Home Month and Year July 2023 Blue Ridge – Masters the Art of Excavation

Blue Ridge – Masters the Art of Excavation

Damon Grover, Neil Bates and Garth Bates. Photo by Riverwood photography.

From humble beginnings come great things, and that was certainly the case for Neil Bates. For the past 45 years he has grown Blue Ridge Excavating from a one-person outfit operating out of his home to a thriving business with 31 highly skilled employees, a stable of talented subcontractors and an impressive fleet of heavy equipment. The Blue Ridge team works hard to exceed expectations as it grows, delivering everything their clients need to keep their projects moving forward. Over the decades, the business has seen the best and worst of times and has managed to come out the other side stronger.

“We had a few good years to start and then 1982 came. That was an ugly year. We had five builders go broke in one month. Every bit of cash flow we had saved to get ahead we used. It was tough,” says Neil Bates, founder of Blue Ridge Excavating.

As is always the case, the ebb turned to flow and the economy picked up again, allowing Neil to focus on building the business and expanding its services. His son, Garth, grew up around the business and would “supervise” from the back seat of the track loader where he’d nap while his dad worked. Now Neil works shoulder-to-shoulder with his son and his son-in-law, Damon Grover, watching proudly as the next generation builds on what he created to make it even better.

“There’s not a lot of family-run companies in our industry that can make the jump to that second and third generation. We’ve been really lucky,” says Damon Grover, co-owner of Blue Ridge Excavating.

In reality, luck had nothing to do with it. Neil established the framework for a successful business that had room to grow, and he has staffed it carefully with a team that is as committed to service and quality as he is to allow that business to flourish. He is proud of the long-time employees, some with close to 30 years with the company, who mentor the talented young recruits, so the company remains successful moving forward. This year, the family business welcomes its third generation when Damon’s daughter joins the team as a summer student. The “family” in the family business encompasses more than just the Bates and Grover clans; the entire Blue Ridge staff is considered part of the family, too. The COR-certified company does all it can to keep this family happy and safe at work, and it defers to a safety consultant who manages the program to ensure all rules are followed and that safety policies are in place.

Blue Ridge has earned its great safety record as its team provides comprehensive excavation services to a variety of long-time commercial and residential clients. The well-trained team ensures that the grading is correct, the structure is in the right location on the lot and addresses any drainage issues before construction starts. The company is also a great resource for clients looking to add construction components to the property, from rock retaining walls to riding rings to accent or irrigation ponds.

“But really, the meat and potatoes of the business is residential in the city and surrounding areas. We work as far as Airdrie down to Okotoks and High River and then from Chestermere to Canmore,” says Damon.

Residential projects make up the lion’s share of Blue Ridge’s workload, and beyond excavation and backfilling, the services have evolved to include quick trench and compaction services as well. When the project is done, the company provides clients with grading certificates to show that the work complies with Calgary bylaws.
On top of excavating, the company also demolishes buildings and hauls the rubble out for disposal or recycling, constructs both private access and paved roads and builds graveled or paved parking lots. Blue Ridge recently participated in its biggest project yet: building a parkade by digging out a 24-foot-deep space that spanned a half-city block. No matter the project, Blue Ridge prides itself on providing innovative and effective solutions and has become a valued partner for clients.

The company works closely with major builders and contractors and those strong, decades-long relationships have helped build all aspects of the business. The family has no interest in being the biggest; they have focused on measured, organic growth as a means to better serve its client base.

“We’re at the point now where we are still able to have that personal touch with our customers and our employees. If we get much bigger, we’ll lose that connection. It’s a fine balance,” says Garth Bates, co-owner of Blue Ridge Excavating.

The company has found a great balance, maintaining its high service levels while growing with the times. Blue Ridge has invested significantly in technology and equipment over the past few years. The ownership team has upgraded and expanded the fleet as one-size-fits-all excavators just don’t meet the needs of an evolving industry. The machines are technologically enhanced as well, and Blue Ridge uses lasers on graders for more accurate leveling as well as technology on excavators to help make basement digs faster, more accurate and safer.

The company also makes employees’ phones a powerful work tool by becoming an early adopter of a locally created software called Nektar. This app is now helping more than 200 companies in Calgary more easily manage their businesses.

“We’ve been able to automate our timeslips, all of our inspections, all of our safety forms are all right in the app on everybody’s phone. It’s been really great,” says Damon.
The management team is finding new, modern ways to enhance the business without compromising the personal connections that have kept clients coming back for 45 years. As the second and third generations carry on Neil’s legacy of hard work and service, the company will continue to deliver the high-quality results clients have come to expect from Blue Ridge Excavating.

235103 Ryan Road
Rocky View, AB T1X 0K3
(403) 254-5883