In our third interview in this series, we spoke with Tyler Gabert, President of Willowridge, and Jordan Rumohr, VP, Business Development for Willowridge. Located in Fort Saskatchewan and specializing in industrial construction projects, Willowridge has been an Industrial General Contractor operating in Alberta since 1986. We spoke with Tyler and Jordan in November, 2018.
Above: Tyler Gabert, President, Willowridge Construction
Q: Tyler, let’s start with you. Can you give us a bit of an overview about Willowridge?
Tyler: Willowridge has been around since 1986, and since the early 2000’s we’ve concentrated our operation on the heavy-industrial area of business, and that’s our primary focus. We provide a range of services to the industry from general site maintenance to more specialized services with our staff of carpenters, operators, labourers and maintenance personnel. We have about 150 employees in the field, on average.
Q: How did your company get involved with Inter Pipeline and the Heartland Petrochemical Complex project?
Tyler: Willowridge has a long-standing history of working with Williams (prior to Inter Pipeline’s acquisition), and it was through that relationship (and some of the projects that we worked on previously) where we first heard about the planned construction of the Heartland Petrochemical Complex. It was exciting news, and from the beginning we had been following that conversation and said that when this build is ready to go forward, we'd love to have the opportunity to contribute and participate in this project.
Q: Can you speak a bit about what the Heartland Petrochemical Complex project has meant to Willowridge?
Tyler: This has been really exciting for Willowridge for multiple reasons. It's an opportunity for us to be involved in an important project that's changing the dynamics in Alberta from the ground up. We're involved in this ground-breaking facility that’s being built here in our back yard. We're a local provider in this area, and the Heartland project has been a huge boost for the Fort Saskatchewan area. The other thing that's been so exciting is the people that we've met and been lucky enough to work with, and to see the positive working culture and collaborative safety environment that we're seeing Inter Pipeline bring to the table every day on site. I feel really fortunate that we're able to contribute and be a part of all this.
Q: One more question, Tyler. Have there been any particular moments or highlights that stand out for you on the Heartland project?
Tyler: Oh, yes. A couple of highlights that stand out for me on this project are the people that we've worked with and the grass-roots culture that Inter Pipeline is building on site. It's exciting and the work is fast-paced, but the feeling is collaborative and progressive. It's collaborative in the sense that we're working hard, we're going make this happen, we're going to be safe, and we're going to be efficient – and we've really felt from the Inter Pipeline team that they're rooting for us, and that makes all the difference in the approach that we take. Everyone involved in this build is positioning all of us for success, and it makes us realize how fortunate we are to be a part of the Heartland Petrochemical Complex project.
Above: Jordan Rumohr, Vice President, Business Development, Willowridge Construction
Q: Jordan, tell us a bit about your background with Willowridge and the local business community.
Jordan: I’m proud to say that I was born and grew up right here in Fort Saskatchewan. I've been at Willowridge for the last three years. Before that, I played a bit of a role throughout the region, working for some of the local municipalities in a global business attraction role. I was familiar with the major industrial players throughout the region, and when I had the opportunity to come to Willowridge in the business development position, I leapt at it, and have loved it.
Q: In terms of what you've seen, how would you describe the Heartland Petrochemical Complex project in relation to the other projects in the area?
Jordan: When you look at the region, at the Alberta industrial heartland and the Province as a whole, the last several years have been challenging ones for the energy industry. Certainly with Inter Pipeline coming in and building this facility it's been a tremendous boost - not only for this region, but also for the Province of Alberta, and Canada as a whole. So it's very exciting times around here. You see it in all kinds of ways: whether it's the local employment and the economy, or the other businesses in the area that are benefiting by increased activity that the Heartland Petrochemical Complex is bringing here.
Q: One last question. When you think about the Heartland Petrochemical Complex, what does it mean to you, personally, being born and raised here in Fort Saskatchewan?
Jordan: Tyler and I talk about this all the time. While it’s exciting to be one of the contractors on site each and every day, and to employ local people, it’s also incredible to see the impact that this project is having on the community. It's more vibrant. There's a lot of things going on, there's people moving around. Hotels are busy, restaurants are busy. So it's really having an impact on so many levels. It's not just the contractors, it's not just the suppliers -it's the local sports teams and local schools that are being impacted positively by increased sponsorship and things like that. So as someone who's born and raised in Fort Saskatchewan and proud to call this region home, it's amazing to see the positive impact that the Heartland Petrochemical Complex is already having, and we're really just getting started.
In our second of the “Vendor Spotlight” series, we meet Andy Brooks, the CEO of Waiward. Based in Edmonton, Waiward is a firm that supplies engineering, drafting, construction, and steel fabrication services for the industrial sector. Waiward supplies the steel used in many of the key components of the Heartland Complex. We spoke with Andy at Waiward’s fabrication plant, in November 2018.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Andy. Can you tell us about Waiward’s background in the industry?
A: Waiward has been around since 1972. The company was started by hard working entrepreneurs and was a smaller fabrication shop which has grown into what we are today with construction and maintenance services together with engineering and drafting and the largest fabrication shop west of Quebec.
Q: How many employees does Waiward have at the moment?
A: We're about 550 people which includes field personnel, our fabrication facility and our office.
Q: You’ve been in this industry for 20 years. What would you say is one of the largest or most significant changes you’ve noticed over your career?
A: I think one of the biggest changes has been around global procurement and technology. We all must be far more sophisticated, and our customers demand and deserve the best which means that we're scouring the world. This applies across all businesses within the sector. Now you must look at the global market place and prove your competitiveness in all areas including the supply chain, talent and technology.
Q: When you’re out speaking about business, or meeting people who may not be familiar with Waiward, what in particular do you feel is Waiward’s greatest asset?
A: People at the core of our business. We have a strategy in place and strong growth plans but without people at the core, you can throw the strategy away. I also talk about our fabrication facility being a tremendous competitive advantage to back up our construction services and our engineering and drafting expertise.
Q: Employee engagement is obviously front of mind with you.
A: Yes, absolutely! We have what I consider progressive action-oriented values that we use in every day decisions. We pride ourselves in not simply solving problems but creating solutions as we embrace change and move the company forward. There's a tremendous amount of pride and history here and I think that's tremendously important. We have our “creative” differences from time to time which allows us to move forward. We are a family and a team, and we will always be that way.
Q: In terms of the Heartland project for Inter Pipeline, how unique or significant is it to the company? Do you know if Waiward has worked on anything similar in the past?
A: No, we haven't. At least not to this extent. We look at this as a signature project for Waiward. We clearly know what it means to Inter Pipeline, but a lot of that is transferred over to us as well and I'm sure other contractors. You're involved in something that's unique and very special. That’s a great feeling and we are proud to be a partner and a part of an exceptional game changing initiative. So, it goes beyond the typical. The feeling of pride, creating something new and different, especially in this economic time, is fantastic. Fantastic for Inter Pipeline, great for Waiward, and I’m sure great for other contractors as well.
In our first “Vendor Spotlight,” we chat with Brian Purnell, the Director of Business Development for Dacro Industries. Dacro fabricated the HPC Splitter tower, which was successfully delivered to site on January 9, 2019. The Splitter is nearly the length of a CFL football field, weighs over 800 tons, and was the largest dimensional move in Alberta's history. We spoke with Brian shortly before the Splitter was scheduled to be moved.
(Photo below: Brian Purnell of Dacro. In the background is HPC's Splitter tower, laid on its side)
Q: Thanks for speaking with us, Brian. Can you tell us something about Dacro and what role the company plays in the industry?
A: Dacro’s been in business for 45 years, and we’re located in Edmonton, Alberta. Our reputation in the resource industry is based largely on our fabrication of process equipment and pressure vessels, and some of the structural items that support these builds (such as ladders and platforms).
Q: How many workers do you have at your facility?
A: Right now we have approximately 100 people on our staff.
Q: Let’s talk about the Polypropylene Splitter that Dacro has been building for Inter Pipeline. During the final stages of fabrication and preparation it took up your entire parking lot. It must be an attention grabber for people driving by.
A: Yes, we had people coming in off the street stopping in the parking lot and asking about it. There’s been a lot of curiosity and excitement around this vessel build.
Q: How long has this build taken Dacro?
A: The project took us about a year and a half to fabricate.
Q: Tell me a bit about the Splitter itself. What are some of the highlights of this build?
A: This PP Splitter is about the length of a football field, and weighs more than 800 tonnes. The main material used in the construction was carbon steel. Because of the sheer size of this vessel, we constructed most of it inside our facility, but then we moved it outside to complete it, which is not something we usually have to do.
Q: There’s been a lot of media around the resource sector in Alberta, and a lot of the conversation has been around the challenges that the industry is facing right now. What does a project like the Heartland Petrochemical Complex mean to a company like Dacro?
A: Inter Pipeline’s decision to go forward on this project has been a great vote of confidence in our industry, and Dacro is proud to be a part of the build. From a company level view, we’re really happy to be able to apply our expertise and supply the project with this splitter vessel. We hope the situation continues to improve for our industry, so that we have the opportunity to do more work of this kind.
Q: How would you characterize your relationship with Inter Pipeline on this project?
A: This was the first project I’ve been involved with in Inter Pipeline, and we’ve had a really good experience with everyone associated with the Heartland Petrochemical Complex project. It’s all been really positive.
Q: Is there one memory from this build that you recall especially?
A: There are many, but I’d say the feeling of pride that everyone at Dacro has with this build is something I’ll always remember. Being able to work on a project like this, using Albertan expertise makes it that much more rewarding.
Q: One last question – you’ve lived with this massive structure for a year now. Will a part of you be sorry to see the Splitter go when it gets moved out?
A: Well, I know we’ll be glad to get the parking lot back… but yes, there will be a bit of mixed feelings when it leaves. Dacro has been really happy to have been chosen by Inter Pipeline to supply this important piece of the build, and we’re looking forward to seeing the Heartland Petrochemical Complex continue to move forward. It’s been our pleasure to have played a part in this historic project.