Coop-A-Deez Contracting Ltd. provides resilience and reliability even in times of uncertainty
By Pat Rediger
Fresh out of high school in 2009, Cooper Davis found himself in the oilfield at just 18 years old. Working long hours at remote locations, he quickly learned the value of a dollar and the hard work to earn it.
At first, the oilfield offered a lucrative and seemingly stable job where he operated heavy equipment. He met a fellow who mentored him on the equipment, and he became quite a proficient operator. But as prices became uncertain, people began losing their positions and Davis was forced to reconsider he career options.
When oil prices reached an all-time low in 2015, Davis decided that the time might be right to return home to Big River and do some contract earth-moving work.
“Oil had taken a hit and as a result I saw the chance to get my first piece of equipment,” he said. He and his wife Emily saw the equipment purchase as an opportunity to build a business of their own, leading to the creation of Coop-A-Deez Contracting Ltd.
With only a single dozer and a strong work ethic, the Davises set about making a name for their new company. Although times were tough in the oilfield, farmers and ranchers were still looking for operators to work their land as the agricultural industry continued to do well.
After the area was impacted by the depressed oil industry, heavy equipment was still needed in agriculture.
“People needed work done and there was really no one around left to do it,” Davis said.
Working out of Big River, he began doing some clearing and brushing work for local farmers. As trust and appreciation grew, word of mouth began to spread, and the phone began ringing on a more regular basis.
Davis began purchasing more equipment and accepting larger jobs. After landing a contract from the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) to help remove a bridge in Meadow Lake, he purchased his own excavator as a necessary step in the business’ progression.
The old highway bridge had long since collapsed and had been converted to a cattle crossing, but when that structure fell into the creek, Coop-A-Deez removed the remnants and rebuilt the nearby abutments.
“The biggest thing was that I was young, on my own, and didn’t have a lot of equipment to work with,” said Davis. Dealing with a 90-by-40-foot bridge of solid steel components proved to be a real challenge. “It was extremely heavy and kind of daunting once we got up there and started working.”
After overcoming the challenges, the successful project marked a milestone for the company. As his first and one of the biggest projects to date, Davis says the work he put in was both challenging and rewarding.
Shortly after completing the bridge project, Davis decided to make another significant purchase by investing in a mulcher and expanding his scope of work even further. A few years later, he invested in a second dozer, winch truck and a scissor neck lowbed trailer and has continued to reinvest in himself and his employees ever since.
Last summer when the province was experiencing significant forest fires in the north, Davis was contracted to help contain the disaster. He quickly moved both dozers there and chased multiple fires in the area for three months.
“It can be very fast-paced, and you have to learn quickly,” he said. “You have to be skilled with equipment, but more than that, you have to be willing to push that equipment to the edge.”
The steady growth of the company also meant long hours away from home and with rising inflation, Davis has begun to rethink his priorities.
“Travel and fuel were getting expensive, along with accommodations,” he said. “It can become unprofitable very quickly working on the road.”
He and his wife had also started a family – they now have three children – which made time away from home that much more difficult.
“You need to spend enough time on your business, whether that’s on the machine working a job, in the shop fixing equipment, looking at jobs, moving equipment, doing office work and attending meetings,” he said. “I also need and want to spend time with my wife and kids. It can be hard to find balance.”
For this reason, they decided to refocus on local projects. They are able to provide exceptional service while still finding time for family life. Business is still booming, and Davis says as his sons grow older, there is a potential to re-prioritize expanding the business – especially if they are as passionate about operating equipment as he is.