Martech Electrical Systems Ltd.

Integrated electrical services for diverse clientele in British Columbia
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Since 1983, Martech Electrical Systems Ltd. has been providing electrical installations and services to commercial, industrial and residential customers throughout British Columbia. As the largest electrical firm in British Columbia’s Kootenay region, the business operates from a head office and main plant in Castlegar, British Columbia, as well as branch plants in Cranbrook and Sparwood, British Columbia.

Mario DiBella, founder and president of Martech Electrical, employs between 70 and 100 employees, including Mitch Dunlop, controller, and Wes Smith, operations manager. DiBella’s guidance and leadership over the years has allowed Martech Electrical to evolve into one of the region’s largest and most reliable electrical construction firms. The business offers innovation and reliability to a wide range of clientele.

“We’re in the Kootenay region of British Columbia,” says DiBella. A big part of our company identity and one of the reasons we’ve grown as we have is because of where we are. Within the Kootenays, we are recognized as one of the largest companies outside of large industrial sites. We are well established and we are a highly regarded employer in the region. We have a very good culture and many very longstanding employees – most of us have worked here for long time.”

Martech Electrical thrives on repeat business. Because the Kootenay region is relatively isolated, building lasting relationships with customers is the only way to go. “There are not a lot of new businesses popping up,” DiBella explains. “We couldn’t survive without working with and for the same people year after year. Long-term relationships are the only way to make that happen and to do that, we need to continuously deliver exceptional quality.”

Several divisions

Martech Electrical operates in conjunction with sister companies, Martech Motor Winding and Marwest Industries. Together, these operations serve a broad range of industrial, electrical and heavy civil needs. Martech’s projects compliment the various business units. “We try to leverage the strength of each when we are bidding projects,” DiBella elaborates. “We also have a panel shop and a fabrication shop, so in one project we can build temporary power skids, install the temporary power and then Martech Electrical does all the project’s required power and communications wiring.”

Martech Motor Winding, with a fairly self-explanatory name, winds and performs full service repairs on large industrial electrical motors. The Martech Motor Winding division is also a local retail provider for pumps and generators. Marwest Industries is a civil construction company. The scope of work for this arm of the family of companies includes dirt work and building overpasses as well as waterline and sewer line installations.

Martech Electrical also has a power line division, which has grown rapidly in the last three years. “We now have three line crews operating, replacing power line poles, installing new poles and repairing broken power lines. Our primary customers are power and utility companies such as FortisBC and Nelson Hydro, as well as private customers. Like much of Canada, British Columbia is catching up with infrastructure, which means Martech Electrical will continue to see opportunities for growth in this division.

Diverse projects

Martech Electrical and its sister companies leverage their integrated services to tackle projects large and small, simple and complex, across the Kootenays. “We typically have several big jobs going on plus 20 to 25 smaller jobs simultaneously operating,” says DiBella. “We have a close relationship with three local unions – this allows us to have a qualified and professional workforce, and it allows us to adjust our workforce to fit our current projects.”

One of the larger and more complex recent projects has been the Waneta Dam Expansion, a $900 million project that spanned over 4 years. “This was a large project for the region and the whole province” notes DiBella. Martech’s portion amounted to approx $15 million. The team was on-site as the electrical contractor from the beginning, starting with setting up the laydown yard which included all the offices and construction buildings.

“We installed underground power distribution throughout, installed power and lighting in all buildings, did site lighting etc” notes Smith. Martech also constructed a new substation (the fabrication shop in Castlegar built all the steel structures, and the electrical division did the rest). The Castlegar fabrication shop did miscellaneous steel structures for the job: handrails, stairways, gratings, imbeds, etc.

The company is also involved in the Nelson Commons condominium project, which involves the complete wiring of a four-story, 54-unit condo building with a grocery store on the ground level.  This project is right on one of the main streets in Nelson, which adds to the challenges. It is a busy street with pedestrians and vehicles and there is no storage yard or staging area. “So far we have temp power and office facilities in place” explains Smith, “we are working closely with the concrete contractor to make sure that all of our wiring conduits are placed correctly because there will not be any second chances once it is poured”. This project is expected to be completed by summer 2016 and will be a major addition to the City of Nelson.

Martech Electrical Systems Ltd.

With sustainable energy a growing market, Martech Electrical is getting in on the green. The firm recently completed the Sun Mine solar project in Kimberly, British Columbia. “This was the full installation of a solar energy farm,” explains Smith. “We did excavation, embedded conduits, installed the transformers and built the unitized substation”. Martech then installed an overhead powerline to BC Hydro standards that connected the unitized Substation to the BC Hydro grid. The shutdown to connect to the grid was completed recently and the sun mine is operational. This was a cooperative venture with BC Hydro, City of Kimberly, Teck Coal, Conenergy and Martech Electrical Systems Ltd.

Upcoming work

Martech Electrical has a strong backlog of projects set for the coming year. The largest current project is the Rogers Pass Snow Shed Lighting Project. “We are working for Parks Canada and we are the general contractor on both projects,” says Smith. “We did a generator supply and installation project for Parks Canada at the maintenance yard a few years ago so we are familiar with the territory and unique nature of the site and works.”

The site location is near the top of Rogers Pass, east of the summit on the TransCanada Highway in Glacier national park. The project is twofold; the first involves the supply and installation of a new unit substation near the entrance to the Parks Canada Maintenance Yard at the summit. “We are responsible for site civil work to prep for the unit sub, supply and installation of the sub,” Smith elaborates. “The contract value on this component is $809,000.”

The second part of the job is the supply and installation of the lighting and accessories in the Tupper #1 Snow Shed, and the supply only (for future install) of the lighting for the #2 Tupper Snow Shed. The contract value is $3,474,000. “In Tupper #1 Snow Shed, two rows of LED lights are to be installed in each of the eastbound and westbound lanes – four rows total,” says Smith. “We are doing the rigid aluminum conduit and wire to connect the fixtures together and to the supply distribution.”

The Martech Electrical team faces a number of challenges on this project, the first being weather. “The high elevation of the worksite in the Rocky Mountains means snow can fall just about any time of the year, with snow at times staying on the ground as early as the end of September,” Smith explains. “There is unpredictable weather year-round.”

Traffic is another challenge as the tunnels must stay open during the construction so traffic flow and workflow must be planned and coordinated. Parks Canada has a responsibility to include in their projects clauses that ensure every measure is taken to protect the environment and minimize impact of the project, making environmental protection a priority.

The project is to be substantially complete by mid-October 2015, a tight schedule. Front-end submissions and manufacture and supply of specified fixtures leave little slack in the schedule. The two nearest towns to the site are Revelstoke and Golden, both a distance away, making the project’s remote location another hurdle to overcome. This complicates manpower accommodation, miscellaneous material procurement, first aid response arrangements etc. Well organized work plans and coordination of sub trades are all key to the success of this project.

Continued growth

The Martech Electrical team has proven time and again a trusted partner for electrical construction. Because the business is so diversified and has integrated sister companies to call on, clients recognize the value that Dunlop and his colleagues provide on every project.

“We are pretty diversified and we have expanded as much as we can within electrical services,” says Dunlop. “We do commercial, residential and industrial – though industrial is the biggest and really the main reason for our success. We do high- and low-voltage work including alarm system installations, structured cabling and network cables in buildings, we install camera and security systems, we do access systems at big industrial sites and controls as well.”

The company’s broad capabilities and reputation for quality projects and fair treatment of customers continue to encourage success. As the team continues to strive for larger and more complex work, Martech Electrical Systems Ltd. will continue to maintain the long-term relationships that have served as a lasting foundation for more than 30 years.