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Aluma Systems: Building a Community

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The ties that bind. That reference has different meanings for different people. For Aluma Systems, those words not only guide its infrastructure projects, the core of its business, but they’re also entrenched in its community work.

“The whole culture of Aluma is we’re not just a company in Fort McMurray, in the oil sands. We’re a local company within Fort McMurray,” says Mike Mayuk, area project manager.

“We work here; we live here; we play here.”

Born and raised in Fort McMurray, Mayuk has been with Aluma since 2001 after getting his start as an apprentice scaffolder.

It was when he was working his way up through the ranks he first met Mick Herke when he was the division manager. Herke is now vice-president for western Canada.

“Having him as my manager and knowing that he shares that inspiration of giving back to the community, supporting the community we live in, it kind of goes around to that whole philosophy of paying it forward,” adds Mayuk.

“This is the community that’s enhanced Aluma’s success and we’re proud to give back to this community.”

Herke observes that “The community is made up of our customers, our employees, our friends, so we’re all basically doing our bit to help develop and promote the community. That probably comes out of our loyalty to the community as such.”

Mayuk acknowledges that actually having the VP of western Canada living in the community bodes well for company morale.

“It shows us backing that he’s here. He’s there to support us every which way we need. He believes in the same kinds of things and cultures that we believe in; the biggest being that Fort McMurray is his home as well.”

Working for a company that has projects around the world, Herke could live in any major urban centre in western Canada. So why here?

“I came into Fort McMurray as the division manager for our company in May 2007, so most people who live in the Fort Mac community will be pretty uniform on their assessment of the community: The people here are really great.”

Being a part of it also gives him a better understanding of the community.

“You appreciate the community when you live here,” he maintains. “And, of course, we have such a big base of employees here that it helps with that whole development around retention of our own people when you understand what’s happening in the community.”

Herke says Aluma has about 1,200 employees currently on the payroll; 1,000 of which he calls full-time.

“We hire out of the union hall. Some of the guys have been with us so long the dispatches have yellowed over time and they’ve been basically Aluma employees ever since.”

The company does hire additional people for construction projects and maintenance turnarounds.

Aluma got its start back in 1972 when a young engineering crew were looking for a way to keep production costs down and profits up in the face of rising labour wages. The result was the Aluma Beam, a breakthrough in construction engineering that revolutionized the industry by introducing high-grade aluminum forming and shoring components to replace the traditional expensive and heavy steel equipment. There are two divisions to the company: Industrial services, and formwork and shoring.

Now, with more than 40 years of experience in more than 30 countries, Aluma improves the quality and speed of construction all over the world. It offers industrial services for refineries, power plants, tank farms, terminals, pipelines, off shore, mining, pulp and paper plants. The company can boast that no one has revolutionized on-site productivity more than Aluma.

Mayuk notes the No. 1 value for Aluma is safety.

“Then looking to the culture of our safety and quality procedures, that sets us apart from other companies of the same nature.”

Aluma says its world-class engineering team is continuously developing product enhancements for increased safety, productivity, and customer-specific design requirements.

Aluma Systems became a subsidiary of Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services in 2005.

With technological advances over the last few years, the Canadian oil sands have become a crucial contributor to the world’s potential oil supply. From the power and process plants needed to convert the bituminous sands to synthetic crude oil, to the infrastructure needed to transport it to refineries across North America and the continued upgrades those refineries require to process this heavier oil, Aluma has a full spectrum of integrated specialty services for any capital projects, refurbishments, turnarounds, outages and maintenance projects in the oil sands market.

The realm of those specialty services includes rope access, industrial insulation, abrasive blasting and coatings, fireproofing and safety training.

More locally, Herke and Mayuk see the Shell Place project of the MacDonald Island Park expansion as Aluma’s largest in-town endeavour.

“Yeah it’s a big one; probably the biggest one we’ve done. It’s a big commitment for us, but it’s covering a fair amount of events so we’re getting pretty good usage out of the investment that we’re applying to that particular project,” acknowledges Herke.

Crews have been busy building additional seating for 10,000, using just over 375 tons of materials in readiness for the Northern Kick-Off scheduled for June 13.

The seating will also be used for this summer’s Western Canada Summer Games being hosted by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo as well as various other sporting events and concerts.

Additional in-town projects include the staging and seating for events such as InterPlay, WinterPlay, various concerts and parades.

But it’s not all about the capital ventures. Walking the talk about community involvement is also entrenched in Aluma’s corporate culture.

While involved in various altruistic endeavours, its two main charities are the Kids Forever fund-raising golf tournament and Relay for Life. “It’s one we have been very involved with since the beginning,” notes Herke.

And since Mac Island has been in place, “We’ve been a big supporter.

“Our initial sponsorship was on the diving board. Then Tim Reid wrapped us around his finger, took us to lunch …,” he chuckled of Mac Island’s former COO. “And so we’ve been basically supportive there ever since.”

The family aspect also comes into play when lending support: “For our employees, if their kids are doing an event, we’ll consider sponsoring it.”

Then there is the entertainment factor.

“Our own employees get to participate in a lot of the community work that we do like the concerts down at Mac Island. We had a lot of participation at the KISS concert, Reba; so a little bit of entertainment there too.

“It’s a pay back to the troops as well, thanking them for the work they’ve done for us as a company as well as their families.”

Both Herke and Mayuk agree there really isn’t any formula in choosing which social profits or charitable endeavours to support. It’s simply the merits of the initiative.

“We don’t evaluate why are we doing this as such. It’s just what we do. We don’t do a cold hard calculation on every one of these events. It’s Mac Island, they want help; we feel honoured to do it and we do it,” explains Herke.

He firmly believes in the importance of giving back to the community

“Our overall company philosophy is: Whatever communities we are in, we want to be part of that community.

“When you say you want to be part of the community, you’ve got to step up and do something. It’s more than just cutting a cheque every now and then. It’s actual real involvement. That’s one of the principles of how we operate and we’ve done that forever. My predecessors in Aluma did it. We’ve always been part of the community. We enjoy it as well as making it part of our dedication.

“It’s part of our DNA. Really, that’s kind of how it is. It’s a good bottoms up approach. That’s what we like about Kids Forever. There’s not a whole lot of real heavy corporate sponsors; just a lot of people making contributions and getting it done.”

Herke points out that “At the end of the day, it is a small community; small communities thrive when everybody is involved.

“We are proud to call Fort McMurray our home and help support the people and organizations that make-up the fabric of the region.”


One of those people who arrived in Fort McMurray for a short time – six months - but eight years later is still here. Love this place, the people, the outdoor escapades and the incredible heart of the community. Work hard, volunteer lots and would rather sit and chat with someone than do housework. Passport always at the ready to jet off to some wonderful global locale. So much to see and do.