J & J Penner Construction Ltd.

Leading commercial and industrial construction services in Winnipeg
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Chuck McKenna

J & J Penner Construction Ltd. has been serving clients in Canada and the United States for more than 30 years. Incorporated in 1983, the COR-certified contractor is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Owner, president and CEO, John Penner, founded the company after working in the construction industry for nearly 25 years. Downsizing by his former employer led to his first project. “I remember I had a set of plans I was pricing for him,” says Penner. “And he said, ‘Why don’t you price it for yourself?’ I did and never looked back.”

Throughout his history as a business owner, Penner has built a strong foundation of relationships. Many of his current private commercial and industrial clients are people he has worked with for decades. “One thing that sets us apart from other contractors is that we are a family-run business,” he explains. “We prioritize personal contact and we have a lot of repeat and referral clients. Many of these relationships date back to before we incorporated. All of my employees know to go that extra mile for our customers by providing a customized experience and making decisions on a project-by-project basis.”

J & J Penner Construction serves primarily as an integrated general contractor and construction manager for a range of commercial and industrial projects. “We started off in tenant improvements in the early ‘80s,” says Penner. “We still do a lot of retail, which used to be a prime market for us. We are now more concentrated and involved in hotel restoration and new construction.”

J & J Penner Construction Ltd.

Recent work

The company’s client base includes a number of long-term customers. J & J Penner Construction works regularly for the Four Points Sheraton at the Winnipeg Richardson Airport. With a range of interior general construction and project management services, clients know that a project is taken care of when they turn to the J & J Penner Construction team. The Company’s headquarters is in Winnipeg and projects span across Canada and even into the northern United States.

Recent projects include 111 Lombard in Winnipeg, which Penner says has been one of the company’s more challenging projects in recent years. “111 Lombard was an old, six-story, 121,000-square-foot warehouse,” he recounts. “We renovated it to Class-1 office space. Right now it is occupied by Federal Government on four floors and the Manitoba government on the main two floors. This was a total restructure including mechanical, electrical and interiors. The owner was sustainability minded and renovated to Certified Green Globe at 2 Globes level.”

The team also does a significant amount of work in Calgary. Recent work includes flood restoration for clients in the hotel industry there. In early 2015, the business completed a project for the Calgary International Inn.

Another solid complex project was 200 Waterfront Drive in Winnipeg, a new four-story building. The team specializes in project customization and managed the renovation of another large complex in the city. “Our crew managed renovations for Cabela’s move to Canada, firstly at their retail outlet and later their distribution centre,” says Penner.

With a strong track record for success, J & J Penner also maintains a steady volume of work throughout the region. “We are looking right now at a project on a two-level parkade and office building on McDermott Avenue in the future,” says Penner. “We always have tenant improvements ongoing as well, but there are too many to list.”

Maintaining growth

While the business is diverse enough to handle dips in specific market sectors, Penner says the drop in oil prices has had an effect on growth in the construction industry. “In the two years leading up to right now, the biggest challenge was timelines,” he recounts. “There was a big demand and we had a lot of work across the nation. We’ve been extremely busy these last five years with hotels and other commercial projects.”

“Right now, we’re heading into a season where we could have major challenges,” he explains. “The oil industry in Alberta, and northern British Columbia is practically at a standstill. People aren’t putting money where there is no revenue. We’ll concentrate on urban projects in Calgary, Winnipeg and the Maritimes, with the option to move into the retail sector while the major hotel work is on hold. We will concentrate on projects we have on hand and keep an aggressive approach on future projects.”

Despite these challenges, Penner and his team are preparing for growth both by reaching out to new customers in its diverse target market and by reinvesting in facilities, technology and marketing assets, such as the J & J Penner website (www.jjpenner.com). Maintaining flexibility and longstanding relationships, the business will continue to deliver safe, high-quality products with pride. “When I drive through downtown Winnipeg, I can see that I’ve renovated almost every building in the core,” says Penner. “Our history is right there in the city’s core.”

Penner and his team will continue to expand that history as J & J Penner Construction Ltd. takes on new challenges in the coming years.

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