Municipal Ready-Mix Ltd.

Vertically integrated roadway and surface construction in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Located in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Municipal Ready-Mix Ltd. has been running a steadfast, local business for more than 63 years on Cape Breton Island. As one of the largest employers on the island, Municipal Ready-Mix has more than 150 employees spanning three divisions: a Ready-Mix concrete plant, Hot Mix Asphalt plant and a robust general contracting group that concentrates on the road building industry.

“Regardless of our name, we’re mainly a general contractor in the road building and infrastructure sectors,” explains Ryan Clark, chief operating officer of Municipal Ready-Mix. “We do have a Ready-Mix concrete and hot mix asphalt plant, as well as the largest quarry in industrial Cape Breton, but that’s a smaller portion of our business. Most of our contracts are in road building. We also do a lot of water, sewer, curb, gutter, sidewalk, bridge, earth moving, site work and surface construction.”

Employee ownership

Municipal Ready-Mix dates back to 1952, when the company incorporated as a subsidiary of Municipal Spraying and Contracting, located in Ontario. “The company was purchased by the five original shareholders in 1973 and Municipal Ready-Mix has been an employee-owned business ever since,” says Clark.

Dave MacKenna, president and CEO of Municipal Ready Mix, is the major shareholder, but many other employees have great stake in Municipal Ready-Mix. “As employees step into leadership roles, they often use their own earnings or bonuses to start purchasing shares and eventually take on more,” says Clark. “The board of directors is made up of employee-shareholders.”

This direct employee ownership has fostered a unique company culture at Municipal Ready-Mix. “We have a very dedicated team and strong company culture thanks to employee ownership,” adds Clark. “We have many dedicated and capable leaders as part of our organization, Robert Youden, vice president, heads up our contracting division and Paul Yurcheson runs the Ready-Mix operations. Our success is made up of the sum of many contributions, large and small.”

Clark has been with the company for three years, but draws on years of construction industry experience. “I’ve been in the business my whole life,” he says. “I’ve worked for large corporations such as Dexter, Lafarge and Granite Construction Co.”

As Saskatchewan native, Clark and his wife spent time on the West Coast in California, but knew they wanted to return to Canada to raise a family. “My wife is originally from Halifax so when the opportunity to move back to the Maritimes presented itself we moved home to settle in here where we already had family support,” he shares.

In-house contracting backed by material supply

In the last three years at Municipal Ready-Mix, Clark says business has been particularly challenging. “In 2013 and 2014, we were in a really slow period with the slump in infrastructure spending, but we made ends meet and survived and now the industry is reemerging,” he says.

One strong suit for Municipal Ready-Mix that helped see the company through the recession is vertical integration. “We typically and historically do a little bit of everything in terms of road and small infrastructure construction and we have a lot of compliments to our core business as a vertically integrated materials provider,” explains Clark.

Municipal Ready-Mix provides Ready-Mix concrete, Hot Mix asphalt, and construction aggregates through its related company, Beechmount Quarry Limited. “We’re vertically integrated on from a materials standpoint, but most of our revenue is driven by the contracting side of the business,” says Clark. “Our forte is really in road building, but we’ve also done our share of bridges, sewer and water projects and more.”

On any given contract, Municipal Ready-Mix is capable of self-performing 80 to 90 percent of the scope. “Our subcontractors are fairly minor trades – road milling, highway safety rail installers, landscaping and tree cleaning for example,” says Clark.

Profile projects

 “In the last three years, we’ve completed some interesting projects,” says Clark. “We were heavily involved in the remediation work for the Sydney tar ponds clean up. This infamous project was one of the most sizable in our history at about $16 million. The project commenced in 2012 and we finished it in late 2014. We did all of the asphalt and walkways, including parks and a football field – really any surface work.”

As part of the Ports and Oceans cleanup project launched by the Canadian government, Municipal Ready-Mix has helped install 3 kilometers of collector sewer along the Sydney Harbor. “This $7 million installation is the largest in recent times on Cape Breton,” says Clark. “This project included pipe that’s 1.2 meters in diameter; large enough for guys to walk into.”

Also in the last year and a half, Municipal Ready-Mix has been hard at work on phase I and II of Highway 125. “Each phase is worth approximately $6 million and this is some of the largest highway construction completed in Nova Scotia,” notes Clark. “Highway 125 really exemplifies our core skill set, including earth moving, gravel, concrete, asphalt paving and so on. We often do other contracts, but this type of job is really our bread and butter.”

With a strong backlog moving into the end of 2015, Clark says the future is the brightest it’s been in recent years. “There are a number of commercial projects coming down the line, including a major Nova Scotia Power project known as the Fixed Link, which will be keeping many companies in our area busy over the next couple of years,” he says. “We also expect to see a new mining operation opening and there’s talk of many potential marine projects.”

Municipal Ready-Mix Ltd. continues to grow as the company builds on 63 years of strong local business, dedicated employee-owners and vertical integration in Cape Breton Island.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Bluewave Energy
MacLeod Lorway Insurance
Sydney Landscaping and Nurseries Limited