What causes companies to last more than 60 years? And how do you rebrand a business with a long history without losing ground?
The Pacific Group of Companies has been around in one form or another since it started as a blasting company more than 60 years ago. Since that time the company has continued to evolve and grow. Now, it’s being rebranded as NorLand Limited, in an initiative that will see The Pacific Group of Companies officially change names in August 2015.
Those familiar with the construction industry know that when times are good, new companies tend to pop up, only to disappear when the economy slows down. The Pacific Group of Companies has been around in one form or another since it started as a blasting company more than 60 years ago. Since that time the company has continued to evolve and grow. Now, it’s being rebranded as NorLand Limited, in an initiative that will see The Pacific Group of Companies officially change names in August 2015. Despite the switch in name and branding, NorLand Limited will continue to offer the same high-quality work with a focus on safety that earned The Pacific Group its reputation.
“I’m proud of the longevity of The Pacific Group,” says Dale Bekar, president of The Pacific Group of Companies. “Longevity in construction is not a common thing. If you look at the VRCA [Vancouver Regional Construction Association] today compared with 20 years ago, there are not a lot of the same players. We’re proud that we’ve stuck around.”
The Pacific Group started out as Pacific Blasting in 1954. In 1971, Dale Bekar and his two brothers became shareholders. At the time, Bekar himself became a blaster gaining experience in close, controlled blasting in the Vancouver region. The company soon began expanding, starting with shoring work, then in 1981, with demolition. In 1989, Bekar sold the company and stayed on as president. Although his agreement with the new owners was to stay on for five years, he remains president today, having overseen a company that has continued to grow and diversify.
Among the services that The Pacific Group of Companies/NorLand offers its clients are surface blasting including open pit mining and high face slope stabilization, which are specialties of the surface blasting division, shoring and excavating, demolition, civil construction, heavy industrial moving, ground engineering, industrial design and construction, and finally underground mining and development and tunneling for pipe line and hydro projects.
“We have done contract mining for Golden Sunlight Mines in Butte, Montana,” Bekar says. “We’ve also sent crews to Russia, Turkey and Chile, and done a lot of work in the United States. Our work in high rock stabilization and contract mining can be applied all over the world.”
Understanding the cycles that affect the construction industry has helped The Pacific Group survive and thrive.
“Some construction companies grow too fast,” says Bekar. “Those that survive learn how to deal with the downtimes and the good times. Control costs and growth during good times because things will slow in the down market. That’s the way the industry works.”
Because Pacific Group is so highly diversified the rebranding as NorLand Limited is an opportunity to better identify the various divisions as one company. Not only does it show potential clients and customers the strength and skillset of the company, it helps employees feel they are all working on the same team, under one name and one identity.
Tim Doucette, Sr. VP & CFO, says the name NorLand allows the company to promote itself more effectively.
“It allows us to promote ourselves as a substantial entity that can tackle these big projects,” Doucette says. “The work we want is large-scale projects. With that, you’re on a set schedule, and have cost constraints and safety standards to meet. Customers need to know you’re batting a thousand on all three of those things and can handle them. Branding is part of showing the world that we’re capable and have been so for some time.”
The challenge with rebranding, Doucette says, is to move forward without losing sight of what made The Pacific Group so successful: the focus on families and an entrepreneurial spirit that emphasized hiring good people and letting them do their best.
“We very much value the people working for us.”
“We very much value the people working for us,” Bekar says. “The work we do is difficult, hard and comes with risk. We make sure we hire people who understand that and are capable of being safe. We want them to stay with us. We’re very proud that we have a lot of long-term employees—sons and daughters of people whose mother or father worked for us years ago. We want to be a company that people want to work for.”
Because they value their people so highly, safety is their number one priority. Doucette says safety is essential to surviving in the industry, but it’s also vital to ensuring employees are happy and healthy.
“We have a tightknit group who look after their own,” Doucette says. “So we promote safety. Safety in the workplace now has transcended statistics. Smart thinkers realize that having a culture of safety promotes good safety results, makes for stronger work environments and results in a more vibrant company.”
Along with family and safety, integrity is another core value at The Pacific Group. The company maintains high respect for everyone it deals with, from its clients to the tradespeople who work on their projects. Doucette says that along with awards and accolades, the most common letter they receive praises the professionalism of workers on jobsites.
“We’re excited about launching NorLand Limited… We’re taking on much larger projects than in the past, and we’re excited about the future.”
Their professionalism and commitment to safety and integrity have resulted in numerous awards and citations over the years, including Contractor of the Year from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and VRCA Contractor of the Year. Several divisions have also received a Certificate of Recognition from the British Columbia Safety Alliance (BCCSA) for their strategic approach to workplace safety. A member of the Pacific Group has also served as president of the International Society of Explosive Engineers.
As The Pacific Group of Companies transitions to NorLand Limited, it does so with an eye to the future while maintaining the values that made it successful.
“We’re excited about launching NorLand Limited,” Bekar says. “We’re doing more, and getting more involved in public/private partnerships. We’re taking on much larger projects than in the past, and we’re excited about the future.”