CMR Fabricators Ltd. has opened an assembly yard on highway 42 just east of Penhold.

Oilsands work builds here

Penhold is not a place you’d associate with oilsands development. But that could soon change, thanks to the expansion plans of a Red Deer County fabrication company.

Penhold is not a place you’d associate with oilsands development. But that could soon change, thanks to the expansion plans of a Red Deer County fabrication company.

CMR Fabricators Ltd. is setting up a modular yard on the town’s eastern outskirts, with oilsands-related equipment like pumping stations to be assembled on the 14-acre parcel.

“We have mods coming in about four weeks time,” said company owner Jon Rivard.

Site preparation work is underway and construction of three fabrication buildings with a combined 12,000 square feet of space will begin shortly, he said.

CMR Fabricators, which also has a 12,000-square-foot shop in Burnt Lake Business Park, acquired the Penhold land nearly two years ago. Since then, it’s been lining up contracts and boosting its payroll.

“Our goal this summer is to get somewhere between 50 and 60 people,” said Rivard, adding that the company currently has about 10 administrative staff and another 25 employees and contract workers at its Burnt Lake Business Park shop. Others are working in the field.

“We want to bring lots of opportunity to Central Alberta for tradespeople,” said Rivard, who has both an ironworker and a steamfitter-pipefitter ticket.

In 2001, he opened a fabrication shop in Red Deer next to a business that is now called King’s Energy Services — a long-standing valve and instrumentation supply company operated by his father-in-law, Gary King. Rivard chose the name King’s Fabrication Ltd., reasoning that the strong local brand would help generate work.

He was mistaken.

“They were two different businesses. I was construction; they were more oilfield maintenance.”

Consequently, King’s Fabrication had to scratch and claw for everything that came through its doors. Rivard and his wife Tanis found themselves questioning their decision to leave good jobs to start the fabrication shop.

“It was tough.”

They persevered, however, and were rewarded with a dramatic turnaround five years in. Rivard thinks customers finally concluded that their fabrication business was there to stay and began using it.

Two years ago, CMR Fabricators’ name was adopted — drawing from the first letters of the names of Rivard’s three young daughters: Cameron, Mikah and Regan.

The company diversified beyond the traditional oil and gas sectors, and into the oilsands.

“We’re more into the heavy industrial,” said Rivard, listing steam-assisted gravity drainage systems, pumping stations and transmission lines as among its projects.

He credits James Brown, CMR Fabricators’ business development manager, for helping bring major players like Enbridge, TransCanada, Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural Resources, Shell and Albian Sands Energy to the Central Alberta shop.

It’s a competitive market, said Rivard, but CMR Fabricators has found a niche. It doesn’t go head-to-head against big public companies like WorleyParsonsCord, which operates a mod yard at Blackfalds. But it’s able to take on projects beyond the scope of smaller fabricators.

“Our target is $5-million to $20-million jobs,” said Rivard.

He sees good opportunities for his company, which recently opened an office in Edmonton.

“I think there’s huge work. We’re in negotiation on a weekly basis for different projects.”

In fact, Rivard is already contemplating expansion of CMR Fabricators’ mod yard at Penhold.

“That will be part of our plan this year, to look at maybe acquiring more land out there.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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