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Making a Difference: Fort McKay Group of Companies

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It is impossible to speak about successful local Aboriginal businesses, and not include Fort McKay Group of Companies. A leader in oilfield construction, and services, the company boasts an annual revenue of over $150 million, and employs approximately 1,000 people. An estimated 20 per cent of the work force is Aboriginal.
The hamlet of Fort McKay is located about 58 kilometres north of Fort McMurray on the west bank of the Athabasca River. Founded in 1986 by Chief and Council to create opportunities for the Fort McKay First Nations community members, Fort McKay Group of Companies (FMGOC) is owned by the Fort McKay First Nation Band, but is separate from the group, when it comes to operations. It has its own executive, as well as board of directors.

According to the official website, the group is made up of three limited partnerships. “They include Fort McKay Strategic Services LP, Fort McKay Logistics LP, and Steep Bank Earth LP. FMGOC offers a variety of services that involve earthworks, site services, fleet maintenance, fuel services, reclamation support services, and logistics. In 2014, the company officially expanded its business into the Edmonton region with one of its companies, Fort McKay Logistics LP.”

Mathieu Leger, General Manager of Fort McKay Logistics has been with the company for 15 years. He says every day working for the group is a “blessing.” And, reflected on the company’s humble beginnings.

“It all started at Suncor with a small janitorial contract, then they branched into transportation at Syncrude site. They had 15-passenger vans driving Syncrude employees around site and to their downtown locations,” explained Leger.

For Jim Carbery, Chief Executive Officer, Fort McKay Group of Companies, having a great standing in the community is imperative to him, and the business.

“The fact that we can provide employment and business opportunities for the local people, that we can provide other resources which support activities in the community, means that we are helping enhance the quality of life for the people,” said Carbery.

“If you visit the community, you will notice the excellent quality of the houses, the friendliest of the people, the number of boats, quads and vehicles – all signs of a prospering community and proud community members,” he added.

Indeed, the company is fully invested in giving back to the community, and that is something Leger takes great pride in.

“Fort McKay Group of Companies and Fort McKay First Nation are always been the front runners on charities and community work. Every year we start with an Easter egg hunt for the children of Fort McKay School. Then we have our annual Treaty Days in June, along with the FMGOC annual golf tournament (which raised $100,000 last year, and over $142,000 this year). All money raised at the golf tournament goes back to the Fort McKay First Nation Education Department for initiatives to improve the education system within the community. Fort McKay is a big supporter of NAABA (Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association) and other local organizations,” he continued.

The E-Learning Centre is a hub for those students who, for a variety of reasons, choose to earn their high school credits within the community. It has been operating since 2005, and thus far has seen 26 students graduate with high school diplomas. The group also supports the Fort McKay School, which is home to elementary grades.

Highly anticipated across the region, Fort McKay First Nations’ Treaty Days, supported by the company, was held from June 18 to 21 this year. It composes of a traditional night, which also occurs on Saturday. The busy line-up sees a traditional feast, a moose and goose-calling contest, prayer, smudging of gifts, giveaway and round dance.

The free festival has created a sense of pride for the Fort McKay community. And, provides everyone the opportunity to celebrate Aboriginal culture together. It also featured a four-day baseball tournament, the popular Fort McKay Idol, as well as the traditional jigging contest. The annual festival is a celebration of the treaty signed between the federal government and the Fort McKay First Nation in 1899.

For Leger, this community support means, being on a team that goes above and beyond for others, and helps strengthen the corporate culture.

“For me this support means family. I know every dollar we make goes back to the community. It also means commitment and integrity,” he added.

This integrity is reflected in Fort McKay Group of Company’s emphasis on diligence, and safety. In 2011, the company was honoured with the Syncrude President’s Award for 2010 Contractor Safety; 2008 saw them named as runner-up for Small Business Safety Award.

“On August 30, 2010, all four crews in mine operations at Shell-Albian Sands officially reached “One Year Goal Zero.” This milestone truly raises the bar for all of our operations. Achieving 365 days at Goal Zero while having approximately 50 team members working per shift and operating the largest earth-moving equipment in the world is truly an outstanding accomplishment,” according to officials.

In addition, as of last May – the group’s environment division - Bison Ranch, reached the 3,650 Day mark, amounting to 10 years without a recorded injury.

A success story, a story of looking out for its people, and the community at large – Fort McKay Group of Companies continues to make a difference in the Wood Buffalo region. And, continues to thrive as an Aboriginal leader in business. And, it will continue to remain an essential part of the region’s past, present, and future. 

- Photography by Greg Halinda


Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.