From Floor to Ceiling

Antex Western

Antex Western boasts a number of strongpoints, but the secret to the company’s 85 years of success has been diversification. “It is a one stop shop,” Antex Western President Mike Kolas points out. “We are a multi trade contractor, so we are capable of doing interior finishes completely.”

Offering a complete solution in the commercial finishing business is extremely rare, and provides the company with a tangible edge in the marketplace. “We don’t have any competition because nobody really does from floor to ceiling and everything in between,” explains Business Development Manager Christine Paquette.

“Most other trade contractors represent a single trade or two,” Mr. Kolas adds. For instance, a contractor specializing in floor covering might also offer ceramic tiling – but nothing more. “What makes us different is that we do a number of trade headings.” In fact, the team can handle virtually any interior completion, including access floors; acoustic ceilings and baffles; carpet and resilient flooring; demountable wall systems and drywall; pipe, equipment, and duct installation; sprayed fire protection; stone and tile work; Terrazzo and Reazzo™ flooring; underlayments and concrete remediation; as well as wall protection and handrail installation.

“All of these things are separate trade headings,” Mr. Kolas explains. “Generally speaking, most companies in the construction business will take one of those trade headings and specialize in that, whereas we have taken a number of [trade headings] and developed departments around them and specialize in all of them.”

This diverse range of expertise makes Antex Western an extremely attractive alternative to the traditional competition. “It enables the general contractor to issue a single contract for six or seven trade headings,” Mr. Kolas explains, “whereas if we weren’t available to them, they would have to issue seven contracts to seven different companies.” Obviously, having one point of contact is a welcome relief for general contractors fed up with the complications that come with coordinating multiple teams from multiple companies. “We can come in and take care of 80 percent of their work without hiring another contractor,” Bryan Demarcke, Manager of Antex Western Special Projects Division, points out. “We really want to offer the services to make their life easier,” Mr. Kolas adds.

This extensive suite of services also makes Antex Western an ideal partner for building owners or building management firms charged with the care and upkeep of institutions such as office complexes, hospitals, schools, airports, museums and sports complexes. Antex Western can cover nearly every interior project at any given time in any building, eliminating the need for multiple maintenance contracts. In short, the team takes the headache out of building management. “The property manager can contact us and we can take care of his or her project from floor to ceiling,” Mr. Demarcke explains.

Hiring – and retaining – a top notch workforce across multiple trade categories is key. Rather than hiring subcontractors, Antex Western employs a sizable staff of hourly paid workers, giving the company much more control over each project. “When a client needs floors and walls and window glazing and painting done, we have these people on staff,” Mr. Demarcke points out. “It is very easy to coordinate all the work… you are not relying on [multiple] companies to be coordinated to get the work done. We have all the people to do the work.”

Many of these employees have decades of experience under their belt and have been with the company for most of their career. “It’s not really out of the norm for some of our employees to be here 25, 30 years,” Mr. Demarcke reports. “We’ve had a number of employees who have been here quite a long time. We retain our tradesmen, which gives us quality workmanship.”

The company is also forward thinking, and is already taking steps to ensure that it will maintain its highly skilled workforce down the road. “There is not enough skilled labour to meet the demands that sometimes need to be met,” Ms. Paquette says of the industry in general. “So, looking long-term, that could prove to be a challenge.” To prevent facing a future labour shortage, the company actively recruits young talent. And, to promote diversity, “we are proactive in engaging new staff from different cultures and different backgrounds.”

Antex Western’s uniquely diverse approach to construction has earned the company a substantial amount of recognition in the industry. In 2012, Antex Western won two major awards: the Hard Surfaces Award in the Manufactured Tile category and the Starnet Design Award in the Hospitality – Public Space category for the Edmonton International Airport flooring project. The previous year, the company won the Hard Surfaces Award, Terrazzo and Project of the Year for the CCIS building flooring project at the University of Alberta. In 2004, the company was specially recognized by Starnet, the world’s leading commercial flooring partnership, when it selected Antex Western to join its very selective, 13 member network of elite North American commercial flooring dealers.

Antex Western has also built a prestigious portfolio of projects. The company’s work covers a variety of structures, from high rises and sporting facilities to museums, airports, and office complexes. The company has a particularly strong relationship with the oil industry in Fort McMurray, and the team takes care of many of these companies’ commercial building and specialty needs.

Interestingly, Antex Western’s head office in Winnipeg may be one of the best displays of the team’s accomplishments. “Our building is a showcase of all of what we offer,” Ms. Paquette reports. “It is a spectacular building.” The structure was originally built as an envelope factory in 1965. When the company acquired the building a few years ago, it simply didn’t meet today’s standards for a modern office complex. The team quickly realized that the best solution was to start from scratch – and do it all themselves. “We decided to become general contractors and tear the building down and rebuild it,” Mr. Kolas recalls. It was an incredibly comprehensive project. “We rebuilt about 10,000 square feet of the building, which included things like structural steel and curtain glass walls – things that we really hadn’t had a lot of experience in.” The team pulled together and learned how to handle the areas with which they were unfamiliar. In the end, they gained substantial experience – and an impressive new home office. “It is really a beautiful showplace for the things that we can do.”

The home office building also showcases an array of environmentally friendly features. The company is “strongly and passionately” committed to reducing its footprint, says Ms. Paquette. “So this building is a showcase for a lot of ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’ philosophy.” The entire office space utilizes reclaimed access floor from another project, which saved a whopping 10,000 square feet of access flooring from landfill. The building’s light fixtures were also all previously used and carefully refurbished, preventing even more unnecessary waste from clogging our landfills. “Any way that we, as a construction company, can show leadership in reducing our construction waste going to the landfill, we do that,” Ms. Paquette explains. Furthermore, the team is investing heavily in research and product development in an attempt to uncover even more opportunities for reusing construction waste.

Offering a wide variety of services via a skilled and dedicated staff has helped secure Western Antex’s lasting success; honesty and commitment to customers have also played important roles. “We’ve been in business for almost 85 years, and I think we can really attribute that to the integrity of the company,” Mr. Kolas reports. “We say we are going to do something, we do it. And we have grown that reputation over the 85 years, and I think that is what sustained us, where other companies have come and gone.”

With such a strong history – and a winning strategy – Antex Western seems destined to keep leading the market. The plan to maintain this success is actually quite straightforward: “We are just continuing on with what we do best, and doing it well, and trying to do it better than anyone else in that market area.”

June 22, 2018, 6:41 PM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.