Building British Columbia
NEEL-CO Builders (2014) Ltd Inc is an award-winning heavy civil infrastructure company that produces high quality finished projects. They work mainly for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and specialize in a wide variety of structural works, including: bridge construction, bridge replacements, bridge rehabilitation, culvert reinforcement and replacement, bridge demolition, water reservoirs, and anything to do with concrete.
The Chilliwack, British Columbia-based company has grown steadily since being founded in 1980 by current owner and President John Neels. According to Chantay Neels − Mr. Neels’ daughter-in-law and Project Manager for the company – NEEL-CO has increased its workforce over the years from four to six employees to upwards of 20-plus, depending on their workload. Today, they typically have between four to five major projects on the go at any given time and work practically anywhere across their vast home province.
NEEL-CO has successfully completed a number of impressive projects showing the diversity of their capabilities. Recently, such projects include bridge building for Rogers Creek Bridge in Port Alberni, bridge replacement for Hummingbird Creek Bridge near Highway 97A, the demolition of Old Spences Bridge south of Ashcroft and construction of the Keremeos Water Reservoir in Keremeos. They were also nominated for Contractor of the Year 2014 by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for their bridge deck overlay work on the Nimpkish River Bridge in Port McNeill.
“Mike Neels, Site Foreman was able to finish the project a month prior to completion,” Mrs. Neels recalled. “The ministry rep was very happy with the work that we did, and nominated us for that award. For NEEL-CO to be put up for an award like that meant a lot to everyone involved with that project.”
Mrs. Neels was also quick to credit the full NEEL-CO team − including their suppliers and subcontractors − for the nomination, indicating that they play a very big part in the success of every project the company takes on. Although they generally go to market to acquire the best available prices with every project they bid on, NEEL-CO does use a few core suppliers and subcontractors on a regular basis who are integral to their operation.
Quality is key
Since its inception, NEEL-CO has built its reputation on the quality of its work, earning a great deal of repeat business from happy clients. As Mrs. Neels explained, the company views each project as an opportunity to strengthen their working relationship with everyone involved in a spirit of partnership, and to collectively enhance our corporate reputations.
“It’s all about quality,” she affirmed. “John has been in this industry for a long time and he has always said that quality is key. We always ensure that quality is number one with our projects.”
This focus on quality means providing the “best onsite crews possible.” In addition to employing approximately 15 permanent fulltime crew members, NEEL-CO hires additional labourers from local communities to help manage the workload. In this regard, the company supports First Nations participation as often as possible, providing workers from First Nations bands with employment opportunities because they’re always willing to work hard.
To further safeguard their quality, NEEL-CO ensures that these onsite crews are overseen by the best quality management staff. At the head of that team is John himself, who has over 35 years of construction experience and a very successful track record of delivering high quality outcomes on major projects. As president of NEEL-CO, he manages all ongoing projects and maintains open lines of communication at all times with the superintendent/foreman to identify any potential issues that may arise on a project and deal with them accordingly. Mr. Neels also handles estimating, cost control and business liaison issues.
Project managers are also integral to the company’s success. They are responsible for ensuring that each project runs smoothly and efficiently, and are proactive in dealing with any problems that may arise throughout the course of the project. They also handle submittals, bonds and insurance-related paperwork to keep the project moving in a timely manner, and they act as NEEL-CO’s liaison in their dealings with client representatives and company stakeholders.
Additionally, NEEL-CO understands the importance of having a highly qualified and experienced superintendent/foreman onsite for every project. They are responsible for organizing and supervising the labour force, overseeing the day-to-day construction activities and performing backup duties as required.
“If you don’t have a strong foreman who respects the employees and who has their respect in return, your project won’t work, so we make sure that from the top to the bottom it will all work together,” Mrs. Neels said.
“Health & safety is a major key for any projects that we take on,” she continued. “We have a health & safety coordinator who does all the site specific health & safety plans, safe work procedures for the tasks at hand and Fall Protection Plans to name a few. We employ an onsite certified safety officer to manage the projects and look after all the day to day safety, dealings with WorkSafe BC, and ensure that all personnel onsite are doing their job safely.”
Lastly, NEEL-CO appoints a quality control manager for each project to perform quality control onsite and to also provide quality assurance for subcontractors. QC managers thoroughly check every area of the worksite to ensure that the structure complies with the corresponding blueprints, and are also responsible for addressing any problems that may arise.
In addition to delivering exceptional quality and workmanship, NEEL-CO also incorporates leading edge environmentally sustainable methodology into their projects. The company goes above and beyond in this regard, regularly working with an environmental consultant to ensure their work does not negatively impact the surrounding ecology.
“Howard Ratzlaff from HCR Environmental Consulting does the majority of our environmental plans,” said Mrs. Neels. “He is the one that comes to make sure that we are doing as much as we can to preserve the environment we live in. He has also trained a number of our employees to do the daily onsite monitoring.”
Moreover, NEEL-CO prioritizes establishing and maintaining excellent worksite safety conditions. The company recently became a member of the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance and has received their WorkSafeBC Certificate of Recognition in 2013. They also employ a fulltime construction safety officer/safety manager to bolster the management and administration of their safety program.
Currently, NEEL-CO is utilizing these leading edge practices for their ongoing projects, which include work on the Malakwa Suspension Bridge, Luxor Creek Bridge, Heart Creek Bridge and Philip Avenue Overpass. Beyond that, Mrs. Neels said she expects the company to keep progressing as they continue to impress clients throughout the province.
“We would like to continue to grow,” she concluded. “We’re a smaller company that’s growing a little bit every year and if we can just keep doing that over the next five years, we’ll be able to get more bonding and possibly be able to do even larger projects compared to what we’re doing now.”