MacDougall Steel Erectors, established by Ron and Gloria MacDougall in 1998, is located in Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island. The company specializes in steel fabrication and installation, with projects all across Canada and the Eastern United States. It is dedicated to keeping worksites safe and efficient and has built a reputation for putting in the extra effort to ensure projects run smoothly and on time.
MacDougall Steel Erectors has come a long way from its humble beginnings. “We started off as a simple steel erection company, putting up steel for other companies surrounding Prince Edward Island,” says MacDougall Steel Erectors President Dave Clark. “Then, in 1999, we rented a small shop near Charlottetown and started to do a little bit of fabrication,” he says.
“In 2001, we built our first shop in Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, which was around 6,500 square feet at the time. In 2005, we expanded that plant, adding on 7,500 square feet. We expanded it again in 2008, when we twinned the shops, adding a whole other side to it, and then we expanded that shop out once again with another addition in 2014,” says Clark.
“Just a year and a half ago, we purchased the old McCain’s French fry plant and converted that into a shop. That plant is around 120,000 square feet. We also have a paint shop, assembly building, and a parts building, so we’ve grown over the years. Now, we have around 264,000 square feet of shop floor space.”
The company’s expertise is erecting steel. “We were a steel erection company first, and we’re still a steel erection company,” he says. “We fabricate in order to make the steel erection advance a lot more seamlessly on site. In turn, our production is a lot quicker on site. We put a lot more effort into the detail, drafting, fabrication, type of connections that we use, and the building so that we can get it to the site and get the steel up ahead of our clients’ schedule.”
MacDougall Steel Erectors’ products arrive ready to install. “It is all prefabricated here in Borden-Carleton. We ship it across the country to wherever the job sites are, and then we fly our guys out to install it. Across Canada, we supply and install in every province. We have done work in every province and territory across this country. However, in the Eastern United States we typically only supply. Then we have local people there install it,” Clark shares.
He explains that, “We implemented our own safety system. On certain projects, we can allow a certain one hundred percent tie-off because our safety system is put on the ground before the beams are hoisted,” says Clark of OSHA’s fall prevention standards. “Our motto has always been: ‘as fast as safety permits.’ So, we push safety on our sites. We want to get each employee home every day.”
Like all companies, MacDougall Steel Erectors has had its share of challenges over the years. “A past challenge for us was when the majority of our market share was in one market, and when that market slowed down, we had to diversify,” he states. “Now that we’ve diversified, and with all the markets that we’re in, there’s essentially not one market that’s much more than 25 percent of our market share.”
Clark admits that, “It’s a lot better to be diversified into multiple markets than to be in just one because when that one market slows down, it can be quite a hit. For example, we had been heavily invested in Alberta, with a lot of our work out there. But when the oil turned, those projects came to a halt, and we had to retract. It forced us to grow into other markets, and we had to re-diversify ourselves as a company.”
It has been a forward-thinking company in dealing with other issues as well. “When it got really tight, and we couldn’t find people to put up steel, we built our own steel erection school so we could train people so that we would have enough people to sustain our contracts. Because when we say we’re going to do something, we definitely want to do it and exceed what we promised,” says Clark.
“We also try to stay ahead of the curve; we’re constantly looking and trying to find the sources that we’re going to need. We try to hire as many local people as possible, but we will use other avenues if necessary.”
The company’s employee count fluctuates depending on projects and worksites, but it currently has approximately 140 people. “We have created many long-term jobs and have a lot of long-term employees,” Clark says. “Most of the foremen that run our crews have been with us eighteen to twenty years, and our shop foreman has been with us for seventeen years.” The company often has as many as thirty people on its job sites but has had up to 250.
MacDougall Steel Erectors is very proud of all the projects it has taken on and completed – from the Whitehorse Airport to a hotel and school in Yellowknife. “We’ve had a lot of projects over the years, some big, some small,” says Clark. “We just finished a hotel in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and we’re doing two schools in northern Manitoba where all the steel’s shipping right now on ice roads. So, we’ll be able to fly in next summer and build these remote communities’ schools,” he says.
“In these communities, these are not just schools; they are so much more. They’re where everyone meets,” he says. “So, to be part of these projects, in these remote places, and to have been part of some large projects in the oil sands, is something that we’re very proud of. Those were some pretty large projects and some pretty defining moments for us as a company. However, the fact that from little Prince Edward Island, we’ve been able to do work in nearly every province across Canada, is a feat all on its own. We look at what we’ve done, and it’s like a pat on the shoulders to know that we’ve been a part of such projects.”
MacDougall Steel Erectors’ owners believe in treating others the way they would like to be treated. “Our guiding principles have always been to just do the best that we always do, and to always treat everyone the way we want to be treated,” says Clark. “Our motto has always been: treat people right, do the best we can do, and constantly try and strive to improve and learn from any mistakes.”
As MacDougall Steel Erectors continues to grow, it aims to continue being the leader it is in steel construction solutions; focused on service, safety, and efficiency on its job sites and making those factors top priority in its bid to making steel erection as seamless as it possibly can be.
“We have significant space to grow as far as fabrication goes,” says Clark. “And one thing that we would like to start doing more of is modular fabrication. We see ourselves growing and hopefully becoming one of the largest steel companies in Eastern Canada someday.”