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Living the Legacy

Photo by Riverwood Photography

“I could never have anticipated the level of success or legacy Midwest has achieved,” declares Ron Barnes, president and CEO of Midwest Group. This year marks three decades of service in the Calgary-area construction industry. Amid the celebrations, activities and excitement, Barnes is taking the time to remember the company’s humble beginnings – created to provide a customer-first, quality and time-driven alternative to the commercial drywall industry in Calgary. The vision has evolved and expanded in the past 30 years, but Barnes says he “always goes back to those main points. They are fundamental to Midwest’s status and success.”

Barnes recounts the experience of being an entrepreneur. “We have been faced with some tough times in Alberta over the last 30 years and I would be lying if I said I was never worried. The Midwest team is my family and I feel a deep responsibility to do well by them,” says Barnes. The word “team” is all-encompassing to Barnes. He believes that partners, family, clients and vendors are all significant team members and “without the passion, loyalty and commitment from this group, Midwest wouldn’t have succeeded.”

When discussing the Midwest portfolio, Barnes attributes the success largely to operations manager, Danny McMahon, and “the man behind the wheel,” Brent Logan. “What we’ve done in the commercial drywall industry is unmatched. Clients come to us when there is anything unique, complicated or requires a high level of coordination,” says Logan, Midwest Group team leader. From curved walls to intricate acoustic ceilings, Midwest projects are a blend of science and art with a designer finished look. One of the company’s largest and most challenging projects was the National Music Centre – Studio Bell, completed in 2016. The team applied more than 5,000 square feet of StarSilent seamless plaster across the convex enormadome ceiling, which required simultaneous application by 16 tradespeople. The application to such a large area is a substantial accomplishment for the team and the construction industry.

“It’s an absolutely incredible and impressive building,” says Barnes. “We are honoured to have contributed to Calgary and Canadian history.”

The 2017 opening of La Maison Simons in the downtown CORE proved to be both challenging and rewarding for Midwest. “Our team enjoyed working in the historical Lancaster building last year. Incorporating the architectural features while adding modern innovations was a fantastic opportunity,” says Logan. Another notable installation can be found in the Gulf Canada Square food court. The ceiling is composed of 234 cherry-finish wood panels and no two panels are alike in measurement. The job required intense labour, precision and individually laying out and aligning each panel. The ceiling is not only beautiful – it also has acoustic properties that reduce noise levels.

Although the Midwest portfolio is full of notable large projects, the company would be incomplete without the Rapid Response Team. This 24-7, full-service professional group specializes in repair work done in occupied and unoccupied spaces. Danny McMahon recognizes the industry and scope changes Midwest has faced over the years but says, “we have never strayed from our commitment to servicing smaller jobs. We’ve seen other similar companies grow over the years and are now only taking large jobs. That’s just not in the cards for us. The service market and smaller projects are equally significant contributors to our success.”

Barnes talks about Calgary with the utmost respect and pride. “When I look at the Calgary skyline I feel inspired and grateful for the opportunities we’ve had over the years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a building in downtown Calgary that Midwest hasn’t worked on and I am honoured we’ve been able to add to the city’s landscape.” With recent work on the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford, the company has extended innovation and Midwest quality across the eastern border. The newest addition is a workforce in Saskatoon, led by a prominent Midwest project manager. “We have put one of our best guys on the ground in Saskatchewan and we’re eager to show off what we’ve been working on!” says Barnes.

So, what does Midwest Group have planned to celebrate three decades of service? “Our celebration is not exclusively internal. We would not be successful without the support of our local community. The people of Calgary have been so great to us in the past 30 years and we wanted to give back in kind. We started the year by supporting local entrepreneurs, shared our appreciation with city workers, shovelled our neighbour’s walk and ‘paid it forward’ at Tim’s,” Barnes describes. “Moving into the rest of the year, we have planned an exclusive get-together to celebrate loyal clients, an employee appreciation event, and we will be working with local groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, Calgary Drop-In Centre and Inn from the Cold.”

Barnes looks at the next 30 years with inspiration and pride. “I believe we’ve carefully curated an unparalleled group of people at Midwest. As I’ve been transitioning out of the day-to-day work, I’ve had the opportunity to take a step back and really look at what the company has become. It’s an overwhelming feeling to see how passionate the staff are and how hard they work to keep the company successful. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”