Propak Systems, one of Airdrie’s longest standing businesses, is commemorating its 45th anniversary this year, having grown from a small family-run company, to become the city’s largest employer.
The company, which specializes in the engineering, construction, commission, and service of energy processing equipment and plants, is Canada’s largest manufacturer of its kinds and is a key player in Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Propak boasts 1,100 employees worldwide, including a considerable chunk of them in Airdrie.
The company was established 45 years ago, when president Rod McPike moved the business from a small bay in northeast Calgary to east Airdrie. It was one of the only buildings on the east side of the highway at the time.
McPike, now chief financial officer at Propak, said some key factors to the company’s longevity have been its employee base and ability to adapt and compete across the world.
“As far as being able to survive and thrive and compete in this industry that’s so volatile, it’s really the ability to compete globally,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve seen many crashes, [we’ve] survived many, even over the last 10 years.
“I think anyone familiar with the oil and gas industry knows we’ve been through some serious recessions – we try to be flexible and we’re able to compete anywhere in the world.”
According to Sara Chamberlain, Economic Development team leader with the City of Airdrie, the City is “really proud” that Propak has called Airdrie home for over four decades.
“Propak has historically been our largest employer,” she said. “They’ve provided hundreds of jobs to local residents, which in itself is a tremendous economic impact to the community.
“Everything from engineers to welders to business professionals are employed in Airdrie, and that provides really excellent employment opportunities for our residents.”
Chamberlain said of the 1,100 employees at Propak, hundreds of them call Airdrie and the surrounding area home. And while the majority of the employees work in eight manufacturing and office facilities in Airdrie, the remaining staff provide field services, sales, and construction support for Propak’s projects worldwide.
She added Propak’s contributions to the economic development of the city can also be contributed to their ownership of a large portion of land in East Lake Industrial Park.
“Propak owns many parcels of land in Airdrie,” she said. “They have [approximately] 70 acres of land, which means they’re a significant contributor to our non-residential taxes in Airdrie, so that’s very significant to the City and to residents.”
In addition, Chamberlain said Propak has also been an important community supporter at a number of key events and community initiatives in Airdrie, including the Airdrie Festival of Lights and local sporting events.
“They really do give back to our city and that is very hard to quantify, but invaluable to our non-profit organizations and to the community as a whole,” she added. “They’re a very humble company – they're a quiet leader in Airdrie in terms of employment and community support.”
Chamberlain said the company has shown “tremendous” resiliency in its 45-year history, especially during a volatile time in the oil and gas industry in recent years.
“You don’t make it for 45 years without constantly evolving and improving and making changes with the times,” she said. “I think the fact they have been in one community and [have] grown to this extent shows they have the business acumen to be a long-standing, successful company.”
McPike added the next few years in business are sure to be full of excitement, but will be hard to predict.
“We’ve got a really strong group and I’m optimistic the wheel will be able to continue to be successful as we go forward,” he said.
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy