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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Contractor on prestigious list

FWS Group Manitoba's only winner for 2013

Posted: 03/27/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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FWS Group of Companies' Troy Valgardson, left, and George Depres are proud of their firm's status as one of Canada's best managed companies in 2013.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

FWS Group of Companies' Troy Valgardson, left, and George Depres are proud of their firm's status as one of Canada's best managed companies in 2013. Photo Store

A Winnipeg design-build contractor whose revenue has grown 60 to 70 per cent in the last seven years is the only Manitoba company named to Canada's Best Managed Companies list for 2013.

FWS Group of Companies was among 47 firms named to this year's list, considered one of the country's premier business awards programs.

The program, sponsored by Deloitte, CIBC Commercial Banking, the National Post and Queen's School of Business, recognizes excellence in management abilities and practices in Canadian-owned-and-managed companies with annual revenue of more than $10 million.

Richard Soenen, Deloitte partner and Manitoba leader for the Best Managed program, said one or two Manitoba companies typically make the list each year, so the fact there was only one for 2013 is not unusual.

Soenen said he and the other local program officials usually talk to between 10 and 18 potential applicants each year in Manitoba to see if they would be interested in applying.

"Some decide they're not quite ready and some decide they're not interested (in applying)," he said, noting "you have to earn your way onto the (Best Managed) list."

This is the first time FWS applied, and company vice-president George Depres admitted it was no walk in the park.

"They look pretty deep under the hood and ask a lot of very good questions. When you put together your application, it has to be very detailed, and you have to be able to back it up."

Depres said the program has a heavy focus on employee relations, such as how well a company works with its employees and how it treats them. He said FWS believes its roughly 400 employees are its greatest strength, so it strives to keep them happy and engaged.

The judges also look at factors such as revenue growth and an applicant's ability to take the steps necessary to ensure long-term growth and development.

Depres said FWS's revenues have grown 60 to 70 per cent in the last seven years, hitting $165 million in 2013. The company expects to surpass the $200-million mark within the next two or three years.

The FWS Group of Companies, seven in all, design and build a variety of buildings.

For example, its Sunstone Resort Communities Corp. builds condominium complexes and also built the recently completed Mere Boutique Hotel/Cibo's Restaurant on Waterfront Drive.

The bulk of the group's work is with industrial buildings, and one of its specialties is designing and building slip-form concrete, high-throughput grain elevators and port terminals.

Depres estimated FWS has built at least half the grain elevators on the Prairies over the last 25 years, and it's working on the expansion of Richardson International's West Coast port terminal.

Although the company has worked on projects in a number of U.S. states in the 61 years it's been in business, its primary market is Western Canada.

"The western Canadian economy has been very healthy in recent years, so you don't have to go too far afield," Depres said. "We've been very busy in Western Canada and we expect to remain busy for the next few years."

Soenen noted the Best Managed program operates as a kind of club. Those who make the list must requalify each year in order to remain in the Best Managed club.

There are currently 18 other Manitoba companies that have made the list in the past and have re-qualified from one to seven or more times.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2014 B5

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