Pomerleau, awarded the $136 million contract as general contractor on the Lansdowne project, traces its roots to simple beginnings in Saint-Georges, Quebec, a community near the Maine border. Herve Pomerleau started the business in 1964. Sons Pierre and Francis have helped grow the family-owned business into one of eastern Canada’s largest contractors, focusing on commercial, institutional, infrastructure and civil works.
Pomerleau Ontario president Francis Pomerleau recalls the company’s earliest days. “In the mid 60s a lot of construction people from our area were moving to Montreal to help with the development of the Expo ’67 site,” he said. “My father decided to stay in Saint-Georges and start his own business and it grew little by little every year from the start.”
Never one to minimize his experience or opportunities, the company worked on both commercial and educational projects and for both private and public companies. “In the 70s the Quebec school system was expanding a lot so he did a lot of work with that.”
In the 1980s, the company experienced significant growth with the real estate boom and expanded into other construction-related businesses, adding an office in Montreal. In the mid 90s Pomerleau opened its Ottawa office. The growth continued, with additional offices in Quebec City, Halifax and most recently, in Toronto.
Twelve years ago Francis and Pierre took over the family business which now has more than 3,000 employees. “The company is now partly management-owned but it is still really a family business,” Francis Pomerleau said.
Voted one of the top 50 Best Managed Companies for the past five years, Pomerleau says the business leadership seeks to challenge staff and keep them engaged. “We have a lot of young people and we make sure we trust in them and let them show us what they can do,” he said. “From a human resources perspective we try to be proactive and creative and find if you provide training and treat people well, that goes a long way.”
Pomerleau says a concerted effort is made to create teams of young people combined with Pomerleau’s many well-experienced people so at the end of the day, there is a larger group of people with more experience.
Pomerleau says that diversity is fundamental for the company’s growth, which more than a decade ago created a civil division and then a millwork company. Now a separate entity, the millwork business serves primarily the U.S. and draws in revenues of about $60 million annually. “Another company we added about five years ago was Borea which is now the leader in wind-farm production in Canada and is responsible for a lot of projects from coast to coast,” he said.
The diverse capacities enable Pomerleau co-ordinate projects from civil work to retirement homes and from big projects to small. “People often think of us for big projects but we are flexible enough to handle much smaller jobs as well.”
Among the services Pomerleau provides are PPP (public, private partnerships), LEED certification, financing, value analysis, and both pre-construction and self-performed work. Pomerleau says the company can easily manage about 120 different projects at a time.