Powering Western Canada for 30 Years
By Anna Guy
Midlite Construction does more than build powerlines. The Aboriginal-owned company powers the lives of millions of Western Canadians, enhances its clients’ projects, and creates career legacies for its employees.
What Rocky Buksa, President and Founder of Midlite Powerline Construction, started in 1989 with three employees and a truck has blossomed into the premier utility contractor in Alberta’s heavily regulated energy industry, employing over 150 people throughout Western Canada and earning the trust of Canada’s largest energy companies.
From design, to procurement, construction, and maintenance, Midlite offers a full-service, end-to-end EPC utility contractor. As experienced project managers, Midlite maintains a team of schedulers, project engineers, cost controllers, quality controllers, EH&S advisors, and more. The commitment to skillful project management and administration means you can be sure your critical infrastructure is in capable hands.
Business Elite Canada asked Buksa the backstory to his company’s success, and about the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurialism.
The impetus for going out on his own was the desire to make a difference. “It was difficult to make positive changes in a big corporation,” he says. “I saw working for myself as an opportunity to make positive changes, to directly benefit from my own work, and to build a better life for my family. We started out working for farmers—replacing poles, hanging satellite dishes, installing lights, whatever they wanted really.”
From its headquarters in Fort McMurray and offices across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, Midlite services a wide range of clients. “We are local to the oilsands and would consider heavy industrial project execution to be our specialty,” says Buksa. “But we’ve grown beyond that specialty and actively service regional utility and telecom companies. We don’t stray too far from our core business and the thing that we’re great at—powerlines.”
Buksa was industrious all his life. In his youth, he would often take something and make more with it, from cutting grass to fixing and selling used cars. He cautions those considering starting their own business to know what they are undertaking. “You shouldn’t start your own business just because you don’t like having a boss. In starting my own business, I’ve had to answer to more people than ever before. If you’re looking to start a business, be prepared to be accountable to others.”
This accountability has ultimately separated Midlite from its peers. Buksa felt like his vision for Midlite was materializing when he noticed clients really listening to their opinions, suggestions, and recommendations. “When they started treating us as partners, we started seeing ourselves as leaders in our field—that was (and is) something to be proud of. When clients start to see you as equals, that’s a big moment.”
Midlite has not been immune to the ups and downs of the economy, and has survived downturns by overdelivering. “We have strong stomachs for this kind of thing,” says Buksa. “Working for the region’s largest energy companies in the oilsands has meant doing things differently. We’re facing the same challenges as every company is in Alberta. I try to focus on the big picture, be thankful for the times of great opportunity when so many people prosper, and the fact that we’re part of a cycle. We continue to invest in our company and in our people. In doing so, we continue to grow as a business despite it being less lucrative than it was during the economic boom.”
Midlite is as strong as its weakest link, and prides itself on forming a family-like environment. “Our people are the real key to our success. Midlite’s success is not my own, it has been, and always will be, a team effort. We really do have great people and we have a lot of fun together,” says Buksa.
As such, employee health and safety are paramount. “The first step is to have respect for the high level of risk in the work we do,” says Buksa. Exceptional in this realm, Midlite’s safety initiatives were recognized by the 2017 Outstanding Safety Culture Award from the Fort McMurray Construction Association. “We’re in a unique position. We do a high-risk job in a very safety-oriented environment. Our clients have highly disciplined safety programs and they expect a lot from every contractor. We’ve always embraced the strict safety culture of the oilsands as our own. We’ve invested in it and made it our own. It’s become one of the things that sets us apart in our industry.”
Going forward, Midlite Construction will continue to focus on what has gotten the team this far. “It’s about the relationships we’ve built around being there for our clients,” says Buksa. “They’re long lasting relationships and they become hard to ignore. You’ll notice that the power only seems to go out in the worst possible weather conditions—it’s almost always a tough situation. That’s when we have to show up in full force—power is critical for them. We’ve been showing up now for clients for over 30 years now.”