The word “integrity” was important to Shane York, VP of operations of Elite Integrity Services in Ponoka, when it came to naming his new business in 2010 with partners Shawn Kirwan, VP of sales and contracts, and James Vollmer, VP of engineering.
“Elite” was added to show they are the best at what they do.
“It doesn’t reflect what we do, but it reflects how we do it,” he said.
Now, less than 10 years later, the company has made the top 50 Canada’s Best Managed Companies list. The owners attended a banquet in celebration where they were officially awarded 50 Best Managed at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on April 17.
A company has to be sponsored before it will be considered for the status and must be privately owned. Financial criteria also must be met before a company is considered, then a vetting process takes place, including interviews with employees.
This year, only 47 Canadian companies made the cut, four of which are from Alberta.
A total of 1.2 million companies have applied for the status since the 50 Best Managed process began. There are currently 477 companies that have earned, and continue to maintain, their best managed status.
Companies have to continue to report, comply with safety standards and show growth to maintain their status.
“It’s quite a feat.”
Elite has three locations, all in Alberta. The Ponoka site fabricates the parts for the large oil tanks it manufactures. Those parts are then built in the field, throughout Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, and even some overseas.
The Calgary location handles sales and contracts and the engineering office is in Edmonton.
“There is a real sense of family even though we are geographically separated,” said Patrick Lentz, construction manager of the Ponoka site.
It was Kirwan’s team in Calgary that spearheaded the effort to get Elite the accreditation.
Elite produces tanks that are anywhere from 40 feet in diameter to 150 feet (up to a capacity of 120,000 bbl).
The Ponoka facility, as some might know it as the orange-and-charcoal-building off of Hwy. 2, employs about 18 personnel. The company as a whole, between field work, the shop and offices employs over 80 people.
So far in 2019, the Ponoka facility will see three million pounds of steel with the known projects on the books, with likely more to come.
“Every ounce of steel will hit this facility first and that’s what is to be proud of,” said York.
Elite has stayed busy over the past four years, maintaining a healthy, continual growth curve, as other oilfield companies have struggled.
When the price of oil drops, producers tend to want to store their oil and wait for the price to improve, and Elite provides those storage tanks.
“We catch both swells of the market,” said York.
York comes from a local farming family, growing up east of Ponoka.
He spent many years travelling to different communities welding, starting when he was 17 and worked for one company for 16 years before returning to his hometown of Ponoka to start his company.
“It was always my goal to come back to Ponoka because of the people,” he said. “It’s a solid town, again because of the people.”
Coming back to Ponoka was important to York, who says being here to support the community and supporting local is what Elite is all about.
Elite has sponsored local sports teams and provided scholarships for students moving on to trades, and does a year-end barbecue for Mecca Glen School and hopes to offer that to more schools in the future.
“We have existing roots in the community and we want to plant new ones,” said Lentz. “We’ve been too busy building and working — now it’s time to let people know we’re here to stay.”
The company hopes the community will start to become interested in who they are and hopes to facilitate younger generations pursuing trades and then staying in the community.
Elite Integrity Services has four pillars it lives by, a value system that was formalized this year. They are: safety, quality, culture and accountability.
When forming the company’s four pillars, employees were asked what the words mean to them. For example, the idea of “culture” includes respect, encouragement, team and family.
“They’re all words we believe in pretty firmly,” said York.