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A concrete decision

Tom Kentz says his company’s inability to keep pace with demand is costing it millions of dollars in sales. So it’s moving aggressively to plug the leak.

Precision Precast Ltd., which currently operates in Lacombe as Precision Projects Ltd., plans to build a $15-million plant in Ponoka County.

It’s struck a deal to buy 52 acres north of Wolf Creek Golf Resort and has applied to county council to have the parcel rezoned to rural industrial from agricultural.

If all goes according to plan, said Kentz, work on the new plant will begin next month and it will be operational by spring — helping to fill a market void when it comes to precast and hollow-core concrete products.

“We’ll have one of the largest hollow-core machines in Western Canada,” he said, adding that the facility is expected to serve an area extending from Manitoba to British Columbia.

Precision currently produces precast concrete products at Lacombe, but not nearly enough to keep pace with demand.

“We turn away probably $15 million a year, which is crazy,” said Kentz, who owns the private company with partners Harold Jahn, Fred Belt and Del Grovet. “That’s why we took the leap to go bigger into the precast side.”

Although precast concrete has been used for decades, it’s growing in popularity because its cost has remained constant relative to other building materials. Insulated concrete also has a very high R-value — even qualifying for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, added Kentz, and precast concrete buildings can be constructed quickly.

“Most buildings will take six to nine months (using traditional materials); in most cases precast is done in three months, all complete.”

In addition to commercial and industrial buildings, precast concrete has become common in residential buildings.

“We’ve got about 2,500 homes to produce out of precast already,” said Kentz of the residential market.

Precision’s existing operations will move to the new Ponoka site, which Kentz said is centrally located and has good access to transportation routes. Ponoka County has been very good to deal with, he added.

County council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning application next Tuesday.

Charlie Cutforth, the county’s chief administrative officer, said Precision’s project is appealing because it would help spread the municipality’s economic base beyond agriculture and energy.

“Diversity is critical. We’ve seen what happens when the oil business goes south for a while.”

Cutforth said there’s been a great deal of interest in the Hwy 2 corridor for industrial and commercial development

“We have inquiries on a fairly regular basis from various businesses.”

As for Precision, Kentz and his partners are already looking farther afield, with plans to build another plant at Campbell River, B.C. Others could follow.

“We’ll be expanding to every province in Western Canada,” said Kentz.



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