Family Ties

Weir’s Construction
Written by Nate Hendley

Weir’s Construction Limited has been something of an institution in Newfoundland for decades. Based in St. John’s, this family-run firm specializes in construction, infrastructure, and road and highway work, and can also supply aggregates and heavy equipment. It serves government, commercial, industrial, and residential markets, exclusively in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As a full-service contractor with a focus on heavy civil construction, Weir’s “does everything… from asphalt paving to concrete pouring, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, driveway paving, parking lot paving, and roadway paving,” says Project Manager Jessica Weir, granddaughter of the company founders.

Road and highway services include road building and paving, grading and paving parking lots, and bridge and overpass construction. Core construction duties range from subdivision and commercial site development to installing and repairing water and sewer systems and concrete foundations. Infrastructure work entails gutters, storm sewers, curbs, and concrete sidewalks, and the team can also provide barriers, retaining walls, and various types of heavy equipment.

At present, contracts with municipalities bring in the most revenue. These projects often involve paving work and constructing water and sewer systems. However, residential work accounts for a good share of revenue as well.

A family of businesses
Weir’s Construction owns two other businesses—Cabot Ready Mix and 7J Trucking, the services of which augment its core construction capabilities. Asked if there are any plans to acquire more companies, Weir laughs. “I’d say that’s enough for now. The plate is full as it is,” she says.

Founded in 2003 and also based in St. John’s, Cabot Ready Mix is a fabrication company. A separate Cabot division supplies concrete for residential and commercial projects involving sidewalks, storm drains, retaining walls, basements, and foundations. The company delivers its wares via a fleet of 10 cement mixing trucks and a pair of concrete pumpers. It also does concrete forming and finishing.

7J Trucking, meanwhile, can move residents or freight across the province with its fleet of trucks and can take care of transportation logistics for clients.

Cabot, 7J Trucking, and Weir’s Construction often work together. “Cabot Ready Mix does all of our concrete work,” while 7J Trucking might haul pipe which is then put in the ground by Weir’s construction crew, Weir explains. The company owns “pretty well everything in our fleet. Every now and again we’ll buy a new [machine]. We try to keep our fleet up to date,” she says.

To this end, the company maintains “good relationships with local vendors” of construction and trucking gear, who represent major original equipment manufacturers such as John Deere and Brandt. The company has done business for years “with these people. They don’t charge us an arm and a leg; they’re fair with us because we bring a lot of business to them each year,” Weir says.

Rooted in the community
Weir’s Construction and the companies under its wing work entirely within Newfoundland, particularly in St. John’s and neighbouring regions. “Everything’s kind of been around the Newfoundland area,” says Weir. It has always been that way, ever since the company was founded by Jessica’s grandparents, Jim Weir, Sr. and Geraldine Weir. It was officially incorporated on October 31, 1977.

Jessica’s father, Dennis Weir, and her uncles, Jim Weir, Jr. and Bill Weir, were also instrumental in building the company. Dennis passed away a few years ago, while Jim and Bill remain with the company and work closely with Jessica. A cousin named Johnny Weir is also currently employed with the firm. The company’s equipment yard now features a structure called the Dennis F. Weir Building, in honour of Jessica’s father. “He was a big part of the company. It was a tremendous heartbreak and a loss of great man who was like the glue to our family when he passed,” she says.

The plan is to retain Weir’s Construction as a family business going forward. Indeed, consistency has long been a byword here, and the focus has been on heavy construction ever since the company launched, with the biggest changes being the introduction of concrete pouring courtesy of Cabot Ready Mix, and transportation and hauling courtesy of 7J Trucking.

The company’s formula for success has not changed either; it is a simple matter of doing good work and keeping the client satisfied. “At the end of the day, we try to make our customers happy. We try to make a good name for ourselves. I guess throughout the years, my grandmother, my grandfather, my dad, my uncles, made a good name,” states Weir.

Building the team
At present, Weir’s Construction has approximately 65 people on its staff, a number that typically fluctuates a bit during the year depending on seasonal workload. Recently, the company has been having a tough time attracting new hires, am unfortunate trend seen industry-wide. “We’re finding it very hard this year, and it’s not only us,” shares Weir.

Ideally, the company likes new workers who demonstrate “a good attitude, a good work ethic,” and are “just an all-around people-person. My attitude is: we’re working twelve to thirteen hours a day with each other—as long as you get your work done, you can have a bit of fun too while you’re at it,” she says.

Weir’s Construction’s family-based ownership structure extends to its company culture. “If you were to talk to a few of our employees, [they would say] we treat them as if they were family. We’ve got people who’ve been with us for 30 years. We’ve got people who have been with us 15 years, 20 years, and a lot of them will tell you we are a family-based company.”

Safety, of course, is a key focus of the company’s, and supervisors are held accountable for the well-being of workers under their direction. “We’re always up to date on safety training,” says Weir. “If anyone has any concerns, they bring them to me right away, and if I can’t fix it, I try to get someone else to help fix it.”

Going forward, the basic strategy at the affiliated companies is to focus on what works. “We like to keep [our approach] the same each year,” Weir says, and promotion largely centres on word of mouth, referrals, and long-term relationships with local firms. Currently, the team is completing a big project involving a main trunk sewer for the city of St. John’s. “That’s a big project of ours. It’s a big accomplishment,” she notes.

“I’m proud to be a part of a family business. I work side-by-side with my uncles, who are like father figures in my life. Each day, you put your feet on the floor and go, and you accomplish something. Even if it is just getting a driveway ready or putting a piece of pipe in the ground, it’s a proud moment,” says Jessica Weir.

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