Within a rapidly changing northwestern economy, one long-time local company is expanding its home-base and staff to handle the growth.
Three years ago, Bear Creek Contracting Ltd. employed a staff of 28. Now, that number has more than tripled to handle increasing business and is expected to keep growing, said owner and president of the company Ian Munson.
Bear Creek Contracting has also purchased 16 more acres of land on which sits Thornhill’s former Lomak building. The building, which was vacant for about 14 years, is now the company’s home base.
The company closed the purchase deal on the property and building located at 3550 Hwy16 E in May, moving its headquarters there from a five-acre lot just a few properties east.
“We outgrew our location,” said Munson, adding that the company now owns a trucking business, Ron King Trucking, and also a fleet of helicopters under Lakelse Air Ltd. – which will also be expanding its hanger by 4200 square feet to handle a growing fleet.
“It made sense to buy this place and store everything under one roof,” said Munson.
And all the moving and shaking going on at Bear Creek Contracting Ltd. reflects a growing and rapidly changing economic picture, said Munson.
“There’s so many more opportunities,” he said.
Munson pointed to what the company was doing just three years ago, estimating that the value of various smaller contracts then equals the value of some single contracts now.
“Then, there wasn’t a lot of projects,” he said. “Basically …. we were in survival mode.”
But 2010 would be a pivotal year for the company, he explained, when it landed a contract with the Kitimat Modernization Project (KMP) doing work on its storm water management centre.
“It was just an entrance point into where we are now,” he said.
Now, the company has expanded into the oil and gas sector, said Munson, keeping hush about what the exact plans are.
Its current project repertoire includes working on the KMP project in Kemano, on a road-improvement project in Fort Babine, a log sort yard in Prince Rupert, falling and road building for the Northwest Transmission Line, working with Pacific Northern Gas on some of their tunnels, and a hydroseeding business.
And being flexible to what local markets are doing is how the company has survived through the northwest’s well known boom and bust economic cycles.
After logging for decades until the collapse of the forest industry here in the 1990s, the company shifted its focus to construction.
“We’re not afraid to get into new stuff,” he said, adding he enjoys the challenge of moving into different sectors and then planning the logistics of how to make it all work.
While staff has grown from 28 employees 3.5 years ago to 110 now, more jobs will be available and gaps in skilled workers are one thing the company is planning for, he said.
Specifically, it has been training heavy equipment operators from within to accommodate what will be needed.
Class 1 drivers and heavy duty mechanics will also be in demand, he said.
And the company wants to do its own hiring locally.
“Money made in the north stays in the north,” he said.
But when asked how much his company has grown in value, Munson kept tight lipped.
“I’m not a bling kind of guy,” he said.
He did say the company has recently purchased more than $8 million of new equipment to accommodate growth.
This includes three new helicopters, work trucks, excavators and so on, he said.
And the company’s Health Safety Environment (HSE) manager, who joined the Bear Creek Team three and a half years ago, said watching the company grow has been quite the ride.
“Ian’s risk tolerance is pretty high and we’ve got a lot of people who are willing to do what it takes to get the job done,” said Mike Edwards. “We’re a local company and that’s our claim to fame and we’re stepping on to the world class stage.”
Part of that step up included two awards the company won recently for its work building the Klemtu Ferry Terminal.
It won the excellence award in the Community Institutional category as well as the Judges Choice Award for best overall out of 30 categories.
The company received the awards from the Northern Building Awards held in Prince George April 26 – which awards the best in Northern BC residential and commercial construction. The region covered extends
south from 100 Mile House north to Fort Nelson and west to east from Prince Rupert to Prince George.
“We did everything but the pile driving,” said Munson, speaking to the award-winning ferry terminal project.
The company started the $6.3 million job in Sept. 2012 after getting the contract from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Building the terminal included building 1.5 km of road, a parking lot, the terminal building and other completion work, said Munson.