ChemCo Electrical Contractors Ltd.: Proudly Committed to Quality, Performance, Safety, People

When Doug Smith Electric was founded in 1963 it had a small staff and performed electrical contracting for schools and hospitals. Now operating under the name ChemCo Electrical Contractors Ltd. (ChemCo), the company has its headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta, maintains branches in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and generates $400 million in annual revenue.
Now acting as a heavy industrial contractor that specializes in electrical construction, ChemCo employs 2,500 highly trained specialists trained to provide services in a variety of sectors, including new construction, CSA certification, electric heat tracing, fiber optics and data networking, high-voltage, mechanical instrumentation, plant maintenance, purchasing and equipment inventory and quality control.
According to Brian Halina, president of ChemCo, who has been with the company since 1970, the business has succeeded as much as it has due to both its employees and its business relationships. In 2011 ChemCo transitioned from a private company with several owners to an employee-owned organization, fostering an even greater commitment to customer service and responsiveness. This deeply engrained dedication helps assure the company executes projects safely, on schedule, within budget and with operational excellence.
“We have a very large nucleus of people that we work with, some of them [we have worked with for] 10, 20 or 30 years,” states Halina. Five employees have worked for the company for over 30 years, over 20 employees have more than 20 years of service, over 120 employees have more than 10 years service, and over 430 employees have more than five years service.
ChemCo also reinforces its capabilities by maintaining long-term affiliations with Alberta Construction Safety Association (ASCA), Alberta Petro-Chemical Safety Council (APCSC), Alberta Building Trades Council, Better Supervision, Construction Labour Relations of Alberta, Construction Labour Relations of Saskatchewan, Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA), Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta (ECAA) and the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association (SCSA).
Business Ties That Bind
ECAA has been one of the key associations that ChemCo has partnered with over the years to assure the company is up to date on industry trends, opportunities and training. “Since our inception, we’ve been involved with the ECAA,” recalls Halina. Terry Milot, vice president of ChemCo’s estimating and business development, was a former president of the ECAA and is currently serving on the organization’s board of directors. Halina also serves on the ECAA’s board of directors and it also the chairman of its Labour Relations Committee for the past 15 years.
Membership in the ECAA allows ChemCo a convenient channel for augmenting its workforce to tackle large-scale projects, as well as gives the company specialized resources on which it can draw when a niche needs to be addressed. “We do all of our subcontracting within the ECAA,” observes Halina. This policy has assured ChemCo can further expand its reach and cement its relationships, which are built on a commitment to quality and delivering on promises. Since ChemCo is one of the largest unionized contractors in Alberta and Saskatchewan, it has a reliable network of people from which to draw.
The company has a wealth of connections – up to 7,000-plus tradesmen to draw from in multiple industries, including gas and oil, canola processing, mining, power generation, potash, petro-chemical and pulp and paper distributors. “We direct hire electricians, laborers, pipe-fitters and carpenters,” relays Halina. “Typically we sub out any heavy mechanical work, scaffolding and installation.” ChemCo relies heavily on its knowledgeable staff to get the job done efficiently and with securely.
Refining the Art of Electrical Construction
One of ChemCo’s proudest and long-lasting endeavors that coalesced many of its more high-profile partnerships has been its work on Shell Canada’s Scotford Refinery Complex in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Since 1993 the company has performed construction of major and minor projects, as well as maintenance on the power generation plant.
ChemCo executed more than 400,000 hours on the Scotford mods (refinery modifications) alone, which involved modifying the plant’s existing petroleum refinery. The Scotford mods project required the use of two subcontractors; one focused on the electrical and instrumentation work for the modifications themselves, while the other diverted its attention to the labour aspect. This ensured the materials, equipment and services to provide and install the power distribution for the electrical heat tracing system.
The work that ChemCo has performed on the Shell Scotford Complex has been ongoing for 15 years, demonstrating the company’s loyalty to client satisfaction. Shell rewarded the company for its diligence with the Vendor Excellence Award upon the completion of the Scotford mods project in 2002.
ChemCo also applies its industrious efforts to the mining industry, and completed more than 445,000 hours of electrical and electrical instrumentation installations on Syncrude Canada Ltd.’s Aurora Mine Phase 1. The Aurora Mine project was “grassroots” in that it was installed from the ground up from day one. The vast scope of the project saw ChemCo providing all the electrical work required for the material handling, hydro-transport, extraction, tailings, utilities power generators, maintenance areas, wash bays, as well as the operation control center. The company also constructed the Syncrude DB II Project, which consisted of all electrical installation and instrumentation of Plant 37, one of the largest vacuum units in the world.
Ambitious projects are nothing new to the company. “We have anywhere from 30 to 100 projects going on simultaneously, and within those existing project we have 50 or so smaller projects within those projects, or on one site with one client,” laughs Halina. Since he’s been involved in the industry for over 40 years, Halina understands what it means to maintain steady production and backlog.
“We do work consistently with all the major industrial companies in Alberta,” declares Halina. The company has been able to persevere in the face of the economic shifts because of these relationships, and Halina believes Alberta is poised to lead Canada’s economic recovery. “There’s going to be substantial growth in western Canada, especially Alberta and Saskatchewan,” opines Halina. “We’re definitely on the uptick.”
While ChemCo’s relationships have helped in the company’s ascension, what it really boils down to is ChemCo has found success through investing energy and time in jobs that strengthen those relationships. It has long-lasting partnerships because of its tireless work ethic and first-class service to its clients. ChemCo Electrical Contractors Ltd. will continue to remain a leader in the electrical construction and installation industry with its hardworking, knowledgeable staff that completes jobs with quality service and efficient practices.