Up to the Challenge
Western Pacific Enterprises (WPE) has met a lot of challenges in its multi-decade history – and it turns out that not even a pandemic can stop this company.
Since 1973, Western Pacific has been servicing all aspects of the electrical construction industry for industrial, commercial, and utility clients through Western Canada. Specializing in large-scale commercial electrical projects and utilities, as well as service and maintenance, company representatives and employees have seen it all.
WPE Safety Manager Wayne Fettback said he is proud of the reputation his company has built over the years. Most of what WPE does is based upon word-of-mouth, and that reputation has been built by providing large general contractors across myriad industries with innovative, project-based solutions. Well-known for its proficiency in handling complex electrical needs, WPE can accommodate any scenario – from remote substations to hospitals, power distribution facilities, SkyTrain stations, and even major renovations to BC Place, home of the CFL’s BC Lions.
Do Fettback and the WPE crew have a favourite project? “Challenging ones,” he quipped. ‘No job is too large – or too intimidating – for us to handle,’ reads the company’s website, and Fettback agrees. “We do hospitals, convention centres, public transit; we’re proud of everything we do.”
He added that WPE was fortunate to have weathered the pandemic storm better than most. “Construction is an essential service and we were very fortunate to be deemed as such so our workers were able to continue to be employed and projects [kept] moving ahead. Construction is cyclical, of course. We would have been already starting projects by the time the pandemic hit… There are things we had to do to accommodate construction but it certainly didn’t stop.”
Of course, the company has had to deal with masks and testing, the same as everyone else because of COVID-19. But as Fettback looks back to what many consider to be a lost year, he said that 2020 was, in fact, one of the best years the company has had.
“We’ve been very blessed with the kind of projects we’ve done and with our staff. I’m proud of our safety program. It’s been recognized in Canada as one of the premier programs,” he said. “I think the company itself has an awful lot of accomplishments.”
WPE’s roots come from decades of building several significant industrial projects in British Columbia in the 1960s and 70s. It was established in 1973 by Ernie Moore and Dieter Fettback, Wayne’s father. In the 1990s, Wayne started as part of the managing team, along with his brothers, Ron and David. They serve most aspects of the electrical industry and have built some of the most prominent features of Vancouver and Western Canada. WPE crews have even done jobs in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Fettback said he is grateful for the company’s people working, whom he considers a major asset. “We’ve been fortunate because the company’s biggest strengths are the people we have working for us. A lot of them are in the business twenty-five and thirty years,” he said. “We’ve been able to attract a lot of people, young people that are learning the trade, and develop them internally.”
He said, for the most part, although working with new and younger workers has brought challenges, they still keep moving forward, generation after generation. A big part of that is due to the company training programs.
“We’ve developed our own training, just so we can become more agile instead of using outside services,” he said. “Most of our safety training is done in-house, so we have better control over who gets what and how long the training takes.”
Fettback is an accountant by trade, but he realized decades ago that there is a direct cost relationship between the profitability and safety of a company. “I’m very much engrossed in safety in this province and Western Canada,” he explained. Keeping workers safe on the job is of the utmost importance, and with proper management of a robust safety program, accidents and claims can be drastically reduced.
WPE is owned by the MYR Grou, headquartered in Chicago, which purchased the Western Canadian company five years ago. In the half-decade before that, WPE’s average annual revenues had been approximately CAD 100 million and the reason for the acquisition was to expand and leverage MYR’s transmission and distribution capabilities in the region through WPE’s extensive substation experience in the electric utility sector.
MYR Group’s President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Koertner was quite happy at the time of the acquisition. In a statement, he said: “The addition of WPE to MYR Group strengthens our position in Canada with its experience and expertise in both the C&I and T&I market segments and further demonstrates the execution of our three-pronged strategy of prudent organic growth, acquisitions, and return of capital for our stockholders. WPE brings a skilled workforce, a strong management team and a culture that aligns with MYR Group’s own values and culture. We welcome the employees of WPE and look forward to a successful integration into our organization.”
Koertner noted in that statement that WPE has extensive experience in large-scale electrical projects and telecommunications for general contractors, commercial and industrial facility owners, local governments, and developers. Of course, Fettback already knew that, just as he knew MYR was getting one great company with which to work.
The projects in WPE’s portfolio are impressive, to say the least. WPE was recognized as a Vancouver Regional Construction Association Landmark Award Trade Contractor for its work on the BC Place roof replacement and facilities. Fettback called the BC Place project one of the most challenging yet best-run projects he has been a part of. The company built the Vancouver Convention Centre and the Whistler Sliding Centre, as well as the Nordic Track.
One of the company’s most challenging projects? Two HVDC Substations located outside Edmonton and Calgary. “At that time, we had close to five hundred people on those sites, and it was definitely one of the most challenging but also one of the best-run projects,” said Fettback. “That one, we had close to six or eight safety people working two shifts. It was tough, but we’re proud of that one too.”
The company even has a hand in education, building The Nest, a tower-like structure in the University of British Columbia Student Union Building that is a central hub for students to study, socialize, shop, and dine.
“Construction is looking pretty robust in Western Canada right now. It’s exciting times,” he said. “To see the next generation coming up, it’s exciting, at least for me it is, even though I maybe only have five or six years left, and I’m training people (to do) my job and getting them ready to walk me out the door.”
It happens when you have been in an industry for decades. At least Fettback can look back on his years with one of the most successful companies out of Western Canada with satisfaction. It is getting through a pandemic pretty well, and its past work shows it can meet any challenge head-on.