Civil, Mechanical, and Oil and Gas Infrastructure
By Anna Guy
It can take travelling to the other side of the world to really see what’s happening in one’s own backyard.
Such was the case for the Ken Hamilton, President of HCC Group. Originally established in 1979, Hamilton Construction has been involved in the civil, mechanical, mining, and oil & gas industries for three decades. Throughout its history, HCC has worked with major companies in a broad scope of projects, including design build applications and project management contracts.
Between 1999 and 2011, HCC took its operations overseas into many parts of Africa, central Asia, and the middle east. What started out as a two-year contract in Kenya and the South Sudan, ended up being a 12-year adventure. “Our first overseas venture was air cargo operation that eventually spanned the African continent,” says Hamilton.
HCC prefers turn-key projects, whereby all elements of a project can be managed from the ground up. From roadway projects to isolated communities in northern Saskatchewan, to oil & gas and mining infrastructure contracts in resource-rich areas such as Angola, DR Congo, and Kazakhstan, HCC has unique expertise that exceeds most local contractors.
Hamilton says that “adventure” and “opportunity” brought HCC overseas, stating that our experience can be applied to virtually any region of any country regardless of geography. However, even though most projects’ scope remained consistent, working conditions varied. Geopolitical issues created instabilities which were difficult to navigate (HCC left Libya during the Arab Spring of 2011) but creating a dedicated local workforce was the most challenging issue to overcome.
“Most oversea markets required extensive training due to project specialization and the fact that most labour came from marginalized local communities,” says Hamilton. “We had no access to alternative labour and had to make use of the local population. To a large extent, people in these communities were not used to the type of civil infrastructure projects we were doing and therefore had to be trained onsite. The first year was usually quite difficult but efficiencies improved consistently and by year two and three, we had a productive workforce. We were faced with this so many times over those 12 years that it became routine.”
Back to Canada
For HCC, resuming business in this province in 2011 created many parallels to that of African communities. “In the past few years, particularly in the north, we have seen multiple examples of communities with high unemployment and minimal infrastructure,” says Hamilton. “An obvious and easily understood contributor is the lack of roadways to northern communities. These areas are very isolated with little to no access to the rest of the province which is why we’ve been involved with one such project over the past 4 years. The local communities around Wollaston Lake have been lobbying for a northern access road for 35 years but remain unsuccessful. Our group is trying to tap into their momentum by proposing a public/private partnership to raise funds for the road (estimated at $100 million).”
In addition to HCC’s involvement in the north, they have recently entered into a business relationship with Misty Ventures Inc., which is the business development branch of Mistawasis Nehiyawak, to jointly acquire Xtreme Mining & Demolition Inc.
Xtreme Mining is an established mining contractor focused in the potash industry and has worked in other commodities both nationally and abroad. HCC and Misty Ventures’ vision for this acquisition is to create independence, employment, and wealth for the community of Mistawasis and other first nation communities in close proximity to mining operations.
“Our province’s major industries have realized some of the issues I’ve discussed and are moving towards solutions as PCS, Saskpower, and Sasktel have committed to a First Nation procurement initiative. This should provide more employment opportunities for impacted aboriginal communities but the big push will be for these communities to grow their capacity in order to utilize the spending initiative,” says Hamilton. “I want to use my experience and success developing underutilized communities, along with our partner Misty Ventures, to create more entrepreneurs and businesses throughout Saskatchewan.”