CEO Ron Ward says IPAC Services learned some tough lessons in 2008, but at least those lessons were actually learned
When Ron Ward brought IPAC Services out of the 2008 recession, he told his family he’d never go through that again. IPAC, a construction and maintenance company working in the oil and gas, forestry, mining and power generation sectors, had laid off a lot of employees. It had been growing quickly and the recession left IPAC “in survival mode,” Ward says.
Ward aimed to “build up a war chest,” and the strategy has worked: IPAC has secured a strong enough market share that even in the current downturn, it has invested in employees and assets, taking advantage of both the availability of quality talent and the buyer’s market for machinery. With 11 locations, most of which are in the Grande Prairie region, IPAC has logistics centre and an electrical and instrumentation wing. It’s buttressed by an outpost in Fort St. John, B.C., that’s having a record year for profits. In Alberta, IPAC is anticipating 15 to 20 per cent growth in 2015, and its number of employees through the winter was markedly similar to pre-2008 levels. “Our bid volume hasn’t dropped,” Ward says.
When IPAC began operations in 1989, people told its founders they were crazy. But its ascent in the industry – through steady expansion, acquisitions and diversification – has proved that the boom-and-bust cycle need not be a death sentence for small businesses inextricably tied to oil and gas. “The energy sector, and what we do, never dries up and goes away,” Ward says. “It just becomes more challenging when commodity prices go down. Those that buckle down and do the good work survive, and those that were in it for the good time, not the long time, fall to the wayside.”