Many people warn that you should never go into business with friends, but sometimes it’s the smartest decision you can make. Good friends Corey Hanson and Christopher MacKenzie decided to do just that and created CorMac Projects in 2008. A decade later – a successful general contracting business with a real estate arm and a hazardous materials division – it’s clear the decision was a good one.
“I think the whole reason we’re here today is we were best of friends and still are today. We both have strengths in different areas and come from different backgrounds so we don’t step on each other’s toes,” says Christopher MacKenzie, co-founder of CorMac Projects.
Before CorMac, MacKenzie studied architectural drafting and design and civil engineering technology and worked for years in general contracting and project management; Hanson studied psychology and worked in corrections while maintaining side businesses in asphalt, concrete and sandblasting. In 2008, the time was right to venture out and the two pooled their networks and skill sets to attract clients. The company may have been small but the founders ensured the results were anything but. Clients quickly came to realize they could count on CorMac for quality service and commitment to every project.
“From the beginning, we tried to be that one-stop shop that would look at pretty much anything,” says co-founder Corey Hanson. “We are proud of our reputation for doing what we say and meaning what we say and getting it done.”
And CorMac has certainly got it done. It has grown from the two founders operating out of a friend’s tiny back office to a dynamic firm serving Western Canada with between 30 and 50 employees. The company offers general contracting services on everything from small interior renovations to base building for clients in sectors including retail, industrial, financial, commercial and government. No matter the size of the project, CorMac prides itself on exceeding expectations and leaving clients satisfied. This has led to the company’s growth over the past decade, fostering strong long-term relationships while bringing new clients into the fold.
It has also diversified its business with an environmental contracting division that specializes in identifying, assessing and safely removing hazardous materials from sites.
“We focus on asbestos and mould. We also do a lot of lead abatement, mercury light tubes, PCB oil that’s in light ballasts and transformers, and then there are the ODS devices and radioactive smoke detectors, refrigerators and air-conditioning units. It’s a wide range,” says Jeremy Rogers, director of hazmat operations and CorMac’s health and safety adviser. “The older the buildings, the more you find.”
The team of specialized technicians is certified and registered with the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration to complete hazardous materials removal, site testing, air sampling and pre-demolition assessments as well as water damage restoration and microbial remediation. CorMac is a go-to hazmat company for many environmental consultant firms and it has done numerous projects as part of these long-standing partnerships. Whether it’s a commercial property, school or government building, residential property or oilsands base, CorMac is dedicated to abatement and disposal to ensure sites are safe.
While the company ensures contaminants are contained and the environment is protected on these job sites, it ensures its workers are protected too. All abatement workers undergo health assessments that involve pulmonary examinations and chest X-rays.
“We want to make sure our workers are safe. Every two years they go in and get a medical exam done to make certain we’re doing our due diligence in keeping everyone safe at work,” says Rogers.
Safety is a big part of the culture at CorMac. It strives to achieve an injury- and incident-free workplace through stringent adherence to its safety program. The company is COR-certified and maintains in-house certified safety auditors and National Construction Safety Officers to keep the program current and compliant.
“We have a very detailed, comprehensive safety program that keeps our workers safe,” says Rogers. “And for some clients, you can’t even bid on their jobs unless you have the COR certification. It gives us a chance to work for the larger clients because they know that we’ve put the time and resources into creating a safe program.”
CorMac’s safety program is constantly being updated to keep in step with changes in regulations, industry practices and client expectations. Safety is a way of life for the company, and the founders feel it is their responsibility to do everything necessary to prevent safety incidents.
The focus on safety is only part of the corporate culture that attracts employees to CorMac. The founders value their employees and want them to succeed and be happy, and they do all they can to create a positive work environment in order to make that happen. Over the past decade, CorMac has attracted, and more importantly retained, a skilled group of loyal employees, subtrades and construction partners and together they’ve helped the company prosper. Their diverse skills, which range from construction and design to finance and project management to safety and business, come together to create an integrated and successful organization. The entire staff has bought into CorMac’s philosophy of reliability, integrity and professionalism, and despite its growth continues to operate with the small-company priorities of individualized service, personal relationships with clients and partners and adherence to schedules and budgets.
“We have a strong foundation based on knowing where we came from, where we are and where we want to be – and maintaining that vision moving forward,” says Corey Hanson.
The company’s business is summed up by its tag line: Conceive, Believe, Achieve. Hanson and MacKenzie know what they want and have the confidence in themselves and their team to push forward, take action and achieve those goals.
The partners’ goals are expanding and evolving, including embarking on more LEED projects. A base building project called McKenzie Towne Park Site B that CorMac completed for First Capital Reality achieved official LEED Silver Certification in 2018. While it now excels in a variety of construction areas, CorMac has started to specialize in large-scale hotel and resort renovation and has completed several such projects in Alberta and British Columbia. The team recently completed – on budget and ahead of schedule – a hotel renovation in Canmore that included 119 suites, common areas, and mechanical and exterior upgrades.
“We took a floor at a time and were turning over anywhere from 10 to 12 rooms and a common area in 10 days. It’s a really tight schedule but we excel with that kind of pressure and planning,” says MacKenzie.
This experience helps them offer even better service to their clients, whether it’s for multi-phase renovations, self-service centres, substation upgrades for utility companies or renovations to Calgary schools. Clients appreciate the level of service and return to CorMac with future projects, regardless of where they are located.
“We’re establishing more of a permanent footprint in B.C. and eventually will be following some of our coast-to-coast clients that have interests across the country to be able to service them across their market,” says Hanson.
Hanson and MacKenzie are excited about CorMac’s future growth but are determined to control the expansion to ensure they never compromise their quality standards. They continue to diversify the business, introducing a real estate division that is a complementary addition to CorMac. This arm of the company owns four commercial properties in the Calgary area, and the founders are aiming to eventually expand into real estate development.
With how far CorMac Projects has come since it opened its doors 10 years ago, the sky is surely the limit for the next 10.