Small towns benefit when heavy construction crews roll in
By Martin Charlton Communications
Saskatchewan communities benefit when heavy construction crews show up to work on projects.
Not only do they have an improved highway, for example, after the crew leaves town, but they also have some more money in their local economy.
Each year, dozens of construction projects are undertaken by local road building companies. Those projects can be hundreds of kilometres away from where those companies are based.
That can mean employees have to temporarily relocate to another community, setting up a new home base from which they work. Those employees spend their nights sleeping in hotel rooms or campgrounds. Their meals are eaten at local restaurants or are made up of food from the community’s grocery stores. Their vehicles are filled with
fuel from local gas stations. That spending
quickly adds up.
Planning for that relocation is done even before a job is bid on in Carmen Duncan’s business. He is the second-generation owner of C. Duncan Construction Ltd.
His company is based in Spy Hill in the east-central region of Saskatchewan. He was working in the southeast corner of the province in the RM of Souris Valley near Oungre in September. While working on the project, his crew was staying in a hotel in Estevan.
“Spending local is something we do every day,” said Duncan.
In advance of bidding on a project, those in his office will call local hotels to find out their rates. Bringing in a crew of 10 to 15 people to stay for nearly two weeks at a time is appealing to a hotel, so they are willing to negotiate their rates and even accommodate an earlier breakfast to get the business, says Duncan.
Then, Duncan’s staff makes sure there are local restaurants and grocery stores for their employees to find their meals.
His crew of 10 to 15 people works stretches of 11 to 13 days at a time. That adds up to many tanks of gas, more than 100 nights in hotel rooms and hundreds of meals being bought in a community – adding up to many thousands of dollars spent locally.
“That is a big benefit to the community,” said Duncan, who will sometimes base his crew in a smaller city, but will also often stay in a small town near their project.
That’s just one company on one project. A look at what this spending means when the entire industry is accounted for has been calculated in an economic impact analysis done for the Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association by Praxis.
The analysis assesses the impact of the heavy construction industry on the province’s economy. One section of it looks at the money spent by road building crews in local communities. It includes many types of purchases, including hotel rooms, restaurant meals, groceries as well as vehicle repair and maintenance, laundry services, hair care
That analysis found that the heavy construction industry spends $400 million
each year in Saskatchewan communities where they work. That spending supports more than 1,110 jobs in those communities.
That spending is done by companies and individual employees. Kevin Arneson of Allan Construction explains they pay their employees a living allowance they can use for accommodations and meals. The decision on how that money is spent is up to the employee.
Saskatchewan communities benefit beyond this spending on accommodations and food by the heavy construction industry. Companies and individuals are choosing to support local events and initiatives as well.
Arneson says many of Allan Construction’s employees live in small towns. They appreciate when their employer supports local causes and will bring forward ideas for contributions that could be made by the company.
“There’s lots of money that goes back to communities, there’s no doubt,” said Arneson.
Duncan’s company’s support of small-town Saskatchewan also benefits his home community of Spy Hill and surrounding towns. He supports local events, such as rodeos and sports days, held each year. He provides organizers of the event a credit that they can use towards gravel or the use of his equipment, donates light plants for evening events or raffle prizes, for example.
If they need something, they can come to his shop, explain what is required and he will send over someone with the equipment needed to do the work necessary to get the grounds ready for the event.
“We want to get out and make our presence in our local communities well known,”
That contribution to the communities, he hopes, is noticed by local families who have children. His reasoning is that these families might think of his company and encourage their children to work in the industry when they are deciding on a career.
It’s an industry he feels they can be proud to join.
“This country and this province were built by blue collar workers,”
He will hire local teenagers to work in the shop and do smaller tasks until they are older and can begin taking their safety training and learn how to operate the equipment.
“We’re very fortunate that most of our employees are local with a few of them coming over from Manitoba,” said Duncan.
As someone who lives in a smaller community, Duncan knows how important local spending is to the towns and small cities. He also knows how important it is to be a gracious guest when visiting a community.
While they are in town, the employees get to be known on a first-name basis because they interact with local people often enough to become familiar. He reminds his employees that negative experiences get discussed for far longer than favourable impressions.
“I tell them that while we are there, they are representing the company and my family name is the company name,” said Duncan.
When they are visiting a community, he wants to leave knowing they
contributed to a good reputation for the industry and his business. He says they often leave the community having created a better impression of
what it is like to have a road building crew stay in town than might
have been anticipated before they arrived.
Photo courtesy of C. Duncan Construction Ltd.