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Stantec: Our evolution from 1 person to a global firm

September 26, 2018

By Keith Shillington

Embracing our Edmontonian roots in the new Stantec Tower

When Stantec was founded by Dr. Don Stanley in 1954, it started as a one-person firm. Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, our Company was mostly focused on civil engineering pursuits and projects in the water and wastewater sector.

Our firm flourished during a 1970s boom but faced a tough recession in the ’80s as we struggled to adapt to a new national energy mandate. Those were very taxing times for Alberta, particularly for Stantec as we had to cut our staff in half. But in the midst of crisis, Dr. Stanley and his leadership team used the recession as an opportunity to reflect and recalibrate.

Installing our brand—one step on our way to a new home in the Stantec Tower.

That’s when we knew we had to foster diversity into our Company strategy—not only across business lines but across different geographies. We changed course midway through the ’90s. By then, Stantec had grown to over 1,000 employees and expanded across Canada and into the United States. The Company went public and joined the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) in 1994.

Now, after years of diversification, key acquisitions, and successful projects, Stantec has grown, with 400 offices across 6 continents and more than 28,000 employees.

The Edmonton connection

Our Company’s roots have always been firmly planted in Edmonton—we share a deep connection with this City and the resiliency its shown over the years.

Like us, Edmonton has traditionally been vulnerable to the boom/bust nature of economic pressures. In fact, the City fell victim to the same sharp recession that impacted Stantec’s operations in the mid-’80s. Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, Edmonton’s downtown district was missing the spark and excitement that residents and visitors saw in other cities.

But as Alberta’s oil industry began to stabilize, Edmonton’s downtown started to rebound. New condominiums were in development. Restaurants started springing up in the City core. And then in 2009, Edmonton saw a proposal for a new multipurpose downtown arena.

Among those gathered for Stantec Tower’s commercial topping off, from left: Glen Scott, president of Katz Group Real Estate; Keith Shillington, Stantec senior vice president; Dan Lefaivre, Stantec executive vice president and chief financial officer; and Gord Johnston, Stantec president and CEO.

A towering achievement

Headed up by Edmonton Oilers owner and Katz Group CEO Daryl Katz, ICE District was conceived to bring a breath of fresh air to the City. The ambitious proposal for new arena, hotel, and public plaza excited Edmontonians, and more urban development was fixed to follow.

Enter Stantec Tower. We were seeking out opportunities to consolidate our Edmonton offices, so we put out a Request for Proposal for what would become our Company’s new headquarters. When we saw that there was an opportunity to be part of the downtown revitalization in Edmonton’s booming ICE District, the idea to design and construct Canada’s tallest tower outside of Toronto became reality.

Our Company’s roots have always been firmly planted in Edmonton—we share a deep connection with this City and the resiliency its shown over the years.

Since excavation started in 2015, we have witnessed Stantec Tower rise and rise, completely—and permanently—changing our Edmonton skyline. Now, it serves as a symbol for what we have accomplished in unity with this City—we are truly better together. And in many ways, it reflects who we are as a Company today.

1. It’s a monument to our community connections: We’re proud of the progress we’ve made as a Company in the last several years, and the Tower emulates that. It serves as a testament to our continued commitment to the communities we serve and call home.

2. It shows we walk the talk: We are committed to demonstrating all forms of design excellence. From structural and mechanical engineering to interior design, we made a point of researching and implementing creative, innovative, and forward-thinking ideas.

3. It’s a source of employee pride: Stantec Tower is a huge point of pride for all the engineers and designers who were fortunate enough to work on it. But, it’s an iconic building that our entire Company can be proud of, whether you’re in Edmonton or across the globe.

4. It attracts talented new hires: Yes, the Tower will be on the leading edge of innovation, but it also occupies the most exciting real estate in Edmonton right now. Being in ICE District connects our staff with an abundance of dining and entertainment options that take Stantec Tower beyond just an office environment.

Keith Shillington, senior vice president, talks with reporters after Stantec Tower reached grade.

A shared success

Stantec has worked to positively impact Edmonton for more than 60 years—we’ve lived the ups and downs with this City. We’ve designed and managed new roadways, public transit projects, community neighborhoods, water systems, and buildings projects that have enabled this City to grow and adapt to changing infrastructure needs. Now, with Stantec Tower, we have demonstrated to all of Edmonton that our continued commitment to this City is personal. And that is what we are most proud of at Stantec.

  • Keith  Shillington

    A senior land development engineer, Keith has spent 30 years improving the communities he’s worked with. He also serves as the financial lead on cost sharing agreements for ownership groups.

    Contact Keith
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