Barnes Duncan

A century of serving Manitoba’s land surveying and construction industry
By: Mudeeha Yousaf


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With a history predating to the early 1900’s, Barnes & Duncan is the oldest Land Surveying firm in Western Canada and specializes in servicing the engineering and construction industry with its multidisciplinary approach and geospatial technology. The firm was purchased by Christian Korell, Principal, in 1998 and over the past 16 years, Korell has been able to strategically grow and diversify the firm in the industry by taking a proactive approach by implementing relevant technologies and growing skilled staff through the acquisition of several other firms to meet the demands of the stringent market.  Today the Manitoban company is an amalgamation of five firms: Barnes & Duncan, Atkinson Surveys, W.A. Beattie & Associates, Michalenko Surveys and Wilson & Neal.

Over the course of a decade, Barnes and Duncan has been able to maintain their traditions and values; though diversified their services for an industry-wide focus and has expanded to add Civil and Municipal Engineering, and Geographic Information Systems.  They have built their reputation as leaders in land development and construction through the success of various projects. Successfully working to improve Manitoba’s infrastructure, the company has been involved in many noteworthy projects, including the expansion of the Manitoba Floodway, the construction of the West Dike, and the construction of Investor’s Group Field Stadium (the new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Manitoba Bison’s football teams.) As well, they have enthusiastically accepted the opportunity to work on pivotal landmarks that make up Manitoba’s fundamental structure, such as Centre Port Way- a large inland port on the Northwest edge of Winnipeg, and the construction for the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. Always looking to diversify their portfolio, they have also participated in interesting projects such as the St. Joseph wind farm project, which included in excess of sixty wind turbines.

The employees at Barnes & Duncan are always up for a challenge. “The most interesting and in some ways satisfying project we have participated in was a GIS data collection project for Manitoba Hydro, where we collected close to a million hydro poles and street lights, along with attribute data, throughout all of Manitoba,” Korell recalls, adding that it is gratifying to be able to work in ways that impact your own community.  “The project was technically challenging in the beginning and logistically challenging towards the end, as we had to travel to every corner of Manitoba, including every remote community in the province.” Currently, the company is working on the East Side Road, and several bridge structures on the East side of Lake Winnipeg, as well as the Bi-Pole III project for Manitoba Hydro, which is a new hydro transmission line. “We continue to work for developers on land development projects, architects and engineers, lawyers dealing with real estate transactions, numerous government departments and the general public for their own surveying and engineering needs.”

In addition to taking on a range of diverse projects, one of the challenges faced by Barnes & Duncan is how to adapt to a changing, and growing industry. “The Manitoban Construction industry has seen an upward slope in the past decade, and with the recent Provincial Government commitment of more than $5 billion in infrastructure spending in the next five years, there is no sign of this slowing down,” says Korell. Learning how to manage this continuing growth and change has been an exciting challenge in its own, and one that Korell has been quite successful at. By adding skilled staff in a range of disciplines, Barnes & Duncan has become a “one stop shop” for land development work. “Many of our clients enjoy the fact that we have the ability and skill set to offer an all-encompassing solution to their projects. Our legal survey department can complete all of the subdivision design and legal survey work including help with zoning issues, while our engineering department is busy designing the roads, sewers, and land drainage for a development.”  An added value for the client comes from the firm’s project management services. Efficiency in performance is guaranteed through ease of managing data in one location, rather than clients having to deal with several consultants.

Aside from managing a multi-disciplinary firm, Korell has also focused attention on staying ahead of the technology curve. “In the past 25 years, almost every piece of equipment used by Barnes & Duncan has changed and these changes are happening more rapidly than ever.” By paying close attention to these changes, and the direction of the industry, Korell is conscious to always be ready for new implementation, and has made a personal goal to never stop researching and learning about more efficient ways to operate.  Through the use of these latest technologies, the company has diversified its practise and constantly upgrades their tools to stay ahead of the competition.

Aside from tools and hardware, another way that Barnes & Duncan has been successful at staying ahead of the tech curve is by investing in robust and intelligent software projects. “We have partnered with Procom, a software firm in Atlantic Canada, and we are working closely with many municipalities throughout Manitoba to implement municipal management software called TownSuite,” says Korell. The software provides several modules: Mapping/GIS, Financial, Asset Management, Fire Hall, and Planning/Building Permits, all integrated with one database. “With our help, no longer does technology have to be a struggle for municipalities.”

Christian Korell has gone even further in advancing his role in understanding and adapting to technology by acquiring Clear Concepts, which is an Information Technology company that specializes in technology management of small and medium sized organizations across Western Canada and is growing popularity in Eastern Canada.  Another company with significant growth patterns, Clear Concepts was recently awarded with two national awards for their service level and solution management, competing against thousands of other firms across Canada. “Clear Concepts has the added benefit of not only keeping Barnes & Duncan’s IT environment healthy, but also allows us to offer these same services to the clients that Barnes & Duncan deals with, such as Municipalities and remote northern communities. Once again, this is a way for us to make the client experience as efficient and convenient as possible, create long lasting relationships, and become a trusted advisor.”

Hoping for many more years of success and innovation, Barnes & Duncan, under Korell’s leadership, will strive to keep meeting and exceeding Manitoba’s construction needs. “I am proud to say that at Barnes and Duncan, we have some of the most dedicated and technically sound employees in the Province,” closes Korell, adding that he knows an organization is only as good as the people who work there. By continuing to grow and adapt, diversify to meet customer requirements, research and implement new technologies, and focus on attracting and maintaining only the best and brightest employees, Korell doesn’t plan on slowing his growth pattern any time soon. “We will continue to grow and adapt by leading the changes in the industry. For us, sitting still just isn’t an option.”

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