EMF Contracting enjoys rapid growth to become an industry leader

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Schooling in the trades made Remi-Pierre DeGrace employable within the construction industry, but his ambition and fascination with the latest technologies and techniques has made him a successful owner.

DeGrace studied electrical engineering technology in his home province of New Brunswick before moving to Calgary and continuing his education at SAIT. He earned his Red Seal endorsement as a journeyman electrician, and went on to achieve a diploma in solar PV design and installation.

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He worked hard in a number of jobs in the construction industry, including a time as electrical foreman for PCL Construction in Fort McMurray, which added greatly to his collected experience.

Enough, he thought, to branch out with his own company back in Calgary, and for two years he ran an electrical services firm that did very well. In 2018 he made the leap to launch a bigger company that would offer a broader range of trades — today, his EMF Contracting has almost 100 employees.

DeGrace managed to search out half a dozen companies he was able to acquire — small outfits owned by tradespeople that actually did the work and so were well qualified to add their expertise and prosper under his guidance. They ran a good business, but he persuaded them they would fare even better under his umbrella. 

EMF Contracting is now able to act as a general contractor on projects ranging from tenant improvements to new builds.

It includes a range of divisions, including civil — handling asphalt, concrete, excavation and site work — structural, involved with a number of interior projects including certified IFM efficiencies, electrical energization, HVAC and mechanical.

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Mechanical projects provide a big portion of EMF’s business that keeps around 40 of its staff busy. They are engaged in all manner of plumbing jobs, pipefitting, refrigeration and instrumentation, which included a Manchester piping construction for Calgary Housing Co., and mechanical improvements at the Big Rock School in Foothills School Division that needed heating boilers replaced.

One of the company’s large mechanical/electrical projects is a provincial government job in Yellowknife to retrofit a commercial office into residential units. It is also involved in two similar projects in Calgary.

DeGrace has been able to win a huge variety of jobs that require a wide range of his staff. At Cedar Court Garden Apartments in the northeast of the city, crews are replacing 80 balconies from wood to concrete, while at another Calgary Housing Co. site others are laying asphalt and sidewalks, and building 14,000 linear feet of fencing.

EMF has also been fortunate in being awarded work in the health-care sector — Create Compounding Pharmacy is a good example.

In Calgary, it has completed interiors for two locations, including a compounding centre, office and clean-room build-out, and has other Create work in its Toronto and Vancouver locations.

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The biggest project to date is to construct a 40,000-square-foot mixed-use building, working with Riddell Kurczaba Architecture, in the northwest community of Harmony. A professional/medical building, it will have retail on the main level and health-related businesses on the other three storeys.

All of this construction work has kept CEO and managing director DeGrace a very busy man, but he is currently pressing forward with the company’s first development project.

It purchased a prime corner lot in Marda Loop — at 33rd Avenue and 21st Street S.W. — and commissioned Modern Office of Design + Architecture to design a two-storey, 15,000-square-foot building planned to hold two food establishments on the ground floor with offices above.

Construction will be of refurbished material modular units to allow flexibility of movement. Real estate needs are ever changing, and depending on the site needs the building could be moved, not demolished into landfill.

DeGrace is a shining light for opportunities in our construction industry.

Notes:

Housing starts in this city are hitting record levels, with concrete poured for more than 2,000 houses last month. Yet, Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA) warns there is a dire need for more tradespeople and construction professionals. ICBA Alberta says there needs to be more recruitment of people into the trades, an undervalued career option in the eyes of many, despite excellent earnings and advancement opportunities.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622.

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