If monsters really did run Houston’s Monster Industries, the Incredible Hulk would be a great fit for the top job. By every measure, the young industrial services and construction company looks like a giant who just split through his first shirt.
Staff at Monster’s Christmas party jumped from six to sixty last year. Finishing touches—which in this business means a pair of five-ton overhead cranes—are going into a new 8,500-square foot workshop that feels like an airplane hangar and has five times the space of the old shop floor.
But owner Kyle Thomson says there’s no super-secret to Monster’s growth. It’s all about manpower.
“When I was about my second year in, I started seeing the way the industry worked,” he said. “There’s a lot of older guys in my industry, and not a whole lot of up-and-comers at all.”
Starting as a welding outfit, Monster Industries has now gathered enough millwrights, power engineers and heavy-duty mechanics to take on some of the biggest industrial jobs in B.C.
One crew is finishing a major mechanical installation at Endako mine, part of a $400-million expansion.
Another crew is getting set to build a copper dam up at Forest Kerr, a $700-million power station that will be the largest run-of-river project in North America.
Still, a lot of Monster’s work comes from much closer to home.
“Houston is fantastic for supporting local,” says Kenny Thomson, who was supervising a dig at Huckleberry Mine every day last week. “Huckleberry Mine—it’s impressive. Same with Canfor and HFP.”
Today, with Huckleberry expanding in its backyard and several other mines expected to start in the region, Houston looks like a perfect place to set up shop.
“I think it actually benefits us more than people think,” said Kyle Thomson. “We’re less than a day’s drive to any major project in B.C. right now.”
But none of that was clear in 2008. Many people, Kyle included, wondered if he was crazy to start up at the height of a global recession.
As it turned out, the recession opened a lot of doors.
Suddenly, big companies were willing to take a chance on a junior contractor who could help trim their labour costs.
As the economy picked up steam and Monster got more experience, the quality of their work rose to the point where they can now outbid established contractors from Prince George to Vancouver.
“It’s going to be fun,” says Kenny Thomson, sitting in the Monster Industries office with his sleeves rolled up and plenty of dirt on his hands.
“I enjoy it, every day,” he said, smiling. “You work 16 to 18 hours a day, and as long as my wife is happy, I’m happy too.”
Looking ahead, Kyle Thomson said the big challenge for Monster Industries will be the same one facing all the northwest—finding enough people in skilled trades.
“That’s huge,” he said. “We could put fifty more guys to work if we could find them.”
And even as he steps into Monster’s giant new workshop, Thomson said he can see the day coming when they’ll need to grow again.
“I can honestly say that in about a year, we’re going to be out of space,” he said.
“We can see the writing on the wall for a boom, the way the northwest is going, and we built bigger than we needed at the time. But now that we’re in there, we’re probably booked up three or four months. We could probably start double-shifting our shop already, if we could find the manpower to do it.”