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Piling Canada Q4 is here!

Innovative Piling Solutions, Saskatchewan's largest piling company, sets its sights on going national to give back to their community

By Jess Campbell

What’s it like to do what you love for a living? There aren’t many people who can answer that question honestly; not many people love what they do. Banain Cote, vice president of Innovative Piling Solutions in Martensville, Sask., can answer it with as much honesty as you’d expect from a person who has a true passion for their job. But it wasn’t always that way.

Growing up, Cote was privy to the hard work and dedication that it takes for a person to be a successful entrepreneur. His parents, Rob and Brenda Cote, owned and operated Active Auger Services Ltd. from 2001 to 2007, growing it to a multi-million dollar company with just 12 employees.

“I remember watching dad work hard and work long hours,” he said. “Back then, they had the black and white screens on the Blackberry and the headsets that went with them. For the first two years of the business, I could never figure out if dad was talking to me or to one of his clients!”

Rob, a civil engineering technologist, put Active Auger Services on the map when he became the first person to bring helical steel screwpiles to the province. But life and business took its toll when Rob’s health began to decline. With expressed interest from a national construction company to acquire the business compounding the news of his failing health, Rob and Brenda made the life-changing decision to sell Active Auger Services and leave the piling business for good – or so they thought.

Back in the game
At the time of the sale, Banain Cote was heading off to university with dreams of becoming a teacher. It didn’t take long for him to realize that teaching wasn’t his dream after all, so he decided to take some time off and travel abroad. Upon returning to the prairies, Cote ventured to Alberta for work in the piling industry in the oilfield. It was this experience that spurred him to return home and start his own piling company. Finally, Cote was excited about what he was doing for a living.

“Upon starting Innovative Piling Solutions, I thought to myself that if I was going to do something for the rest of my life, I wanted it to be cool,” he said. “I wanted to get excited about the work I was doing. I feel that way every day now when I come to work.”

Cote started Innovative Piling Solutions Limited (IPS) in May 2012 in conjunction with Rob and Brenda. After completing the civil engineering technology program at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SCIAST, now referred to as Saskatchewan Polytechnic), he returned to the company as VP, with Rob sitting as president and Brenda operating the administrative side of the business.

“My parents and I work flawlessly together,” said Cote. “Our different experiences in piling and business create a nice juxtaposition between forward-thinking and traditional business. Very rarely do we have differing opinions on something. We have a great set-up, a great division of responsibilities.”

The go-to expertise
Throughout the piling industry, IPS is known as the go-to company.

“We’re the guys that deal with the projects that no one else wants to do, the ones that other companies say are impossible,” said Cote. For example, engineering firms in Saskatoon called IPS for an outside consult on a newly constructed complex that was in structural distress. To resolve the issue, IPS, in conjunction with their consultant, designed and installed 240 screwpiles inside the parking garage of the complex that had only seven feet of clearance.

“We went in and installed all 240 screwpiles in sections of three, four and five sections per pile, totalling 960 sections,” said Cote. “The mechanical room in particular had an access opening that was just five feet wide. There were 13 piles to put in there. We ended up just being able to squeeze inside the maintenance room and put in all 13 screwpiles right down to full depth. It was so small, they had to take out a notch of the floor above so we could drop a hydro vac down into the maintenance room. That room had all of the gas, electrical and complete heating system in it. The entire heating system for the building had to be removed. They had to expose all of the gas and water lines, all of the fibre optic lines, and we worked with SaskPower and SaskEnergy to move those lines so we could go in and get those piles in to reinforce the basement wall of the building. In the end, IPS finished under the expected budget and three days ahead of schedule.”

IPS not only works on large projects but also strives to be the company that individuals will call on as well.

“We do general production piling for condos and high-rises, but we also offer solutions for people, such as foundation consultations and remediation,” said Cote. “We will look at someone’s problem and fix it for them in the most economical way possible, regardless of size.”

According to Cote, another huge reason why IPS is called on to help in so many different situations is because of the staff. The team at IPS is ready to help on whatever type of project as soon as they can.

“Last year, we had a fellow construction company call us, asking for help with a job that was happening up in northern Manitoba,” he said. “The temperature was -50 Celsius. [Our crew] got the call on Friday evening and by Sunday morning, they were on their way to help.”

The family-oriented atmosphere fostered by Cote, Rob and Brenda extends all through the company. Most of their staff live and raise their families in Martensville. Cote attributes the small town roots of IPS (and Active Auger before it) to creating a close-knit, trustworthy camaraderie among the employees.

“The heartbeat of what we do is our staff. Without their dedication and hard work, there’s no way we’d be where we are today,” he said

The path ahead
The last four years at IPS have been nothing short of fantastic, according to Cote. He hopes to continue that momentum, but is also looking at expanding the business – first to neighbouring provinces and then nationally. To reach this milestone, he has recently taken on a more active role in business development, forging new relationships with clients and construction companies alike. Cote also hopes to move into specialty piles and micropiling. But aside from expanding the business for himself, his parents and his staff, he also wants to expand it for the community of Martensville as a way of giving back to the city that’s been so supportive to both IPS and Active Auger Services. He understands that a thriving business offering steady work to its employees and steady capital for the economy is one that will only help the community thrive.

“I believe that everything we do is for our community,” said Cote.

As he continues to develop IPS, Cote is still in awe of the little things that help keep him loving his job day after day.

“One of my favourite things to do is go to a site and watch what’s happening,” he said. “The ground is shaking, there are huge pieces of equipment being manoeuvered around, people are standing around and staring at what’s going on – a massive structure is being put together. It’s cool!”

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.