Casman Group of Companies
Over the last several years, the Casman Group of Companies (Casman) has made a dramatic shift in its overall direction. “A couple of years ago our focus was in the wrong place,” admits Ben Dutton, CEO of Casman. “We were acquiring other companies and growing too rapidly, to the point where we were actually loosing revenue. Since then, we’ve made a massive strategic shift, focusing on our internal operations and being the best at what we do. We’re rebuilding Casman from the ground-up, so-to-speak, and it’s actually been a lot of fun.”
Dutton joined Casman in 2010 after leaving Phoenix, Ariz. “I’m a civil engineer by trade and I also have my MBA,” he notes. “I started my professional career as a civil engineer, but was drawn to construction management. I was looking for the next opportunity and with a little luck I came up north to interview with Casman; the rest is history.”
The Alberta-based commercial, industrial and residential contractor was founded in 1981 by Norm Castiglione, who remains Casman’s owner today. To Castiglione’s delight, the company has grown into one of the largest local construction companies in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
“We’re pretty good size for a local company,” shares Dutton. “We employ 600 people between our divisions and our leadership team understands this market very well. We go as far south as Conklin and as far north as For Hills, Alberta.”
However, Fort McMurray is much more than just a place to do business for Casman. “We live and work here,” adds Dutton. “We’re heavily invested and involved in the community. Our mantra is to build excellence in our people, service and community and we take pride in it.”
Divide and Conquer
Casman is divided into specialized divisions, including Casman Construction Ltd. (Casman Construction), a unionized, heavy industrial contractor and Casman Building Ltd. (Casman Building), a non-union commercial and residential builder. In addition, the group of companies also boasts FMR Mechanical/Electrical Ltd., Borealis Mechanical Ltd. and RCI Electrical Services Ltd. Casman’s group of companies allow the collaborative team to extend a broad range of services and capabilities throughout the province.
“Our current project resume includes heavy industrial, civil, commercial, light industrial, multifamily and single family residential projects anywhere from $50,000 to $50 million,” adds Dutton.
Casman Construction anchors the business, specializing in industrial applications, such as concrete foundations. “We’re also good at the not-so-glamorous maintenance contracts and prefabricated units,” reveals Dutton. “We’re becoming more of a one-stop shop for mechanical, electrical and plumbing delivery, offering a more complete scope of services. We also do scaffolding, sandblasting and coatings.”
Casman Building also supports Casman’s range of clients on the commercial and residential side. “We build under the Cherry Wood Homes brand, which is very successful locally,” remarks Dutton. “We specialize in large, multifamily apartment complexes, anything from a basement to a $50 million, 200-unit facility.”
Casman’s wide range of services and trusted reputation has enabled the company to be widely successful. “There’s more work out there than we can possibly do and our reputation is growing as the guys that can get things done on time and on budget,” explains Dutton. “We have a huge share of the local market, because of the specific expertise we bring to the table. Thanks to that, we’re not chasing revenue. We’re able to pick and choose the jobs we want and bid on the projects we’re best suited for.”
Connected to the Community
Casman partners with numerous community-driven organizations throughout Fort McMurray. “One of our biggest supporters is Wood Buffalo Housing and Development [Wood Buffalo], a nonprofit that helps fund affordable housing projects in the city,” adds Dutton. “We’re currently working on Silt Stone, a 170-unit affordable, multifamily living facility, but we’ve completed numerous other projects for Wood Buffalo.”
The company also works with the Family Crisis Living Facility. “Our project management team has worked closely with the Alberta government to allocate the funds to build this important community facility,” notes Dutton.
On the industrial side, Casman works with large-scale corporations such as Suncor, Shell and CNRL to build facilities that support oil development and bring jobs to the area. “We set an expectation and meet it,” adds Dutton. “We try to save our clients money; they know we’re not going to nickel and dime them, so we end up with a lot of repeat business and long-standing relationships. We’ll build the team that’s right for the client even if it means not using our guys and subcontractors instead.”
Dutton says the biggest challenge Casman has faced is labor. “We try to find qualified Canadians first,” he explains. “Our next bet is to bring in people from outside of the province, everything from general managers to concrete finishers; we have to bring more and more people in.”
Over the next few years, Dutton reveals that Casman is going to continue on a course of internal development. “In 2011 and 2012 our volume was up 40 percent, and I expect more of the same for 2013, but we need to focus on doing what we do exceptionally well,” he says. “We won’t be acquiring additional companies or trying to grow disproportionately. There’s room for some geographical diversification down the line, but not just yet.”
Casman remains dedicated to building excellence in its people, service and community, focusing on a core market of repeat business. Since 1981 Casman Group of Companies has dominated the Fort McMurray market with a range of specialized service.