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The Unstoppable Power of Valard

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Barkley Adams, president/CEO of Valard. Laughing Dog Photography.

Valard is a different type of utility contractor with the ability to handle any project, any size, anywhere. Offering more than 30 industry solutions and enjoying a local and a global presence, this Albertan company was born to be a leader in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) field.

The story of Valard started in 1978 when Victor Budzinski founded the company in Grande Prairie. The Valard difference was quickly apparent as the agile company grew at a rapid rate and within five years was awarded a major contract in British Columbia. During the 80s and 90s, growth continued as Valard swept through Western Canada with a plethora of contracts for the maintenance and construction of power systems. Soon Valard was also active in the far north, operating in the Yukon and North West Territories.

In 2010 Victor appointed Adam Budzinski as president and CEO. That was also the year the company joined Quanta Services Inc. Through acquiring more than 200 companies, Quanta became the largest utility contractor in the world. The strategic move to join Quanta significantly increased Valard’s resources and range of services.

Today those services are provided by a team of over 3,000, from Alberta to Norway and beyond. Valard continues to enjoy success after success, including being awarded North America’s largest EPC electric transmission project in 2015 (which was completed without any loss time incidents, ahead of schedule and on budget), and entering the tropical storm restoration market in 2018.

Although primarily known as a power system contractor, Valard also has a significant presence in general trades, civil construction, and telecommunications. As a full EPC company, Valard saves clients millions of dollars by offering a full range of in-house construction, foundation, geomatic, and engineering (substations, lines, civil) services, while never wavering from the values of safety, efficiency, quality, and working within clients’ budgets and deadlines.

This year sees another landmark event for Valard. In June, Barkley Adams stepped into the role of president and CEO, and he is excited to continue the company’s 40+ years of excellence.

“I’ve been with Valard since Quanta amalgamated McGregor Construction into Valard in January of 2015. Prior to that, I was president of McGregor Construction, where I’d been working since 1988,” says Adams. “I was approached by Quanta to take the reins of the president/CEO role after Adam Budzinski’s departure.  Founder Victor’s legacy will continue to pay dividends for Valard well into the future.  I have the support of the people of Valard, making the transition seamless and positive. Valard began as a family business and that feeling will be maintained, even as our employee numbers continue to climb into the thousands.”

Adams thought his job in construction would be transitional, but after entering the work force, he found his place in the industry and decided to stay.

“The people and the type of work has kept me stimulated.  Every day and every project is unique in itself and has provided challenges that continue to grab my attention and interest.  Once you have built one power line, one tends to want to continue to build more.  It’s a unique industry with a lot of pride and patriotism.”

With the scope and size of Valard, Adams has a lot on his plate, but he has a unique way of balancing the load.

“I try to find a way to bring humour into every situation – I think it’s one of the great things we all share, and it breaks down barriers between people and groups without even trying!”

He continues, “I’m always inspired when I see our people engaged in communicating and planning at all levels; seeing our people working outside in conditions of -35◦C with a wind chill and finishing difficult tasks to give us the ability to have electricity at home every night.”

The team, from the management to administration to the field, work hard to meet the daily challenges of their projects, and the challenges brought on by an ever-changing economy.

Adams cites, “Ensuring that we succeed in our three major upcoming projects and that we position ourselves to be competitive in a challenging economy,” as priorities, but also enjoys what he finds the most rewarding about Valard, which is, “Watching such a diverse group of experts and specialists work together, respect each other’s contributions and achieve successful results.”

To be an effective leader, Adams knows the importance of sustainable growth, and also knows that growth can only come from a healthy, cohesive team.

“I personally reinforce the importance of work/life balance at every employee gathering. As far as maintaining our quality, we place a lot of value on experience and, while Valard has a lot of young people, we also have a core of very senior tradespeople, engineers, and executives that have grown with the company or have been brought in through our acquisitions over the years,” he informs.

He also recognizes that growth is tied to Alberta’s resources, even when those resources are at the heart of political debate. While many foreign investments are leaving the province and the country, Valard’s stance is to stand up for Alberta and advocate for continued investment and promotion of the resources that have provided jobs and sustainability for so many years. Recognizing that oil and gas deadlocks also affect the electrical industry, Valard has taken the forward-looking steps of diversifying revenue streams and preparing to face whatever the future brings.

“Alberta is oil and oil needs pipelines.  Without progress on these, there’s no need for the related power. We, like everyone in Alberta, are dependent on oil getting to market,” Adams says firmly. “In addition, the renewable sector is considering replacing coal fired power generation with greener sources. This will require distribution, substations and transmission components to connect to the Alberta grid.”

No matter what happens in the future, Valard is poised to keep growing and succeeding, thanks to a long-range vision and strategic planning backed by the success major projects such as the Fort McMurray West 500 kV transmission line (WFMAC), the East-West Tie and Watay projects in Ontario, and several new initiatives in America, Australia, and Europe.

Adams points out, “Customer service means making our clients successful; my definition of a client includes considering them a partner in the project. I believe our goals are the same as our customers’, which is to complete our work safely, on budget, on time and with excellent quality.”

Valard is very proud of its work with Indigenous communities. The past and present CEOs feel that, “We have a longstanding commitment of providing benefits to Indigenous communities regardless of where we work and regardless of the requirements of our clients. Our vision of a project built through traditional territory is that when the project is complete the community should feel that not only were they consulted, but it is something they have helped to deliver on their own terms; as opposed to a further monument to injustice. If members of a community can drive past a transmission line and feel it is something they are proud of, as opposed to something that was imposed on them, it will increase the likelihood that the transmission facility owner is invited back to construct on that territory again. We feel social responsibility relative to our company’s activities, as well as those undertaken by our industry as a whole.”

Adams also says, “From the point of view of the other topics of social responsibility such as carbon footprints, Valard is positioned in such a way that it stands to be a major beneficiary of the electrical infrastructure build-out that is required to displace our current dependence on carbon intensive sources of energy.”

This commitment to the communities it serves, its own team, and the environment has been robustly recognized in the industry.

“Back in December of 2014 when Alberta Powerline (a Valard/ATCO partnership) won the bid for WFMAC, which including two substations from Edmonton to Fort McMurray, it was considered to be the largest EPC electric transmission project ever awarded in North America,” says Adams. “We’re quite proud of that and so far, this world class project has been recognized with the following:

  • P3 Deal of the Year by Project Finance International
  • IGlobal’s Transmission Deal of the Year Award
  • Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board’s Top Employer of Indigenous Apprentices Award
  • Canadian Council National Awards for Public-Private Partnerships – Project Financing Award
  • Featured in the Great Canadian Projects Issue of Piling Canada
  • Included in ReNew Canada’s Top 100 Infrastructure Projects
  • Centre of Excellence’s Award as an Innovative Projects
  • At the Fort McMurray Construction Awards:
    • Young Construction Executive Leadership – Brett Smit
    • Outstanding Woman in Construction – Honourable Mention for Seema Taylor
    • Trade Contractor of the Year
    • Project Over $50 M. Achievement Award

 

Adams is humbled and grateful for the industry recognition that shows he and the Valard team are doing the right things, ethically, efficiently, and purposely-driven, both locally and abroad.

Valard has seen many changes during it’s first 41 years of operation. From its humble beginnings in Grande Prairie to becoming one of the most recognized names in EPC on the planet, this company will continue to light up communities wherever it goes.

“We are very passionate in finding new ways and places that we can put our project teams to work,” Adams concludes with a smile.

Learn more about how Valard connects people and powers communities by visiting www.valard.com.

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