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Seeing the Future, Changing the Future

Herve Faucher gives back in business, in the community and around the world

Herve Faucher, GMS Aggregates Inc’s president and founder. Photo source: production world.

Some people have big dreams. Some have great vision. Some have a natural head for business. Herve Faucher has all three.

Faucher, GMS Aggregates Inc’s president and founder, saw an opportunity and watched for the right moment to grab it – even though that meant waiting for years. The results? A thriving gravel business with multiple pits offering a variety of products and services. But the story leading up to the company’s launch, what GMS and Faucher his partners do now and what both are going to do in the future is, pardon the pun, groundbreaking… and part of a much bigger picture.

To understand why, we must go back in time.

It’s the 1970s. A young Faucher has just launched his first business fixing office equipment such as fax machines, typewriters and cash registers. Time moved on and so did technology, so Faucher expanded the business to sell office furniture and stationery. He would later sell the business to focus on insurance and then move into real estate.

“That is when I saw the gravel pit, when I was selling real estate,” says Faucher. “I decided to keep an eye on it.”

The gravel pit he came across was in northern Alberta, but the oilsands had yet to fully explode into its full potential. However, being a visionary, Faucher knew the pit had incredible viability. All he had to do was wait; and wait he did, for more than 10 years.

With one eye on the pit and the developing oilsands up north, Faucher and his partners got busy with another venture. He opened two assisted living facilities in Calgary and operated them for 12 years.

In 2007 the gravel pit, and the timing, aligned. The opportunity arrived and Faucher grabbed it. Today, GMS Aggregates has grown to include three pits (Big Rock Quarry, Fort McMurray; Westlock Sand & Gravel Quarry, Clyde; Stone Bear Aggregates, Peace River). Products offered include base, concrete and specialty materials (treated winter sand, insulating rock, asphalt, etc.).

“We provide gravel needs for residential, commercial, industrial – everything,” says Faucher. “For lakeshore lots, sand for winter road safety, radon rocks for homebuilders, rocks for landscaping and riprap rocks to protect against water erosion. We are also increasingly providing the service of clearing farmers’ fields.”

For Faucher, the field clearing is a very special service.

“We clear quarters that have had rocks on them for more than 80 years. A rocky field produces lower yields so it is not ideal for crops or pastureland. Also, the rocks break equipment. Modern combines have some rock protection but it is still easy to do tens of thousands of dollars in damage in seconds from a single large rock. It is worthwhile to have the fields cleared by GMS. This improves yield for crops, improves pasture lands and saves equipment. Successful farms are often generational. A service such as rock clearing helps farms improve profitability and remain as part of the family’s legacy.”

Providing radon rocks also has a bigger impact than many people realize.

“Faucher explains, “Radon is a radioactive gas that forms naturally as uranium breaks down in rocks and soil. Too much radon exposure can damage your health and affect your lungs. Radon rocks are permeable so they help aerate the gas away from the building, break it down and prevent it from settling in the lower level of a home. Everyone should consider including radon rocks when building or renovating. In fact, in Alberta the inclusion of radon rocks is now a requirement.”

From road safety to home safety, to opening farmland to preventing soil erosion, GMS Aggregates is making a difference across Alberta – but it’s not all smooth sailing. As seen with many companies operating in rural spaces, a growing problem is frustrating Faucher and his team.

“Theft.” Faucher shakes his head. “Right now, people are after the equipment, the trucks, the generators… they break into the sites and steal fuel and batteries. It’s very, very frustrating.”

While theft has always been a crime of opportunity due to the remote nature of the pits, Faucher has seen a noticeable uptick since last couple of years. In fact, the thieves have grown so bold of late, they have even snatched away a fuel tank.

“We had to steam clean the tank when we got it back. You can’t have any debris in it,” says Faucher. “It’s not just us. A lot of farmers and other businesses are affected right now. It’s big – and growing – problem driven by many factors, including the drug trade. It is escalating as now some of the thieves are carrying weapons.”

But he hasn’t been in business for decades without knowing how to overcome challenges. While the thefts are frustrating, Faucher and his teams at each pit have installed a variety of deterrents to keep the equipment in, the thieves out and their people safe.

“Trenches. Steel gates. Concrete blocks. Large rocks,” he lists some of the proactive measures. “So far it is working. Challenges are a part of the job. We figure out solutions, rise above and carry on.”

Rising above and carrying on is something Faucher has done all his life and in every business he has created. With his experience spanning retail, real estate, healthcare and aggregates, he has plenty of advice and wisdom to share. He does so as a director of the Goodfish Lake Business Corporation (GLBC) and as the chair of Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG). He was very proud when GLBC received the Alberta Business Award of Distinction in 2020 in recognition of all the work that employees, community members and leadership put into the business corporation.

Faucher discusses why he is so invested in the GLBC and AEG.

“It is very important, in business, to network and share with other companies and individuals. Together, we can start or grow businesses and everyone can help each other.”

“For example,” he continues, “Not many people know that GLBC has several different companies, including one that manufactures coveralls. It also has largest dry cleaning company in Northern America, where all the coveralls for camps like Syncrude and Suncor are cleaned.

“Through AEG, business leaders come together to talk and share solutions. AEG is big on advocacy and works closely with provincial and federal governments. No matter which party is in power at the time, we can connect and work with them.

“At our AEG functions and meetings, we highly encourage networking. Personally, I have learned so much from the people I have met through AEG. Come to a meeting with a problem? You will leave with a solution. This is true no matter what business or industry you are in.”

Faucher truly has seen and done it all when it comes to business in Alberta. He has worked in several industries; successfully grown and sold several companies; sits on industry boards and gives back through volunteering, donating and supporting charitable events. With a birds-eye view of the business landscape that spans decades of growth and change, what is his take on the “Alberta Advantage?” Does the province still have “it?”

“Yes,” Faucher says firmly. “Absolutely. At times things are challenging and COVID was difficult for most businesses, including us, but Albertans are resilient. We see it all the time at AEG, how business owners are resilient and reliant.”

He points out just a few of the factors that prove this point. “As noted in Alberta’s Budget 2023 Economic Forecast, the province’s last two years of post-pandemic recovery have been robust. Our GDP is projected to grow by 2.8 per cent, which will set the lead for the rest of Canada. Also expected to set the lead is our provincial oil and gas sector. This is on top of rising population growth, which will help alleviate the current labor job shortage. Alberta’s competitive tax rate and anticipated interest rate drops will attract more businesses to Alberta and increase consumer spending. Also, Alberta still has a relatively young population, which further adds to our workforce’s viability and to our province’s advantage and overall appeal.”

He’s a humble man, which is why not many people know that the man that fixed typewriters is also the man that waited nearly a decade to purchase a gravel pit with limitless potential. They don’t realize when they pass him on the street that he started a charity golf tournament that is still going strong after 20 years. Unless you were in attendance at high-profile events such as Canada Connects, you may not recognize that he is a prolific speaker and advocate at conferences coast to coast. And unless you know him personally, you may not realize how many lives he has changed and how many he plans to change in the future.

“Our newest service with GMS, the rock picking business, is going to clean up as much agricultural land as possible so farmers can get better crops and improve their land. We are expanding what we learn here to work with developing countries to improve their land viability, agricultural systems and access to water. The more productive land is put to work anywhere in the world, the better it is for everyone involved,” Faucher smiles. “Change the land, change the world.”

He’s not done giving back either.

“My goal right now is to focus on increasing membership for AEG and bring more businesses in so we can all learn together, share and grow. We have trips planned to Washington, Montreal, Nevada and Ottawa. We will be visiting ports and factories, meeting the governments and having sessions with business owners. It’s all about sharing ideas and learning different ways of doing things.”

But that’s not all. He is very excited about another venture he and his business partners have underway. It’s Westgate Developments Ltd., which will oversee the development of commercial and residential property in Westlock.

That just leaves one question. How does he do it?

Faucher laughs, admitting that through it all he still has time to help out with the grandchildren and spend quality time with his friends and family.

“I’m passionate about what I do but the most important thing is to have integrity. If you say you are going to do something, do it. That is true if you promise to speak at a convention, take your granddaughter to dance class, deliver gravel to a client or show up at a charitable event. If you say it, make sure it happens.”

He gives his signature, contagious grin as he concludes, “And yes, one does have to be very efficient in time management to handle it all.”

Learn more about GMS Aggregates at gmsaggregatesinc.ca, GLBC at gflbc.ca and AEG at albertaenterprisegroup.com.

Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to join Alberta Enterprise Group. This is an organization that connects Alberta’s business leaders with decision makers and stakeholders across the province. Get the “Alberta Advantage” with AEG’s networking, support and advocacy. Have an active role in influencing your own success and the success of other businesses in the province.

Interested in learning more? Start by attending an event; some are open to non-members. See upcoming events on the AEG website.