BA Blacktop was founded in 1956 in Northern Vancouver, at first operating as only a paving company. In the intervening years, they have evolved into one of the most successful, diverse and progressive road building contractors and transportation infrastructure design and build contractors in Metro Vancouver. That evolution was bolstered in 2009, when they were purchased by Eurovia, a subsidiary of VINCI. Today, BA Blacktop – along with their parent company – is a leader in highways, airports rail infrastructure and urban development.
Though BA Blacktop is a Vancouver-based company, their work is not limited to British Columbia, or even Canada – they have done projects as far as Prince Rupert and the Bahamas, and have been contacted by owner-representatives in Northern Canada seeking their services. “We’ll go as far as we can go to be successful,” says Kim Percy, Vice President.
Percy has been in the transportation industry since he was 18 years old, and started with BA Blacktop in 1985, when he was hired on as a foreman. “I was lucky enough to get involved with a group of people that just kept looking forward.”
At BA Blacktop, opportunities are given to employees. Percy says it is up to them whether they want to take advantage or not. His own rise through company ranks is proof of that. “That’s how I got started and where my success came from,” he says.
“Our culture is such that we’re an equal opportunity employer,” he continues. “We think that we should hire the right people at the entry level positions and allow them to work their way up through the company, as a lot of us have done.” Percy is far from the only example. They have managers who started as superintendants, and superintendants that started as operators. Even BA Blacktop’s CEO, Kees Van Der Werff, started as a superintendant back in 1982.
“We have quite a history of people moving up through the job, and they get the support of all their peers,” Percy says. Employees are also supported through on-the-job learning, and extracurricular education is promoted through professional associations and technical institutions. “We certainly have some rules,” explains Percy. “They have to apply themselves and get passing grades, but if they do we’re more than happy to invest in that. They get the knowledge and we get the benefits of that knowledge.”
That investment in employees pays off in a number of ways, particularly staff retention. They currently have over 200 people working for them, and many have received 10, 20 and 30 year service awards. Last year a foreman of theirs even retired with 40 years of service with BA Blacktop. “Having that amount of people around with those years of service speaks volumes to the culture we have around here,” Percy says. That culture is extremely valuable in an industry where skilled labour shortages are a major challenge.
That employee-company relationship is what sets BA Blacktop apart in the marketplace internally. Externally, they are differentiated by their history of steady growth – a record that inspires confidence in potential clients. They also have good relationship with a lot of local governments, cities, and even the province of BC.
None of those advantages are as important as offering a low price, Percy says. He also says the key to offering a low price while still being successful is by being good – which BA Blacktop is, and they are always getting better. “The bottom line is we have to keep honing our skills,” says Percy. “We’ve got to be the best at what we do, so that we can find ways, specifically in design-build, to come in with what the owner wants at a price that beats the competition.”
A successful example of the company pulling that off is the recent Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Combo project they have started up in Surrey and Langley. “It’s three major bridges over the railway over a secondary highway, and over some environmentally sensitive areas,” Percy explains. That project will be in the area of 70 million dollars. “It’s one of those situations where we were cheaper, and we gave the owner the type of project he wanted.”
In general, BA Blacktop has the staff, capabilities and expertise to manage both small and large-scale projects – according to Percy, there are almost no instances where they can’t give an owner the type of project they want. Their team is extremely knowledgeable in working adjacent to high traffic volumes and within constricted work and staging areas. “We pride ourselves on being able to provide expertise and professionalism to a project team looking for innovative solutions to challenging projects.”
For the near future, BA Blacktop has their sights set on a number of other projects where they can apply their solution-creating skills, and the possibilities are vast. Being a part of Eurovia and VINCI broadens their horizon considerably. “If we can put together a good business plan, they’re willing to look at all kinds of projects,” Percy says. He reiterates that they have already been approached from all over, and that he finds that fact gratifying. “We see with the diversity of our company that we’re ready to take on all sorts of projects, near and far.”