By Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald
BURNCO Rock Products Ltd. — now the largest independent concrete company in Canada — was started in 1912 by James Francis Burns, who left his home in Ontario to seek his fortune in the Canadian West. After initially homesteading in the Stettler area, James quickly recognized the potential that existed in the ever-growing boom town of Calgary. When he moved there, he had only $1.50 to his name, but it didn’t take him long to start his own concrete and excavation company using a team of horses, a dump wagon, and a set of hand shovels.
Scott Burns, current CEO of BURNCO and great-grandson of the company’s founder, said he couldn’t help but reflect on that history this week as the company formally observed the 100th anniversary milestone.
“It’s surreal, in some fashion,” Scott said. “There is certainly a lot of legacy from the past that’s been very positive.”
What began as a one-man operation a century ago is now a major company with 1,000 employees and operations in Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan. The company has four divisions — aggregate, ready mix, asphalt, and landscaping. Its footprint is also visible on some of Calgary’s best-known landmarks — both the Calgary Tower and many of the Canada Olympic Park facilities, for example, were constructed using BURNCO building materials.
Company president Mike Powell said that when he started with BURNCO, he quickly realized the benefits of working for a company with an established history. “The things from the past that carry forward are reputation and a really strong brand,” Powell said. “I’m stunned by that every day — how it translates into new business and stronger relations and that sort of thing. It’s quite remarkable.”
Scott said he is proud of the way the company has made it through 100 years of business with its values of customer service, community-mindedness, and environmental sustainability intact.
“These are necessary materials for society, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything. And it’s important to us that we do things the right way,” he said.
Scott’s father and BURNCO “honorary chairman” Jim Burns III said while it’s natural for a business owner to be proud of what they’ve built, there is an extra level of emotion involved when it’s a family effort.
“I was thinking yesterday that I’ve been in the unique position of seeing the four generations proceed through this business cycle, right from my granddad, through working with my dad for many years and now continuing with Scott,” Jim said. “It’s been really interesting and it’s given me huge insight into how the business functions and how the family functions.”
The Calgary Herald