COMPILED BY FRANCINE MAXWELL
John Chomiak, the CEO and president of Hemishphere Engineering, was incorrectly identified with a P.Eng. designation in the Newsmakers section of the June 2007 PEGG. The PEGG apologizes for the error.
The forerunner to AMEC’s Canadian presence began in 1907 as a humble securities company selling corporate bonds east of Montreal. At 100 years of age in Canada, AMEC is today one of the biggest and most diverse engineering firms in the country.
A group of investors got the ball rolling by creating the Royal Securities Corporation Ltd., a company that put money into new utilities and electric tram companies in Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The company created an in-house engineering department to help assess and appraise its investments. In 1907, Royal Securities transformed this department into the Montreal Engineering Company Ltd., a subsidiary with a staff of three.
The names associated with this early firm are impressive. They include legendary press baron William Maxwell Aitken, better known as Lord Beaverbrook, and Arthur J. Nesbitt, who would become the co-founder of what is now BMO Nesbitt Burns.
By 1911, Montreal Engineering boasted a staff of nine and an annual payroll of $13,270. Seventy years later, the staff stood at just under 2,000 — the entire payroll from 1911 would not have covered a single salary.
In 1955, senior employees bought out Montreal Engineering, which went on to become Monenco Inc. in 1969. The company concentrated on electrical projects until 1964, when it embarked on an aggressive diversification program and formed a wide variety of subsidiaries. In 1967, Canatom Ltd. was created, a three-way partnership of Montreal Engineering, Shawinigan Engineering and SNC.
Meanwhile, in 1960 a civil engineer from Alberta named Ben Torchinsky, P.Eng., incorporated Saskatchewan’s first canola-crushing operation. AGRA Inc. was highly successful and branched into a myriad of other areas, including retail sales, media and real estate.
AGRA was a multi-national conglomerate within a decade. But that was all to change in the late 1980s.
Mr. Torchinsky recruited Alex Taylor as AGRA president to steer the company back to its engineering roots. Any subsidiary unrelated to engineering was sold off, including a 7UP bottling plant and the CKO All-News radio network.
AGRA went about winning and executing contracts for leading-edge engineering projects. One of its most innovative moves was to invest early in the recycling industry, setting the stage for what is now AMEC Earth and Environmental.
AGRA purchased Monenco Inc. in 1992 and then R.M. Hardy & Associates in 1999. By the time AMEC bought AGRA in 2000, it was worth in excess of $1.3 billion.
Today, the AMEC Earth and Environmental Division alone has a staff of 3,200 professionals and operates from 130 offices around the world.
Ravinder Minhas, E.I.T., is one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, says a Caldwell Partners listing that recognizes successful people yet to reach their 40th birthday.
Mr. Minhas, 24, started Mountain Crest Brewing Company while studying engineering in university. Today the company is reportedly worth millions. Mr. Minhas is also on the board of directors of Minhas Energy.
In 2005, he made another Top 40 Under 40 list, this one complied by the magazine CalgaryInc. That award is given to young Calgarians raising their city’s profile by excelling in their careers and giving back to the community.
The Caldwell Partners list has been published annually since 1995. More than 400 names have appeared on it, including Robert Milton, Belinda Stronach, Darren Entwistle and Jim Shaw.
Recipients meet five criteria: vision and leadership, innovation and achievement, impact, growth and development strategy, and community involvement and contribution. Winners are chosen by a panel of business and community leaders.
This year’s list has Mr. Minhas in good company. Among the others appearing are Daryl Dolynny, associate/owner of Shoppers Drug Mart and president and CEO of Aurora World Corp.; David Granville, assistant professor, Canada Research Chair in Cardiovascular Biochemistry, at the University of British Columbia; Ashif Mawji, CEO of Upside Software Inc.; and B.C. Deputy Finance Minister Tamara Vrooman.
The American Concrete Institute, Alberta Chapter, has presented Cohos Evamy an award of excellence for the company’s work on the PCL Centennial Learning Centre in Edmonton.
Just a few days later, Cohos won another prestigious award, this time for its masonry work on the NAIT HP Centre. At the Masonry Contractors Association of Alberta 2007 Masonry Design Awards, Cohos was presented with the Presidential Award on the basis of its significant skill, artistry and execution.
Edmonton hosted the masonry awards, which are held every four years.
You could call it NAIT’s Great Week.
First, Enbridge Pipelines Inc. announced an investment of $500,000 in a new high-tech laboratory. Then just a week later NAIT received news that it’s been approved to apply for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada research grants.
The Enbridge Prime Mover and Fluid Systems Lab will ensure current and relevant fluid system training reaches NAIT students. It will be part of the PetroCanada Centre for Millwright Technology and is slated to open in September.
“Enbridge’s donation is a prime example of the support NAIT is receiving from business and industry,” said Dr. Sam Shaw, NAIT president and CEO. “Industry knows first-hand that the skilled labour shortage has hit a crisis level and recognizes NAIT’s role in resolving it.”
NAIT is also one of a handful of colleges and institutes across the country that have received the NSERC approval. Also on the list are SAIT and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
“This will change the landscape of research in Alberta,” said Peggy MacTavish, NAIT’s director of research and development. “We won’t be doing basic research at NAIT. We are here to conduct research to solve real-world problems that industry faces in the marketplace.”
Mohamed Abousalem, P.Eng., has been appointed vice-president of marketing and business development for CSI Wireless Inc. In this newly created position, Dr. Abousalem’s responsibilities will include leading the development of strategic partnerships and new market segments, and providing direction for corporate marketing and product management.
Jeff Barefoot, P.Eng., has been appointed vice-president, engineering, for Rochester Energy Corp. Mr. Barefoot brings more than 12 years of oil and gas experience.