Mario Pagnotta had a vision of creating an enduring legacy for his family – something that could benefit them all and be passed down for generations. With that in mind, he used his experience to create Pagnotta Industries, a family owned and operated construction company in the multi-unit and commercial construction market that focuses on cast-in-place concrete structures. Cast-in-place means the concrete is poured on site instead of being pre-cast and transported to site.
Now, 25 years later, his vision is alive and well. Mario’s children now own the family business, and the company recently relocated to a large, state-of-the-art facility to accommodate the ongoing growth.
According to Alex, Pagnotta’s president and Mario’s son, the company’s growth has always been aggressive.
“Mario incorporated Pagnotta Industries in 1992,” says Alex. “He started with small jobs, but in 1995 he bought his first power crane and built his first high rise. By 1998 Mario had 200 people working for him.”
Alex admits that it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing at first, despite the company’s early success.
“It was a little bit chaotic! The company wasn’t ready for all that growth!”
Yet, there were worse problems that could have been had. Mario worked just as hard on the company’s internal operations and corporate culture as he did on the service side of the business, and Pagnotta continued to grow at a more sustainable rate.
In 2000, Alex graduated from university and took the role of financial controller in the family business. He was the general manager by 2008, and in 2014, the succession plan completed and he assumed ownership of Pagnotta, alongside his sisters.
Since its inception, Pagnotta was on a mission to build the best and most innovative concrete structures in Western Canada, and that mandate has never changed.
One of Pagnotta’s current projects includes the West Block mixed use development on 142nd Street and Stony Plain Road.
“We are incorporating an abandoned concrete structure and putting a new building on it,” informs Alex, who is excited about the project’s challenges and how it allows Pagnotta to push the envelope in terms of the aesthetics and design.
Pagnotta is also the company behind the artistic Griesbach boat, a concrete boat with realistic wood-grain detail. The boat functions as a lookout point at the lake.
Pagnotta was pleased to win an award for their creation of a free spanning spiral staircase in the Royal Museum of Alberta. The honour was presented by the Alberta chapter of the American Concrete Institute.
To date, Pagnotta’s largest and most ambitious project was the EPCOR Tower, which they undertook in 2008.
“It was a big undertaking at the time,” admits Alex. “[EPCOR Tower] pushed us to a new level of professionalism. It was such a high-profile project, but working for Ledcor pushed up our level of professionalism in the industry.”
He continues, “Moving into our new office pushed us to a new level as well. It’s exciting for the employees. Along with the move comes a certain level of expectation. You can’t be a mediocre company in a nice new building!”
The move was necessary because Pagnotta has never stopped growing.
“Our old office started at 2,000 square feet and one bay. We kept expanding in the old warehouse building, and the space became inefficient. This land [201, 5920 Gateway Blvd] became available, and we thought it would be a better location. It’s central, and it provided an opportunity for an office on the second floor and lease space on the main floor. We were fortunate enough to meet Healthcare Solutions, who became our tenant on the main floor.”
The new office is a concrete structure that is double the size of Pagnotta’s previous building. It features exposed concrete, showing what Pagnotta can do for clients’ projects. In addition to LED lighting throughout the building and a large conference room capable of holding 100 people, an on-site gym is provided for employee use.
With the new office, a quarter century in business, high profile projects and ongoing growth, is there anything Alex is concerned about?
“Complacency,” he says definitively. “When we think we are good enough, we get into trouble. In a successful business, you must get better every day. If you are not getting better, your competitors are.” He and the management team have no intention of letting complacency take hold in the company, and they structure their organization to keep both staff and clients active, interested and engaged.
“Our reputation is built on integrity and honesty, Alex continues. We always try to do the right thing with everyone: clients, consultants, and employees. We take a lot of pride in treating people right. I find it very rewarding to walk about my daily life knowing that most people in the industry respect us as a company.”
From watching his father build up the company to transitioning into ownership himself, Alex is happy to let other entrepreneurs know what he’s learned along the way.
“You have to take calculated risks,” he says. “We have policies and procedures to guide behaviour, but we encourage our people to use intelligence and creativity to take risks. Leadership starts with humility and giving those around you the courage and tools to succeed.”
As for work/life balance, “We try and make work a fun place to be, not only for the employees, but for everyone in contact with us. It is construction, so we have to work hard and work long hours, but we stress that we are going to have fun while we are doing it.
“It all comes down to humility. If everyone can work for the good of the company rather than ourselves, it’s amazing. We preach that here.”
Another thing Pagnotta is passionate about is giving back to the community. To that end, Pagnotta is a supporter of CASA organization.
“They work with children from the ages of 7-18 to help them deal with mental health issues, teach them coping skills and to help them become a contributing member of society,” Alex says of the organization. “They helped 4,000 kids last year. It’s a great organization that doesn’t get a lot of recognition.”
Alex was born and raised in Edmonton and has maintained close ties with several childhood friends. He maintains his work/life balance by spending time with his friends and family, and by watching and playing sports. He couldn’t be happier to live, work and play in the city he loves.
In addition to thanking the staff, management, clients, vendors and all those that had a hand in making Pagnotta the company it is today, Alex personally thanks his father, Mario, who taught him to be fearless and to reach for the sky, and his mother, who taught him to stay humble.
Going forward, there are big plans for the future. A grand opening and 25-year celebration will take place in 2018.
“We will continue to become the best at what we do. Growth is a by-product of trying to be the best. We like growth, but it’s not the number-one focus. The focus is to keep getting better at what we do. The customer experience is what sets Pagnotta apart. Every company says they focus on the customer, but we take it to heart. I think we do a good job of truly understanding what the clients need to truly make them successful.”
The company president concludes by summing up what Pagnotta does for its staff and clients: “We will take care of you. I promise.”