PCL Construction Group Inc. History

Address:
5410-99 St., Building #2
Edmonton, Alberta T6E 3P4
Canada

Telephone: (780) 435-9711
Fax: (780) 436-2247

Website:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1913 as Poole Construction Company Limited
Employees: 5,500 (2002)
Operating Revenues: $3.23 billion (2002 est.)
NAIC: 233310 Manufacturing and Industrial Building Construction; 233320 Commercial and Institutional Building Construction

Company Perspectives:

The right contractor offers experience, competitive pricing, financial strength, professionalism, integrity and a commitment to your project that is supported by quality and workplace safety initiatives. More importantly, the right contractor has a consistent track record of coming through for clients, no matter how big or small the project. PCL is that contractor.

Key Dates:

1906:
Ernest E. Poole and James Martin start contracting in Stoughton, Saskatchewan, as Martin and Poole Construction Company.
1907:
Martin retires to Prince Edward Island and Poole continues the contracting business under his own name, Poole Construction Company.
1910:
The company headquarters are moved to Rouleau, Saskatchewan.
1913:
The company incorporates as Poole Construction Company Limited.
1932:
The company moves its headquarters to Edmonton, Alberta.
1964:
Ernest Poole, the founder of the company, dies.
1977:
Employees purchase majority ownership of the company from John and George Poole (sons of Ernest).
1979:
The company changes its name to PCL Construction Ltd.
1985:
The company becomes contractor for the $650 million Citicorp Center's 42-story tower in Los Angeles.
1995:
The company wins the contract to renovate the Seattle Coliseum.
2001:
The company is listed in the publication Canada's Top 100 Employers as one of the best companies to work for in Canada.

Company History:

PCL Construction Group Inc. is the largest general contracting organization in Canada and extends its reach across the entire North American continent. PCL is active in commercial, industrial, institutional, residential, and agricultural-business sectors. PCL's contracts are directed out of district offices and major project offices located in over 20 cities across North America. Founded in 1906, historically the company has been primarily a builder of residential and commercial buildings. Over time the company has expanded its expertise to include the building of highways, bridges, and dams. The Poole family owns the company until ownership is shifted to its employees in 1977. In addition to being a respected contractor, the company has diversified its services to encompass the entire construction project life cycle from conception to design to actual construction.

Early 20th Century: Going West

PCL Construction was founded by partners James Martin and Ernest E. Poole in 1906. Martin and Poole both hailed from Prince Edward Island in Canada's Maritimes, but met in Saskatchewan. Poole first ventured to Canada's Western frontier in 1903. He and a group of friends traveled to the West on a Harvest Excursion, which is an organized expedition of men and women into the agricultural fields of the West to help ensure a successful wheat harvest. In Melita, one of the first towns they stopped in, Poole was quickly recruited to work as a carpenter, even though he lacked formal carpentry skills or experience. After a successful season of carpentry work, Poole headed home to work at his father's saw, flour, and carding mills and to study at the Charlottetown Business College.

Over the next few years, Poole traveled back and forth between Prince Edward Island and the West and made friendships and business contacts while working a variety of jobs. In 1904 while working with a contractor named James Martin in Stoughton, Saskatchewan, Poole forged a friendship with Martin that resulted in a business partnership. Martin and Poole opened Martin and Poole Construction in 1906, and after one successful year of construction work, Martin retired. Poole, however, was far from retirement age and inclination, and when he returned to Saskatchewan from Prince Edward Island in the spring of 1907, he resumed operation of the business, changing the company's name to Poole Construction.

In turned out that Poole had started his construction business in the right place at the right time. Canada's West was growing rapidly with settlers pouring into the prairies and the Yukon gold rush in full swing. During this time, Poole Construction was building frontier towns, earning a reputation for turning out quality houses, barns, commercial banks, town halls, mercantile stores, and public schools. If the company ran out of work in one budding community, it moved its headquarters to another with more immediate construction needs. In this spirit, company headquarters moved from Stoughton to Rouleau to Moose Jaw and then to Regina by 1914. In 1913, Poole incorporated the company as Poole Construction Company Limited.

The War Years

When World War I broke out, construction work dried up, which made for hard years at the company. Many of the men who had worked for Poole enlisted. During these lean years, however, Poole was able to secure enough contracts to keep the business afloat. Poole recalled in an interview before his death in 1964, "We secured a contract for the Saskatchewan Co-operative elevator office building in Regina, which was quite a large contract for us at that time, and because we did not have much else to work on, we moved our residence to Regina." After this contract, PCL suffered a dry spell, during which they won no large contracts until 1918.

These difficult years ended in 1919 when the company won multiple large-scale contracts. That same year, the company built itself a brick office building that the company has been operating in ever since. In the years after the war, contracts continued to roll in, and the company flourished, growing to become one the most successful contractors in the area. Some of the contracts Poole Construction handled at this time included the Saskatchewan Cooperative Creameries, the Saskatchewan Provincial Police Department building, and the Weyburn Mental Hospital. Poole Construction was also one of the founding members of the Canadian Construction Association during this time. Until the Depression in 1929, the company remained busy and prosperous.

In the early 1930s, as with many businesses around the world, work at the Poole Construction Company came to a near standstill. The Poole family moved to Edmonton and kept the company afloat by diversifying into highway and irrigation work. In 1932, Poole moved his family and business to Edmonton, Alberta. The move proved to be successful when the company won a contract in 1935 to reconstruct the Calgary-Banff Highway from Cochrane to the Banff National Park Gate. This contract gave the struggling company the nudge it needed to recapture its former success. The company expanded rapidly as it geared up to meet Canada's once again growing construction needs. During this time, Poole's two sons, who had finished graduate school in civil engineering, took jobs with the company.

After the Wars: Expansion and Change

After the war, the company became the top builder of industrial power plants in Alberta, pioneered construction projects in the Yukon and Western Canadian Arctic, and expanded their highway work. The company also broadened its construction expertise to include dams, tunnels, and bridges. The Edmonton head office became the center for branches spread across Canada, including offices in Calgary, Regina, Toronto, Yellowknife, Lethbridge, and Winnipeg. Under Poole's stewardship, the company recruited and trained specialists in every area of the construction industry, and Poole remained active in the company's operation until his death in 1964.

After Ernie Poole's death, the company continued to be a part of the Poole family's legacy, with Ernie's sons John and George acting as co-chairmen of the board. However, in 1977, the Poole brothers agreed to sell their majority stake in Poole Construction to the company's employees, and in 1979, the company's name was changed to PCL Construction Ltd.

Late 20th Century: Multiple Major Projects

Over the years, PCL has made a concerted effort to expand their business into the United States, and have achieved considerable success in the process. The company has district offices in Seattle, Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and in Canada in Calgary, Vancouver, Regina, Ottawa, and Winnipeg; operation offices in San Diego, Las Vegas, and in Canada in Saskatoon and Yellowknife; the corporate office is in Edmonton, Alberta; and the head office for U.S. Operations is in Denver, Colorado. In 1985, the Los Angeles district office was put to work on building the $650 million Citicorp Center as the contractor for the Center's 42-story tower located at Seventh and Figueroa, which represented the first phase of the planned complex.

In 1995, PCL won the contract to renovate the Seattle Coliseum. The project was notable because it went against the modern sports industry trend to build completely new arenas rather than renovate existing structures. John Donovan of PCL explained that what PCL did, however, went considerably beyond renovation, demolishing much of the original structure and sinking the event level 35 feet lower into the ground.

Also in 1995, PCL became involved in a legal dispute over the awarding of an airport construction contract. Historically, one of PCL's primary methods of securing contracts was through competitive bidding. Bidding is a complex practice that requires participating bidders to adhere to a rigid set of rules. To submit a bid that can be legally considered, a bidder must submit all stipulated forms and materials by an established deadline. It is not uncommon for a bidder to miss a deadline due to an incomplete submission. Generally, if a bidder misses a deadline--by omitting even a single form--their bid is discarded.

It was exactly this type of situation that caused PCL to seek legal resolution when the contract for the Ontario International Airport was awarded to TNT Grading Inc. of San Marcos, California. PCL maintained that TNT had submitted a flawed bid when the company neglected to include the necessary minority participation document by the required due date (TNT did submit the document at a later date). However, the airport commission decided that the requirement to submit the report on time was "an informality, and the board [could] waive that informality and approve the bid." PCL felt that the airport commission had acted illegally, and Peter Jiacik, an administrative manager for PCL, noted that the commission's choice was "a violation of the Subcontracting and Subletting Fair Practices Act." Despite PCL's objections, a month after the contract had been awarded to TNT, a judge upheld the bid award, allowing TNT to continue its work on the airport.

In 1997 when PCL was chosen to build a new Science Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota, the company could hardly have imagined their project would be impacted by a 19th-century bordello. Although the city had retained archaeologists to monitor building demolition, it was a surprise to everyone when, sifting through the site in search of artifacts, the scientists came across the limestone foundation of an historic bordello and saloon. The archaeologists' role was quickly expanded and PCL

The New Millennium: Continuing to Invest in Employees

Amid its international success and significant growth and expansion, PCL has worked to retain the small-company atmosphere it has valued ever since Ernie Poole first founded the company in 1906. To that end, the company instituted a policy that every PCL employee must complete at least 35 hours a year of professional development training. Peter Greene, PCL's vice-president in charge of education programs, says the company has put such emphasis on continued education because "it shows that a company cares enough to help [its employees] develop the skills they'll need throughout their careers." PCL's education programs are developed internally and are taught through the PCL College of Construction. The college has a campus or a dedicated learning space in each of the company's operating centers and provides training and education through self-directed learning, instructor-led learning, and mentoring activities.

PCL's employee-oriented style has helped the company to be recognized two years in a row--2001 and 2002--as one of the best companies to work for in Canada, according to Richard Yerema's book Canada's Top 100 Employers. In addition, in the January 2002 issue of the Globe and Mail's Report on Business Magazine, PCL ranked 37th among the 50 Best Companies to Work for in Canada.

In addition to recognition as one of the best companies to work for in Canada, PCL has won award after award for business and industry excellence. In 2001, the company was ranked Canada's No. 1 contractor by Heavy Construction News, a position PCL has held for 20 years. In 2002, for the seventh time, PCL was recognized as one of Canada's best-managed companies, an award sponsored by Andersen Consulting, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Queen's School of Business and National Post.

Much of PCL's success has derived from the company's ability to recruit knowledgeable and skilled employees and to diversify their construction capabilities as market and business conditions indicated. The company has become as comfortable and capable at building residential high-rises as working on such high-technology projects as hydroelectric dams and steam facilities. The company has further diversified into pipe fabrication, module construction, mining operations, and construction design.

By moving into construction design, PCL has become capable of working on a project from inception to design and through construction. By assuming full-project ownership, PCL has been able to meet strict project design and construction requirements within stringent budget and schedule parameters--something that was often difficult to orchestrate when working solely as a construction management group.

Principal Subsidiaries:PCL Civil Constructors, Inc.; PCL Construction Management Inc.; PCL Construction Services, Inc.; PCL Constructors Canada Inc.; PCL Industrial Constructors, Inc.; Monad Contractors Ltd.

Principal Competitors:AMEC LC; Bovis Lend Lease; HOCHTIEF AG; Flour Corporation; Skanska AB.

Further Reading:

  • "Airport Grading Project Overcomes Legal Challenge," The Business Press, October 16, 1995, p. 5.
  • Daniels, Stephen H., "Becoming More Rigid in Seattle," ENR, November 13, 1995, p. 49.
  • "History Lesson at New Museum Site," ENR, April 28, 1997, p. 12.
  • Hovde, Elizabeth, "Opinion: Union-Only Pacts Not in Interest of All," Columbian, October 25, 2001, p. C7.
  • "It Helps to Own a Piece," Maclean's, November 5, 2001, p. 53.
  • Korman, Richard, and David Kohn, "Design-Build? Ice Rink Runs Late," ENR, August 18, 1997, p. 9.
  • "Major Expansion Planned with New Terminal and Parking at Ottowa Airport," Building, November/December, 2000, p. 29.
  • McAfee, Paul, "Possible Lawsuit Puts Ontario Airport Bid in Turbulence," The Business Press, September 11, 1995, p. 1.
  • Mize, Jeffrey, "City, Events Center Contractor End Dispute," Columbian, December 1, 2001, p.C1.
  • ------, "Events Center Builder Picked," Columbian, May 10, 2001, p. C1.
  • "Numbers 6, 5 Figure Largely in New Project," Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1985, p. 10.
  • Tulacz, Gary J., "PCL Construction Group Inc," ENR, October 13, 1997, p. 29.
  • Wright, Andrew, "Overhead Scheme Launches Bridge," ENR, July 27, 1992, p.4.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 50. St. James Press, 2003.