Fifty Years and Counting

Traugott Building Contractors

In 1964, Arthur Traugott launched a small construction company in partnership with Lester Zehr, owner of Zehrs Grocery Stores at the time. The two men saw an opportunity to expand Mr. Zehr’s business, and the company’s original purpose was simply to design and build Zehrs food stores across Ontario.

The modest start-up grew steadily, however, and the company’s scope quickly expanded beyond its original purpose. Soon, Traugott Building Contractors had earned an enviable reputation and established lasting relationships with major real estate developers.

Now, Traugott is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary – and boasts a diverse portfolio and industry presence worthy of its age. Capabilities include design-build and construction management, new construction projects, and renovation / redevelopment work across a number of fields, from retail and office to recreation and industrial. The team operates throughout Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and has a home office in Cambridge, Ontario, as well as a branch office in Calgary, Alberta that focuses on the Western provinces.

The company has a wide scope of expertise, but with five decades of experience in commercial retail construction, that sector remains the core focus of the business. “The whole business is founded on the retail sector,” President Dan Flaminio points out. Unlike many competitors that have worked their way up to retail after years of low key residential work, “[our focus] was always retail from inception.” That long time experience gives Traugott a significant leg up – and the capability to expand into other sectors.

Traugott is already one of Canada’s largest retail builders. “We are consistently performing over $100 million a year in primarily the retail market,” says Thomas Moch, VP of Business Development / Estimating. “We’ve built over three and a half million square feet of retail in the last five years – approximately 50 department stores, 120 grocery stores, 20 theatres, various parking structures either at grade, raised, or underground.”

Indeed, the vast majority of projects in the company’s history have involved the design and construction of commercial retail buildings ranging from 6,000 square foot free standing banks to 300,000 square foot multi-level food and department store anchored developments. “This diversity allows us to be small enough to deal with the concerns of the smaller tenants and large enough to meet and exceed the demands of anchor tenants,” the company reports. “Our knowledge and understanding of retailers and developer needs has led us to fully integrate this thinking throughout the entire corporate fabric which enables our staff to provide a successful outcome.”

To be sure, Traugott has a substantial list of high profile projects to its name (please see sidebar for further details) but there is more to construction than creating structures; building relationships is just as important, Mr. Flaminio insists. And, with fifty years in the industry, the team has been able to establish a number of key, long term partnerships. “[It is] the maintaining of long term relationships that has made the business grow to what it is today,” shares Mr. Moch. “The majority of our work is repeat business,” Mr. Flaminio adds. “We have great clientele who we respect, and they respect us.”

Earning this level of respect doesn’t happen overnight, of course. It takes hard work and dedication. “One of our corporate [clients] is constructing four projects in the western provinces right now and only one of them is on schedule, and that’s ours,” Mr. Moch reports. “It is that kind of performance, that relationship that we focus on.” Maintaining strong relationships with subcontractors is also critically important. “That has been a huge part of our success,” Mr. Flaminio says. “What helped us build to where we are is our loyalty and our dedication to our subcontractors in this area.”

Maintaining a strong team has also been foundational to Traugott’s ongoing success. “Our staff [are] hard working, very loyal,” Mr. Flaminio says; in fact, several employees have been with the company for over thirty years. At the helm is a management team that includes Vice President of Finance Cindy Doze and Vice President of Construction Pat LaCivita, as well as Mr. Flaminio and Mr. Moch. A full time staff of twenty eight people currently work in the company’s offices as accountants, Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Architectural Technologists, Health and Safety Professionals, Gold Seal Certified Estimators, Project Managers and General Superintendent. Although the company – and number of employees – has grown substantially since Traugott’s inception, the core principles remain the same, Mr. Flaminio adds. Each staff member is expected to uphold the same foundational values the company adopted in its “humble beginnings, as a single family construction company.”

Having a strong team also makes it possible for Traugott to carry out much of the work themselves. “One of our main differentiators is that we self-perform specific work,” Mr. Moch reports. This capability gives the company better control over the quality of each project, as well as critical component time management. This ability can be especially helpful during peak construction months when subcontractor crews are often booked up. “It certainly is an asset when it comes to accelerating schedules,” Mr. Moch points outs.

Traugott recognizes its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy working environment for the entire team. “This includes making reasonable efforts to promptly investigate and address health and safety issues, not requiring employees to perform tasks that are dangerous to their health and safety without adequate training and safety equipment as determined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and making information on hazardous materials readily accessible.” The efforts have paid off. “We are proud to have a record of zero time loss accidents for 2013.”

Traugott has seen more than a few challenges over its long tenure, and the team is utilizing all of its skills and experience to overcome the most recent industry downturn. “These are challenging times, no doubt,” Mr. Moch admits. “I think that the state of the industry over the last year and a half has really separated the companies… There have been a lot of contractors, a lot of smaller guys, that are finding themselves out of work. But companies like Traugott have the relationships, the trust, and mandates from the existing corporate clients [to] keep us busy, so our volume has been fairly unchanged.”

The team has noticed a shift in work, however. “There is less and less new build, greenfield developments,” Mr. Flaminio reports. “A lot of it is now densification or gentrification on brownfield sites.” As a result, the company has increased its focus on redevelopment projects, in particular the “expertise required to go into an older building and redevelop it while it remains open and deal with tenant shuffling and tenant concerns.” As Ontario’s new development slows down, the team is also strengthening its westward focus, to an area of the country where greenfield projects are still going strong. “That urban sprawl certainly in Ontario slowed down, [but it is] still going on in Calgary,” Mr. Flaminio points out. “So we are looking at that for the future.”

Traugott’s long term relationships will surely provide a valuable platform from which to launch this future growth; so will five decades of methodical expansion. The company already enjoys a national presence and is “taking on bigger and bigger commercial projects,” Mr. Flaminio says. “Our trajectory… is to keep doing bigger commercial mall redevelopments, big box centres, and shopping centres across Canada. That is the direction where we are going.” The Calgary office opened its doors in 2013, and the team is already committed to several key projects. “We are now a national company and we do want to be the largest commercial shopping centre builder in Canada,” Mr. Flaminio states simply. “That is our goal.”

August 19, 2017, 2:46 PM EDT

A Model that Addresses Infrastructure Demand

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) is a National Union representing over 500 000 members – over 110 000 in Canada with an International Office in Hamilton, Ontario. It has Local Unions across the country and is the most common union of construction, healthcare, waste management, and show service workers in this country. In fact, LiUNA, established in 1903, is Canada’s largest Building Trades Union.