Making its Mark

Professional Excavators

In the highly competitive Canadian construction industry, only the strongest survive, but it takes even more to thrive. Professional Excavators, Alberta’s leading excavation firm, did just that. As it turns forty this year, a look at the company’s growth and development proves that, with the right people, quality services and the support of community, growth is not only possible, it is inevitable.
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Professional Excavators was founded in 1975 by Jan Gryckiewicz, who took his years of experience in several major Canadian construction businesses and set out to serve the Calgary construction boom of the late 1970s.

Despite substantial regional economic downturn in the 1980s as a result of a change in environmental reform, Professional Excavators persevered. In 1993, Jan Gryckiewicz’s son, Jan Gryckiewicz Jr. took over the firm, igniting a new wave of growth and diversification.

During the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Professional Excavators made its mark on Calgary and across Alberta, working closely on a large portion of the high-rise builds across the city. The company’s first major diversification took place in 2009 with the introduction of the Asphalt paving and the Concrete construction business; this area now makes up over 30 percent of the firm’s business. By 2013, Professional Excavators had grown substantially but found itself limited by a reliance on outside services. In an endeavour to offer the most high-quality services possible, the firm made the decision to diversify, creating Summit Aggregates.

Today, Professional Excavators has reached new heights. From what started as a small father and son operation, the firm has grown to over two hundred employees with an expanding regional footprint and an increasing number of integrated services. The firm has played an integral role in the development of Alberta, but one look at the company’s corporate culture proves that the impact extends far beyond construction.

Professional Excavators is not only resilient, but innovative, working to advance Alberta and the earthworks sector as a whole. Serving some of the region’s most noteworthy private and civil projects, the contractors exemplify the achievements of hard work and home-grown development. Jan Gryckiewicz Jr., the owner of Professional Excavators explains: “Our clients come to us because we are problem solvers, self-motivated and self-starters.”

The earthworks portion of a project is often under-recognized, but what many don’t realize is that the excavation phase of construction is crucial as it establishes the overall viability of any structure. If you have been to Alberta, chances are more than likely that you have witnessed some of Professional Excavators’ services at work.

Professional Excavators’ portfolio includes hospitals, the international airport, a significant portion of Calgary’s high-rise buildings and hundreds of smaller to mid-sized works. One of the company’s most recent projects, the Telus Sky building, is possibly Canada’s most challenging excavation project to date. The small site demanded technically complex capabilities, requiring an excavation of 100 feet in depth, and twenty-first-century excavation techniques were unable to accomplish the depth requirements in the limited space available. Using advanced processes integrated with historic excavation techniques, Professional Excavators was able to design a site-specific approach, achieving what many in the industry thought impossible.

Particularly in excavation, experience and local knowledge is essential as the complexities of the process are often dictated by the environmental characteristics of a region. This knowledge is what has made Professional Excavators an unparalleled leader. By approaching excavation with professional know-how and the backing of forty years of local experience, Professional Excavators can produce the most efficient and high-quality outcome possible, a promise with which others just cannot compete.

Professional Excavators had found itself consistently confronted with the issues that arise from disjointed services. Realizing the potential to improve offerings in the regional market, the firm made the decision to diversify.

Professional Excavators now provides services which encompass every demand of complex excavation. In addition to the company’s primary excavation role, it also provides clients with a host of other services which range from concrete, paving, dewatering, sewer, water management, street sweeping and even obtaining permits and managing road closures. In 2013, Professional Excavators founded Summit Aggregates, completing the full-circle approach from materials all the way through to project execution.

Today, the firm operates a gravel pit near Carsland and has further plans to expand into the northwestern portion of Calgary. More recently, the contractor has branched out into asphalt cutting and concrete coring, investing heavily in human capital and top of the line equipment.

This vertical integration has made Professional Excavators a one-stop-shop, cutting out the middleman and subsequently improving the overall turnaround time and budgetary efficiency of projects. By creating a range of integrated services which complement the company’s primary earthworks knowledge base, Professional Excavators has created a foolproof system of quality control.

As Professional Excavators celebrates its fortieth birthday, it is clear that serving the community has remained a core value. “We are very strongly connected to the community,” Kim Wolkowski, president of Professional Excavators explains. Professional Excavators work is embedded in Alberta, literally; but the company’s connection to the region is more than ground deep. Throughout the past forty years it has been a homegrown source of revenue, employment and investment in Alberta.

The contractor maintains strong family values, participating in local initiatives and charity events throughout the year. “We give back not because we have to, but because we want to,” says Wolkowski.

Many of the Professional Excavators’ staff have been with the company for decades. The company has invested heavily in its staff, financing staff training and education while also adopting innovative programs that incorporate further staff involvement.

Professional Excavators offers employees unparalleled opportunities to learn through funding for education and professional training. “We are committed to education. It’s a very important thing to us.” As a result of these programs, the company is home to some of the best experts the industry has to offer.

Professional Excavators made the decision to increase its self-directed community involvement in the past few years. As strong supporters of both staff education and the development of the industry, Professional Excavators pioneered an extensive scholarship program.

The scholarship scheme will put eight students a year through civil engineering, architecture and trades programs at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. “I am proud of our contributions to our community and industry. It has been an important part of the business since the start,” explains Jan Gryckiewicz Jr.

One of the firm’s best assets is its large team of longstanding staff. “We have really great people here,” says Gryckiewicz. Believing in the power of its people, Professional Excavators made a decision which would change the trajectory of the company forever.

In 2013, Professional Excavators opened up the company to an employee shared ownership plan, placing the future of the firm in the hands of those who know it best: the staff. From managers to labourers, staff from across the firm have begun investing in the company, illustrating the increasingly personal connection between Professional Excavators and the people it employs. The company plans to be 100 percent employee owned in the next ten years, making Professional Excavators a force with which to be reckoned.

Despite the seemingly treacherous Canadian economic climate that has been heavily affected by falling fuel prices, Professional Excavators growth is more vibrant than ever. Through good times and bad, Professional Excavators has remained committed to the region which has in turn granted the contractor unparalleled growth and success.

As Professional Excavators sets out to launch its largest work program in the history of the company this January, it is clear that quality service and a community commitment are values which are stronger than the economy or the test of time. “We will still be here going strong in one hundred years from now,” Gryckiewicz says.

With an increasing number of integrated services, a new aggregate business and a growing team of the industry’s most experienced staff, Professional Excavators success story has only just begun.

August 18, 2017, 11:42 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.