Business & Oilsands(Archives)
Built Ford Tough in Fort McMurray
Power couple puts forward their thanks by giving back
Bronco, Ranger, Taurus and Explorer. Chances are the popular Ford franchise model terminology rings a bell when you hear these titles and, if you live in Fort McMurray, the name: “Giles” is just as familiar.
That’s because Giles is the last name to two community-driven business owners who took a risk back in 1995 to start a future for themselves in a place where even their family members thought they would have little success.
Today, Marty and Dennine Giles are owners to seven Ford Motor Company franchise locations throughout Fort McMurray, Fort McKay, Calgary and Cochrane with a revenue of $325 million and 320 employees. They hold titles for the largest retail commercial vehicle dealer and part sales in Western Canada and maintain the largest Ford franchise labour sales in Canada.
“I knew that Marty was unbelievably talented,” Dennine shared, on making the decision to move to Fort McMurray in June of 1995 with her husband and then nine-month-old son, Austin. “And no matter what… if we left and failed, it would be totally OK because we could recoup. But, Marty was talented. He was a sales person. I just knew that we’d be able to survive.”
The two first met through the Ford business in Airdrie, Alberta at the Cam Clark dealership. Marty was enrolled in university and working as a salesman during the summer season. Dennine’s cousin was his sales manager.
It wasn’t until three years after knowing each other when Marty finally had the “courage” to ask Dennine out on a date, while the pair were out one night with mutual Ford friends in Calgary.
“This was on a Saturday night with courage,” Marty laughs.
He became even more courageous for their first date.
“Marty took me home to the ranch on our first date. I met the whole family,” Dennine said, reflecting back on the first moments of surprise. “Grandma. Granddad. Everyone was there.”
Nine months later, the couple were engaged. And nine months after that, were married. When they made the decision to come to a remote Northern Alberta city, family members were worried they weren’t making the best choices for their future.
“When I quit university to sell cars that was dumb (according to Marty’s father). Lay that one on your folks,” Marty said. “My dad was like: “You’re going where? There’s no agriculture. Why the hell would you go up North?” Dennine believed in it and I believed in it.””
And so, they sold all of their assets and put their life savings on the line to take ownership for the Fort McMurray Ford dealership located on Gregoire Drive, which had a track record of failure for previous dealers.
“Just to open up was $1-million,” Marty explained on becoming a Ford Motor Company franchise owner. “Ford would lend us $800,000 and we had to come up with two hundred thousand. We had $100,000 and a family member loan sharked us one hundred thousand at 12 per cent interest, so that’s how we got it going.”
In October of 1995, Marty and Dennine opened the doors at the Fort McMurray Ford dealership as new owners with only 18 employees. The Ford Motor Company executives gave the Giles six years and ten months to pay back their owed 80 per cent investment and they paid it back – full - in 18 months. This is the second fastest payout in the company’s Canadian history.
Dennine expressed her passion towards Fort McMurray and shared how she and Marty made a promise – since the beginning - to give back to the community that helped make their dreams and goals a reality.
“When we moved up here and nobody believed that we could do it and the last Ford guys had gone bankrupt, we made a declaration that we would always take care of the community that took care of us,” Dennine said. “We didn’t have anything to give initially, in the beginning. And then, the store started to grow. It wasn’t a sense that we “have” to do this and be physical and be public. It was because these people took care of us and it was my job to take care of them. I love this town with every fiber of my being.”
The Giles stuck with their promise to each other and donated $3,500 in funding, as well as donation items to the Unity House of Fort McMurray in their first year. In 2013, their corporate giving figures exceeded to over $435,000 for Fort McMurray, Calgary, Cochrane and Fort McKay.
Over the past three years, Marty and Dennine have hosted a charity poker tournament in Calgary and one quarter of the amount raised from the tournaments have been donated to the Fort McMurray community. For the 2015 Northstar Ford Group Charity Poker Tournament, the donations will be split evenly to the Fort McMurray and Calgary communities. As of April 2014, they have raised and donated $279,000 to local organizations, which $119,000 was through the efforts of this annual tournament.
Overall, there’s a long list of charitable organizations the Giles and their Ford teams contribute to in communities throughout the province of Alberta. The Fort McMurray Swim Club, Fort McMurray Competitive Ski Team, Fort McMurray Minor Baseball, Fort McMurray Football, Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association, Fellowship Baptist Church – Soup Kitchen, the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, Kids Forever Society, Northern Lights Health Foundation, Keyano College Foundation – Education Endowment, United Way of Fort McMurray and Edge School Foundation are some of the many local charitable and non-profit organizations the group supports.
Another fulfilled accomplishment by the Northstar Ford Team was donating $75,000 to the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society’s Emergency Women’s Shelter to build an exercise room at the shelter over a three-year time span.
Instilling their community values into others is important to Marty and Dennine. And they have implemented them into their Northstar Ford Group’s Employee Orientation by stating, “We will leave the community better than we found it by actively participating and supporting local charities with both donations of money and our time.”
The Northstar Ford Team faithfully stays committed to these values and have volunteered in a variety of fundraising events and community actions throughout the years including the MS Bike and Walk, Hooves for Heart, Relay for Life, Alberta Children’s Hospital Radiothon, Army Cadet Corp, Run for the Cure, Volunteer Snow Angel and Northstar Ford Social Committees just to name a few. Many of the team members also donate their time to be coaches for local sports teams including lacrosse and minor hockey.
“You want to be grateful. You give back,” Marty said on his volunteer commitments and fundraising efforts in the Fort McMurray community.
Marty and Dennine have donated hundreds of hours to volunteering and over $350,000 to charities in 2013. They are the only Canadian Ford Dealer to win: “Salute to Dealers for Philanthropy.” This means that Ford has recognized them Internationally as a dealer for not only their gift of money, but their gift of time, and they are still the only Canadian dealer to be honoured this award.
Dennine shares how much of her philanthropy attitude comes from the upbringing of her father, who is now a retired Calgary police officer and still doing great community actions that he has been taking part in for the past forty years.
“Because my father was a police officer, he used to run into a lot of people who were down on their luck, so he started a food bank out of his garage in Calgary,” she said. “He’s 76 now and he still runs a food bank three days a week. He goes and collects all the food grocery stores are going to throw away and he brings it to his garage. Then, all of these people come and take the food.”
Being parents to two teenaged young men, the Giles share their views and values with their sons. Dennine expresses how the importance of giving back is something that has to be a way of life and it can’t be taught.
“I think the boys have seen it in us and they know importance of it and that they have the responsibility to give as well,” she shares. “But, I don’t think you can teach it. I think you have to live it. And if you live it, they (children) will, in turn, live it. It becomes normal.”
Northstar 1995 - Gregoire.jpg: Time Rewind - A flashback photo of Northstar Ford in Gregoire in 1995, when Marty and Dennine first took ownership.
New Northstar Ford Location.jpg: The Future of Ford - The design for the new Northstar Ford building located at the bottom of Confederation Way in Fort McMurray. The grand opening is projected for the November 2015.