Sometimes a smaller company can make an extraordinary impact, and it’s usually through exceptional focus. Niagara Rigging and Erecting Company Ltd. provides structural steel erection, fabrication, detailing, and project management with laser-like focus on meeting individual customer needs.
With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, this family-owned business has built up an impressive list of structural achievements around the province of Ontario and continues to impress with its large-scale, detailed projects.
Founded in 1988 by Bill and Linda MacLeod, the company is now run by sons Mark and Adam, who carry on the family name on impressive sites like the Milton Velodrome, the Pearson Airport gate re-construction, Great Wolf Lodge, and Maple Leaf Gardens, to name a few.
“We’re smaller but we’re successful, and the reason is that we have the expertise to do it,” says Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer Mark MacLeod. “Sometimes our bigger project will be the only job we might have besides a couple of small ones, and we’re able to give 90 to 100 percent of our company’s focus on that one large job and satisfy the customer. We have the knowledge to do them like some of the big guys, but with us the client gets 100 percent of the focus all the way from ownership down to the first-year apprentice.”
That attention to quality customer service is one of the keys to Niagara Rigging’s long-running success, coupled with the fact that the company owns all of its own equipment, an unusual practice within the industry.
“We have probably the largest inventory of steel erection equipment in the province,” says MacLeod. “The equipment is another reason we’ve been successful and why we continue to be successful and why we continue to get the jobs.”
MacLeod says he doesn’t have to do a lot of client-convincing to prove they’re right for a job. With one of the largest equipment inventories around, including seven cranes, numerous man lifts, welding machines and various other pieces of steel erection equipment that other companies don’t possess, that advantage makes a big difference, he says.
“That’s where we’re able a lot of the time to get our edge, just having the equipment, having the cranes that other people don’t have,” says MacLeod. “We’re not renting them where other people are, and it’s costing them probably almost twice as much, if you’re renting it instead of owning it yourself.”
This desire to own equipment instead of renting started with their founder – and father – Bill MacLeod, who always believed that buying equipment was the best and most profitable way to go. Founding the company in 1988, Bill started the company because he wanted to be in business for himself and be his own boss instead of running other people’s businesses, says MacLeod.
“My brother and I own the company now, but our father started it and he always believed in buying equipment. He had a good amount of stuff when we took over, and since then we’ve bought all the cranes and other pieces, because basically we were tired of being handcuffed to someone else’s piece of equipment and them sending a bill at the end of every month.”
Owning equipment also eliminates worrying about when you need to get it off site; even if it’s not needed for three days, you’re still being charged regardless of whether it sits unused.
Investing in yourself
“If it’s your own piece of equipment, if you don’t need it for three days, you just let it sit there. Then you fire it back up when you need it,” says MacLeod. “It takes a lot of investment and time and effort to own your own stuff in comparison to renting it, but in the long run, it’s a better situation to not worry about those things.”
Niagara Rigging also has full-time mechanics on staff and provides its own trucking for the equipment, with a collection of trailers, transport trucks, and floats.
“The vast majority of other steel erectors don’t own anything,” says MacLeod. “From a financial standpoint, renting is a 100-percent write off, and with owning it’s an appreciation from an accounting standpoint. But it costs you a quarter as much to own it and you’re still making out better.”
And you’re doing it at your leisure, not at someone else’s, he adds. With owning, you’re not worried about the rental company’s schedule or the crane company dictating the time frame of availability.
“If you want our crane there Monday, we’re there Monday, because we control our own stuff,” he says. “It’s a convenience thing and a service thing for our customers and for ourselves as well.”
Having full-time mechanics on staff also means no waiting in line at a shop for repairs. MacLeod tells his mechanic what the company’s priority is and what’s needed next and what needs to be repaired right now and what can wait, and the work is done as needed.
“Basically the more things you can do in-house in construction and the less you rely on other people, the more successful you will likely be,” he says. “That’s pretty much the best way you can sum anything off about owning your own stuff and being self-sufficient on your own without the help of outsiders.”
The building of a business
The family history and pride in ownership is part of what makes this company’s story unique.
“The first big job that my dad did on his own as Niagara Rigging was a double galvanizing steel mill in Windsor – about 4,000 tons of steel. He just kept going from there and he built it up. With us being from Niagara Falls, over the years we’ve been the go-to company for pretty much all the tourism and hotel owners in Niagara Falls to build their hotels and build their attractions.”
Bill was a union iron worker from the start, and continued on when he started his own business, says MacLeod, adding that his grandfather was also in the business, working for Bill at one time.
“Our dad got opportunities and did a good job. He was successful for people and made money and built the business and we’ve always invested into the business,” says MacLeod. “We’ve never just taken the profit and run away. We’ve always put money back into it by buying equipment, upgrading our shops, and getting newer trucks. It’s definitely a big thing for a business. You have to invest profits back into it.”
Mark MacLeod and brother Adam, the company’s president, now share responsibilities equally, and also wear many hats within the daily duties, including financial, bidding, and execution of the work. Founder Bill has been retired for six years now, but knows the company is in good hands. “Our dad is definitely proud of us.”
The best returns
While Niagara Rigging gets work through word of mouth, it also receives a sizable amount of return work, providing quality, reliable end products.
“We’re still out there pounding the pavement though, and trying to get new customers all the time, along with new general contractors to bid to and work with – and impress so you can bid their work.”
MacLeod estimates return clients at about 90 percent, with 10 percent coming from bidding on projects for construction associations such as the Niagara Construction Association, Toronto Construction Association, and public tender work.
And the projects have been nothing short of impressive over the years. The unique Hamlet Swing and Fixed Bridge, constructed in 2019 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, is an architecturally exposed bridge structure, in place, on temporary shoring, with swing span in “open” position.
All the work done, including cranes and access equipment, was from barges, with assembly of the fixed pony span erected completely on temporary support on a barge and floated down stream into place.
The Niagara Speedway in Niagara Falls is a spectacular elevated track in Clifton Hill, one of the city’s busiest tourist areas. The three-story helical structure, combined with an undulating rolled ramp, is the first of its kind. The track is fully galvanized and the guard rail system is high-performance painted over the galvanizing.
Niagara Rigging also supplied custom rolled and galvanized bumper rails at track level. This challenging endeavour included its intricate geometry, dealing with a sloped helical structure, and the high-performance paint system.
Niagara Rigging is also proud to be taking part in the construction of the main venue for the 2022 Canada Games, taking place in August in St. Catharines, Ontario. The project is marked as a “legacy project” since the building will be turned over to Brock University, St. Catharines and Thorold after the Canada Games.
Canada Games Park will include some amazing features such as a sport and ability centre, arenas, gymnasiums and an outdoor facility with a track and athletic field.
Located next to Brock University’s main campus, Canada Games Park will also house a variety of new state-of-the-art sport facilities, including a sport performance centre, a health and well-being centre, a twin-pad arena, a 200m indoor track, a cycling and storage pavilion, sport offices, and a multipurpose fieldhouse with a parasport gymnasium and a combative sport centre. There will also be six competition beach-volleyball courts and a 400m track-and-field facility for the games. Following the completion of the games, Canada Games Park will be open to the community for use.
Moving forward, the next 10 years means looking at growth and prosperity for the company, and hopefully continuing to do good work and continuing to serve customers.
“Possibly even the third generation might be starting to get involved at about year ten of that, If they choose to. They’ll be old enough by then to have a hand in it or work in the summers between school,” says MacLeod.
“We’ve accomplished lots of cool, interesting jobs over the years. Unique types of projects that are pretty much our bread-and-butter in complex, heavy structural steel and bridges. We hope to keep doing more.”