Celebrating what started as a fateful night over a bottle of whisky in 1973, 50 years on, Western Pacific Enterprises Ltd. is one of British Columbia’s largest electrical contractors and a leading member of MYR Group, a holding firm of eleven subsidiaries and just shy of ten thousand employees. Despite the size of its parent company, Western Pacific Enterprises retains the family values, attention to detail, and personal relationships on which its reputation was built.
Over five decades, the founders of Western Pacific Enterprises instilled in their descendants and staff a remarkable work ethic and appreciation for quality workmanship. This has secured longstanding relationships with some of Canada’s most respected and largest firms, running almost entirely on business garnered from customer referrals and return business. The company is also proud of its environmental and social conscience that protects its clients, the environment, and its communities.
Headquartered in Surrey, British Columbia, the company’s capabilities are nothing short of impressive, running the gamut from equipping substations in remote regions across Western Canada to large healthcare facilities, convention centres, power distribution plants, SkyTrain stations, and even the world-class BC Place stadium, home of the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, with all the electrical components and services needed to run such operations. Beyond its electrical installations, the company is trusted by customers for controls and automation installations, data systems installation, certification and management, and much more.
“Our approach to estimating, expanding our service division, and superb offerings are causing people to pick up the phone and invite us to be part of their projects,” says Vice President Derek Fettback.
Safety plays a significant role in the company’s ethos, its approach to its people, and its work. The care and dedication have landed the company many prestigious awards over the years, including the 2021 Canadian Construction Association National Safety Award for demonstrated achievements and commitments to safety in the construction workplace. Western Pacific was also honoured by Technical Safety British Columbia with the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Safety Award for data and digital technology in technical safety in 2018.
In addition to being known by employees for its progressive safety policies, Western Pacific Enterprises is also favoured as an employer of choice by many women in the electrical industry because women are respected as equals and enjoy the same opportunities as men in the firm. This achievement is still a battle for many women working in traditionally male-oriented industries across North America.
The company has always been known for strategic, steady growth. Yet, its very existence is thanks to a rather calculated gamble taken by its founders based on their accumulated experience. When Dieter Fettback and Ernie Moore decided in 1973 to mortgage their homes to make their dream of setting up an electrical contracting company a reality, they did not expect it to become such a great success so fast. Western Pacific Enterprises was incorporated on July 12, 1973. By the 1980s, it had built a reputation for concluding commercial, civil, and industrial projects efficiently, safely, and within budget.
The team’s penchant for problem-solving and innovation soon started landing increasingly high-profile projects with significant amounts of responsibility. With the responsibility came one great fortune: the company was positioned at the forefront of the action when Vancouver started transforming itself into an urban haven during the years leading up to the booming nineties. Winning the coveted SkyTrain project in the wake of Expo 86 was one of the deciding projects it won and was no small matter at the time.
Under this contract, the company provided power, signalling, lighting, and communication systems for the star train infrastructure installation of the 1986 World Expo on Transportation and Communication. The high-speed railway line joins downtown Vancouver with New Westminster and Surrey.
Sadly, and at a great loss to the company, founder Ernie Moore passed away in 1989. Ernie’s son Hal, along with Dieter’s sons, became partners and continued the family legacy, and together, they have grown the company to its position as one of the largest contracting firms in Western Canada.
During the 1990s, an existing client, BC Hydro, signed the firm for several projects erecting new substations. These projects brought the company tremendous growth throughout the nineties right into the new millennium.
As 2010 heralded a new era with the company signing contracts for electrical and security installations for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Whistler and Vancouver, the second generation of owners was set for long-term success. During this time, the company also had the opportunity to work on the BC Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Western Pacific Enterprises was on a winning streak. The global event provided yet another opportunity for the company to show its mettle when it landed the deal for the electrical work on the Canada Line, a light rail line providing easy airport access from Richmond. All the projects were finished to its signature high standards and on time, of course.
Two of its all-time most impressive projects were the Heathfield and Newell converter stations in northern and southern Alberta. “I think these were the biggest contracts we had signed to date,” says Derek. “At the peak, we had about 450 electricians at Heathfield and the same number at Newell, with a combined weekly payroll of around $2 million. At the same time, we did underground work on the two stations for the western transmission line.”
Logistics pressures on this project were considerable, with nearly ten safety officers working two shifts and heavy equipment being deluged with mud, making work a nightmare. The stakes were high, but the project was a success.
In 2016, the company was acquired by MYR Group, giving it access to a new level of financial, legal, management, equipment, and technology resources. That, in turn, provided renewed leverage with which to take on larger and more complex projects. Putting the latest technology to good use on its projects came naturally, and so, 3D modeling and all the capabilities this allows have been a part of its offering since the advent of this powerful design tool. Combined with the internet of things, this forms the core of smart building systems around the world.
Together, these two technologies and the team’s attention to detail formed the basis of its work on The Post project, perhaps Canada’s most significant heritage redevelopment project to date. Originally home to Vancouver’s mail-sorting facility, the building was transformed by its new owner to give the city an avant-garde, modern office, and commercial rental space with all the latest modern conveniences as well as the human connection that many people crave following COVID-19.
“When we are asked for a budget, we respond, ‘How about we give you more than a budget? How about electrical drawings along with our number?’” says Andrew Fettback, while relating how impressed the general contractor on The Post project was with the team’s technical drawings.
With its history as a family-owned business, the company continues to value its teams. “Employees work better if they are included in the decision‐making process,” says Dave Fettback, former president and Electrical Contractors Association of British Columbia’s Hall of Fame honouree.
“That is part of encouraging teamwork,” Director of Safety and Procurement Wayne Fettback adds. “The company’s biggest strength is the people who work here. A lot of them have been in the business for twenty-five to thirty years.”
During the downtimes, the company has always prided itself on retaining as many people as possible. While everyone knew that staying on meant pitching in to do work that may not be a part of their job description, the sense of family here is so strong that people have always pulled together and done what was needed to get the company through those slow periods.
“Employees stay here because they are treated well, and they also respect the values of the company and feel that they are an important part of making Western Pacific successful,” remarks President Tom Butterfield.
Western Pacific Enterprises is as committed to giving generously to its communities as it is to providing service excellence. One of its largest contributions to date was in 2022 when it donated its construction management and electrical skills alongside $12,500 in capital, nearly 340 hours in equipment labour, and 616 hours in human labour provided by thirteen of the company’s best professionals to a worthy cause. The project comprised distribution line and underground cable as well as communication installation that connects Honour Ranch near Ashcroft, British Columbia, to the BC Hydro distribution network, eliminating generator-reliant power for the 120-acre facility where Canadian armed forces personnel, veterans, emergency services personnel, and their loved ones are treated for service-related trauma.
The company also gives generously to the Kids Help Phone as part of recognizing Pink Shirt Day, doing its bit to root out bullying by supporting anti-bullying programs in schools, at home, and in the workplace. It has also given support to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and the Canadian Red Cross Flood Relief.
As modern technology advances, Western Pacific Enterprises intends to stay ahead of the electrical and technological services curve. “By emphasizing our critical role in the clean energy transformation, we contribute to a more sustainable future for all,” the company states in its celebratory coffee table book commemorating its 50th anniversary. That means growing and evolving along with and sometimes ahead of its customers’ needs. Backed by the solid business prowess of MYR Group, the company, and its teams are ready to embrace the changes.