An Innovative Company’s Rapid Growth in Canada
Canadian construction company Pomerleau is a choice partner for a breadth of buildings, infrastructure, and civil projects nationwide. It specializes in a diverse range of contractual arrangements for construction including design-build, stipulated-sum, private-public partnership (P3) projects, and construction management.
Hervé Pomerleau founded the company in 1964 with five employees in the Beauce region of Quebec, where its main office is still located. Today, this leader in the Canadian construction industry employs roughly four thousand highly-skilled people who use the most advanced technology in the industry, and it has opened eight other offices nationwide.
Now in its second generation, the family company is led by Pierre and Francis Pomerleau, the sons of the founder. Pierre and Francis strive to keep the family-oriented nature of the company by prioritizing close relationships with employees, clients, and partners.
The only limit to Pomerleau’s growth in the GTA is its capacity to hire new people. For this reason, the company is intent on attracting the right employees to keep up with its growth and help the business expand, which is challenging in an industry that is experiencing a labour shortage across North America.
Pomerleau hires close to 150 interns every year, and many of them become permanent employees since the company culture appeals to young ambitious people who are looking to build lifelong careers. The extensive training programs available provide staff with the freedom to grow within the company or even move to a new location.
“We have a lot of young people, and I think what draws people here is the opportunity to move up and the opportunity to be a part of a fast-growing company,” explained Pomerleau GTA Regional Vice President Patrick Stiles. “I was previously in our Halifax office, and I moved here [to Toronto] about two years ago, so it’s a good example of the opportunity that exists to grow. When you’re ready for more, you can move throughout the company to different regions and take on more responsibility.”
The company’s values of innovation, authenticity, adaptability, excellence, and love lead the skilled employees in day-to-day operations. The first four ideals are fairly common for successful construction companies, but Pomerleau stands out by citing love as a core tenet. The love here is for unique construction ideas and finding quality solutions for people, cities, and communities.
The company has developed a reputation for always being at the forefront of technological advancements and this is key to surviving in today’s construction industry. “The business of construction is really changing quickly. There has been almost no change in construction in the last hundred years, and now, all of a sudden, it’s catching up, and everybody’s changing quickly,” said Stiles.
A recent example is Pomerleau’s incorporation of a robot on its work sites. This three-foot-tall, fully-automated artificial-intelligence-powered robot weighs seventy pounds and has a high-definition, 360-degree camera to collect data and can take up to five hundred photos a day. Pomerleau became the first company in the world to use it on a construction site when its six-month trial began January thirtieth of this year in Montreal.
The robot has sensors and cameras on all sides to ensure that it can avoid any obstacles, can pick itself up after a fall, and can quickly change direction. These features make it useful for exploring confined or dangerous places, thus increasing the safety of workers.
Battery-operated – with rechargeable batteries – the robot allows full remote access on a project, and Pomerleau is excited about the opportunity to add more value to its clients’ projects. It is using the data collected by the camera to enhance the design and construction software and to track the progress of a project’s budget, quality, and schedule.
The company keeps up with the most innovative methods of project modelling and has also invested in research, development and the deepening of topics such as augmented reality for facility management and gamification for training and data acquisition. The world of virtual reality has significantly upgraded the design and construction services available to clients. Drones are another new job site advantage for construction companies and their clients, and Pomerleau regularly uses drones to track the progress of a project and to create three-dimensional models.
Pomerleau has several noteworthy clients across the country, including grocery store chain Metro, and it is now working on large works for Canada Post and Purolator. Both of these projects are light industrial buildings with extensive automation systems and will be used as new sorting facilities for the well-known shipping companies.
It is currently working on approximately two hundred building sites throughout Canada, and it has built up $ 5.5 billion in upcoming project contracts. Business in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is thriving according to Stiles. “We’re approaching a billion dollars in backlog just here in Toronto, so we will more than double the business in the last two years here. We’re working on several large-scale projects in different sectors: the high rise residential sector, we’re doing a lot of long-term care facilities, commercial buildings, and industrial buildings as well.”
Last year, Pomerleau was recognized for its use of BIM for the project lifecycle, from design to operations on the Willow Square Continuing Care Facility in Fort McMurray, Alberta with a CanBIM ‘Innovation Spotlight Award’ in the General Contractor category. The project broke ground in spring 2018 and is expected to be completed by spring 2020. Pomerleau was also recognized with an excellence award for steel construction by the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC). The plant, just outside the GTA in Woodstock, Ontario was built for building materials manufacturer Soprema and featured unique steel components.
Other notable projects to which Pomerleau has provided services include the McKenzie Interchange in Victoria, the Rideau Canal Foot Bridge in Ottawa, the Royal Ottawa Place long-term care home in Ottawa, the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal research centre in Montreal, and the Glendon College campus of York University in Toronto.
A large percentage of the projects completed by Pomerleau today are thanks to repeating business, so establishing relationships with clients and business partners is an important aspect of the service it provides. “We focus a lot on relationships with clients as well as our partners. We really do value the partnerships,” said Stiles.
As Pomerleau emphasizes its relationships outside of the company, it has not lost sight of its commitment to its own people. The company is aware that without the support of its hardworking, dedicated employees, it would not have been able to reach the heights of success that it has in the Canadian construction industry.
A future with this rapidly growing company is an appealing prospect for innovative people who are enthusiastic about construction. Stiles said that this is particularly true for the Greater Toronto Area where growth is huge and the company is a few years ahead of its plan for 2022. “When it comes to working at Pomerleau, what differentiates us is the opportunity to grow and the opportunity to be a part of building a business, because we’re fairly new in this market, and I think people are excited about the chance to be a part of something that is growing very fast,” he said.