Jim and Rita Welch founded their company in 1971, using their oldest son’s vacated bedroom as an office. From there, the Welch Company – Welco – became the regional go-to for finding rental or specialized equipment for a number of major potash and coal projects being developed in Western Canada. Through dogged determination and hard work, Jim attracted the attention of some major U.S.-based equipment suppliers.
“We were able to negotiate representative agreements, and we morphed from a rental company into supplying production equipment to various markets in western Canada,” says Michael Welch, Jim and Rita’s son and President of Welco.
It wasn’t long before Welco outgrew the back bedroom and moved into a small warehouse office complex. Continued growth forced Welco to move again, first into one bay in Foothills Industrial and then taking over another bay and another until the company was spread across nine bays. This disconnected workspace didn’t support Welco’s collaborative environment, so in 2016, the team moved Welco into a new 25,000-square-foot complex on 61 Avenue SE that brought its distribution centre and factory-authorized service centre all under one roof.
“Moving to a consolidated location totally transformed the company,” he says. “We increased the volume of sales around 35 per cent in a single year, just because we had the ability to have more inventory on hand and to do repair work, and it has provided a lot of synergy for the staff.”
The company retained ownership of four of the bays and found top-notch tenants to rent those spaces from them. The team is proud to be part of the success of other local businesses starting out just like Welco had so many years before.
Today, Welco has expanded more than just its offices. It also diversified its business from strictly mining products to now including clients in industrial food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and biotech, pulp and paper, pulse and grain crops, energy and manufacturing. The company has the solution, regardless of what you’re pumping, moving or mixing.
Besides quality equipment, Welco is also providing factory-trained authorized personnel to service that equipment. As more clients outsource their repair work, this remanufacturing arm is becoming a larger part of Welco’s business. By maintaining these multiple revenue streams, the company has been able to continue to steadily grow the business despite down times in certain sectors.
It has also grown the company by growing the staff, and Welco now has a staff of 32 employees in Calgary along with representatives working in Vancouver, Edmonton and Saskatoon and the new Fort McMurray location. That staff is made up of myriad professionals – salespeople, marketing growth analysts, licenced P.Eng.s, Red Seal industrial mechanics, CPA accounting professionals, logistic experts, Management Information Systems and Business Intelligence analysts – who come together to help their clients succeed. The staff also includes the third generation to be involved in this western Canada family business.
Michael Welch credits his dad’s work ethic (which spread throughout the company and took root in every department) with Welco’s 50 successful years in business. The people are the difference, and the company works hard to attract and retain talented people. It also supports apprentice mechanics through the Alberta Advanced Education Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), helping to repopulate the industry with talent through grassroots development of the trade.
“There are 32 people in the whole company and look at all that fire power,” says Michael Stark, Sales Director for Welco. “The company has really been built around establishing and operating in all functional areas.”
While most distributors simply offer clients a catalog of products to choose from, Welco takes a more active, holistic approach. Staff know the inventory inside and out and pride themselves on delivering more than just a piece of equipment; Welco delivers solutions. The team learns the clients’ specific needs and collaborates with them to find the highest quality customized equipment that best fits those needs, all the while helping them become greener and more efficient through innovative solutions like using a cyclone solution to help a foundry clean quench water for extended use while easing demand on the environment
Since the beginning, Welco has been dedicated to helping its partners succeed and Michael and his team have carried on Jim’s tradition of going above and beyond to ensure that their success happens. Jim taught Michael early that it was critical to always have what customers needed, and today that translates to a warehouse with multi-million dollars in inventory on hand so they can quickly meet clients’ needs.
“For a lot of our clients, their production keeping up is part of their value to their shareholders. It goes back to our promise of maximum up-time, which is what we provide our clients,” says Michael Welch.
No matter what is happening in the world, be it an economic downturn or a global pandemic, the Welco team prides itself on keeping clients up and running. When COVID-19 shut the doors of many businesses in 2020, Welco accelerated its plans to implement technology to better deliver customer service. Not only did the company not miss a beat but neither did its clients.
“We’ve ramped up on digitizing archives so it’s all accessible to anyone who needs it,” says Franco Vignone, Vice President of Operations for Welco. “We’ve continued to grow our systems and provide customers with the right solutions. That’s what Welco is all about – the right people finding the right solutions for customers.”
Despite the challenges of the past year, Welco is in a growth cycle as it looks to the future. It is actively adding to its team in Calgary and recently opened an office and warehouse location in Fort McMurray to better support its energy clients there. It is also looking to add offices to provide enhanced coverage for the growing industry and geographical opportunities throughout western Canada and the territories. To better serve clients across sectors, Welco is also building on its current exclusive Business Partner’s product lines to grow its fit-for-purpose solutions.
Michael Welch and his Welco team appreciate what it took for the company to reach this milestone and they continue to offer world-class equipment, service and solutions to its diverse clients. With more staff, new strategic locations and new equipment offerings complementing long-time product lines, Welco is All Systems Go as it enters the next half-century.