings and Services
CEO: John Evans – Calgary

Founded in 2012, EverLine Coatings and Services is a property maintenance company that began specializing in parking-lot line marking but quickly expanded to offer services such as parking lot sweeping and snow removal.

Finalist

B&B Demolition
CEO: Bill Knight – Edmonton

B&B Demolition was founded in 1999 and has since built a name for itself as one of the city’s most diverse demolition contractors, working in commercial interior spaces as well as the insurance industry.

Trade Contractor Over $15 Million

Vertex Resource Group
CEO: Terry Stephenson – Sherwood Park

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The Vertex resource Group doesn’t buy the old adage that a jack of all trades is a master of none. The resource sector service provider, which generated $110 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year, has its hands in everything from scaffolding to environmental consulting to oilfield hauling. More importantly, it says it’s excellent at each. “When we go in and do something we want to be in the top three providers of that service,” says CEO Terry Stephenson. “It’s a very focused approach.”

Vertex has 12 branch offices across Western Canada and the U.S. and more than 750 employees in its three divisions: construction, which focuses on the manufacturing of metal buildings, soft-cover buildings and industrial insulation blankets; professional services, which covers everything from environmental consulting to emergency response planning; and oilfield rentals and hauling. And while such a diverse group of services may seem unwieldy, Stephenson says they’re a reflection of the company’s commitment to better serving its customers. “It does seem a little spread out,” he says, “but if we branched out into something it’s because it fits with what our customers need or want.”

That attitude extends beyond the kind of services that Vertex provides. It also includes how it provides them. Drafting is done using 3-D modeling, for example, which will soon automatically feed into computerized cutting tables and lead to a quicker and more accurate drafting process. No matter what the innovation or how it’s applied, Vertex will only pursue it if it improves the kind of customer experience it can offer. “Whatever we get into, it’s a high level of achievement,” Stephenson says. “I really think that’s key for us – being adaptable and innovative to try to better satisfy our customers’ needs.”

Finalist

NCSG Crane & Heavy Haul Services
CEO: Ted Redmond – Edmonton

With nine branch offices located across Western Canada and the Western U.S. and more than 600 pieces of machinery, NCSG Crane & Heavy Haul Services has the equipment and geographic reach to meet almost any heavy haul or crane rental need.

Heavy Civil

Sprague-Rosser Contracting Co.
CEO: Jeff Jessamine – Edmonton

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Sometimes an old company needs to have new life breathed into it. That was certainly the case in 2009 with Sprague-Rosser Contracting, a 45-year-old company that started off as an excavation subcontractor. Since then, it has been transforming itself into a major player in the civil contracting world, bidding against companies like PCL and Graham for projects. Part of the change can be attributed to CEO Jeff Jessamine, who took over in 2009 and quickly set about to overhaul the company’s corporate culture. “I’m a pretty visionary person,” Jessamine says. “We re-engineered the culture. We had to get everyone singing the same song and set new visions and values.”

One of the new values that has become a hallmark at Sprague-Rosser is safety. The company had a total recordable incident frequency of 13 in 2009, but got that figure all the way down to zero the following year. The company has an equally sterling safety record of late, with a frequency of zero incidents over the past 15 months. Sprague-Rosser has even extended its commitment to safety education beyond its own employees, since most of the company’s construction work is in community rehabilitation. “You’ve got a lot of bystanders and people that live in your construction site,” Jessamine says. “We thought it wasn’t really fair to impose those types of risks on communities without their having some sort of training.” As a result, Sprague-Rosser has developed a program in which they go into schools to educate children and their parents about the hazards of the site and what to expect.

Finalist

M. Pidherney’s Trucking
CEO: Mervyn Pidherney – Rocky Mountain House

Founded in 1964, M. Pidherney’s Trucking has operated throughout central Alberta in both the civil construction and oilfield services business for over 40 years.

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