Fort McKay First Nation lies on the shores of the Athabasca River, 60 kilometers north of Fort McMurray. A proud signatory to Treaty 8, Fort McKay First Nation is comprised of approximately 900 Dene and Cree people who reside both in the community and across Canada.

Soogadin was created in 2019 by Fort Mckay First Nation and Brock Canada to enhance industry solutions, and was founded on a shared vision of value and innovation and will be the biggest Indigenous scaffolding, insulation, fireproofing, and sandblasting provider in Canada. Leveraging the expertise of two progressive businesses, this joint venture brings leadership, operating efficiency, and a focus on community to the industry.

“This joint venture is founded on a shared vision of value and innovation with a focus on providing the energy industry with powerful and progressive solutions,” says Soogadin’s General Manager, Pieter Smits. “The Nation has a successful and long-established record of relationship-building with the various oil sands mining companies that operate in its traditional territory.”

Brock has operated in the Fort McMurray region going back decades, with a steady workforce fluctuating between two hundred and eight hundred. “A few weeks after the formation of Soogadin in 2019, we kicked off a turnaround event with our first customer Cenovus (Formerly Husky) Sunrise, as well as a fireproofing project at Suncor Base Plant,” says Smits.

Soogadin really took off in early 2020, with the awards of Kearl Lake Maintenance, Suncor Firebag Maintenance and Suncor Fort Hills Maintenance, bringing its average daily employment from fifty to two hundred. In 2021, Soogadin broke in with various projects and turnaround activity with its biggest growth customer of the year, CNRL, at both their Horizon and Albian sites.

As of Q4 2021, Soogadin has 375 active employees across its projects, with 15 million pounds of scaffolding spread across the sites. The teams erect and dismantle between 20,000 and 30,000 pieces daily and have just under 5,000 scaffolds tagged and ready for use. In addition, this year, the teams have installed over 550 m2 of fireproofing material and have insulated over 20km of piping.

“Our goal is to build a strong and healthy community in Fort McKay,” says Smits. “First Nation-owned Business Revenues account for 52 per cent of total revenues for the Nation and provide the necessary resources needed for programs, healthcare, education, and infrastructure for our members.” The Nation’s revenues come mainly from business profits, land rent, property taxes, industry grants and business interests. Only a marginal amount comes from provincial or federal funding. Brock will be looking to identify opportunities with Fort McKay to further establish office, shop space, laydown and storage, vehicle maintenance as well as fabrication opportunities as they may arise.

Indigenous and local stakeholder engagement is very important to Soogadin. Smits says the goal has always been to become part of the fabric of the communities in which the company and First Nation work. In general, this means supporting local business suppliers, establishing community ties, and engaging the local workforce by offering meaningful employment and development opportunities. They believe this approach creates long term value for its business and for customers, who operate within the same communities, says Smits. Year to date in 2021, over half of Soogadin’s corporate and project expenses have been incurred locally and three quarters of those have also been indigenous-owned or partially-owned companies.

“We strive to provide reliable data to projects, clients, and enterprise stakeholders to support project excellence, cost optimization and competitive advantage,” says Smits. “Project Controls promotes this objective by using available technologies to increase transparency and communicate information regarding a project’s health and status, both internally and externally. Data Analytics resources and collaboration with the Information Technology Department ensure that this information is consistently accessible.”

“We also support continuous advancement in the application of technologies toward data collection, data analysis, data predictability and machine learning. For instance, data collection, processing and communication has evolved in Soogadin’s operations, from pen‐and‐ paper activities to mobile apps and global outsourcing of clerical and non‐core business activities, ensuring opportunity and consistency of information.”

By utilizing technology, Soogadin, its headquarters situated in Nisku, can collaborate with the Brock Group in Houston USA and the site teams across Canada while drawing on value resources in Eastern Europe for estimating data entry. This collaboration maximizes the quality and availability of data while optimizing the cost of services.

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