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Joe Kerr Limited: A Proud Heritage of Reinforcing Ontario
In 2011 there were 12 major road projects completed in the London, Ontario, region. In order to successfully complete the majority of those projects, construction crews required a large amount of processed aggregate and recycled concrete. Aggregate is used to form a stable foundation that acts as a road base for asphalt that is being used to repair or construct a road.
Lucky for those undertaking infrastructure projects in the region there is Joe Kerr Limited (JKL), one of the largest producers of aggregate in Midwestern Ontario, and one with a long history of providing quality materials for essential projects that impact thousands daily. The Wingham, Ontario-based company was founded in 1927 by Joe Kerr as a sand and gravel company. He started with a 27 Fargo truck that had a one-and-half ton capacity, a hand-operated dump box and a crusher. The company performed satisfactorily over the next eight decades, but really took off when Murray Kerr took over from Joe, his uncle, in 1992.
John Thomson, JKL’s marketing manager, recounts Murray Kerr’s words to his employees when he took over the company as follows: “We either have to get bigger, or we have to sell.” Kerr decided to not sell and focused instead on growing the venerable company into the contractor of choice for clients in both the private and public sectors valuing reliability, honesty, safety and quality. He invested in newer, larger equipment and expanded the employee base to 50 people, making JKL a leader in aggregate crushing and screening, and one of Wingham’s largest employers.
Aggressive Growth Transforms Company
Today, the company has tripled in size. It operates nine gravel pits, a fleet of vehicles, crushers and processing equipment worth close to $10 million. In addition to producing custom-crushed aggregate, JKL offers equipment rentals, maintains a state-of-the-art heavy truck repair centre (open to external customers), and operates a trucking division for timely excavating and hauling services available to customers within a 150-mile radius.
Thomson maintains that JKL’s crushing division is one of the biggest things that set the company apart from its competitors (and constitutes up to 70 percent of company business). “We have six crushing units in our crushing division – one of the largest in Midwestern Ontario – and they operate from Lake Erie to North Bay and from Toronto to Lake Huron,” he explains.
JKL’s custom crushing division can produce all sizes of coarse aggregate – used primarily to produce material to make asphalt, but also used to dress walkways and driveways. Thomson says that JKL’s crews can perform a number of services for its clients. The company has experience building roads and clearing land for site developers in addition to providing custom aggregate products on its own projects and those of local developers.
Ensuring the Best Gets Better
At the core of JKL is the belief that all operation should be highly ethical and concentrate on delivering in the most professional manner, and backing up these values is the company’s staff. For these reasons ongoing training and safety play an imperative role in the day-to-day operations at JKL. For the company’s 50 employees Kerr employs a safety director and two safety coordinators, which translates to six percent of his staff. “Our safety program has really been beefed up and strictly enforced since Murray took over the company,” notes Thomson.
Along with increased safety measures and new equipment, Kerr also built a thoroughly modern facility for the company’s employees. “We’ve provided aggregate, sand and gravel for a lot of construction projects throughout Midwestern Ontario, but one of the most satisfying was the gravel we provided for our own fantastic new facility,” enthuses Thomson.
JKL’s new facility ensures timely delivery on even the largest, most time-sensitive projects. For example, Wescast, the largest manufacturer of exhaust manifolds for passenger cars and light trucks in North America, recently built a new 100,000-square foot casting facility in Wingham. JKL’s crews provided the aggregate and excavation services for the $60 million facility. Understanding that every delay is money lost, JKL continually looks to reinforce its services.
JKL is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year and Thomson is enthusiastic about the company that Kerr has rejuvenated. “I’ve been here for over 50 years and I’ve never been more excited about this company’s future,” says Thomson. “Murray has transformed our company into a place where people are excited to come to work. He has a commitment to treating all of the company’s employees fairly and has transformed Joe Kerr Limited into one of the best companies to work for in Midwestern Ontario.”
With Kerr’s investments in a new facility, updated equipment and fleet of vehicles, and most importantly in an expanded roster of trained safety-conscious employees, Joe Kerr Limited holds the resources to further an already impressive legacy.