When the Fort McKay Group of Companies first began working on Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site, you could count the number of employees on two hands — and have several fingers left over.
Today, the Group employs more than 1,000 people who do everything from move earth in the mine to deliver mail to reclamation to supply chain management. There’s virtually no part of Syncrude’s sprawling operations untouched by the Group’s services.
“We value collaborative partnerships with our clients such as Syncrude,” says CEO Adam King. “We’re committed to delivering quality, reliable and dependable services while maintaining a competitive cost advantage for our clients in the oil sands.”
The growing amount of business with the Group, owned by the Fort McKay First Nation, helped Syncrude achieve a major milestone at the end of 2017. Syncrude spent a record $342 million in 2017 with Aboriginal-owned businesses to surpass the $3 billion mark in total spending since 1992, when the number first began to be tracked.
Developing strong relationships with local Aboriginal-owned suppliers and contractors continues to contribute to Syncrude’s success, says managing director Doreen Cole.
“We need strong, reliable suppliers of goods and services to help us meet our goal of responsibly developing the oilsands,” says Cole, who was appointed Syncrude’s top executive at the end of 2017. “Having local companies who provide cost-competitive goods and services is essential. They have demonstrated the ability to help meet our commitments for a safe, reliable and cost-competitive operation.”
Syncrude has also committed to developing businesses with First Nations and Metis communities in the region as part of the organization’s Aboriginal Relations Program that started more than 40 years ago. But Cole points out the growing amount of business between Syncrude and Aboriginal-owned companies demonstrates they deliver real business value as contractors and suppliers.
“We are committed to ensuring Aboriginal people share in the opportunities to develop the oilsands,” she says. “Working together is the right thing to do and our partnership has continued to grow and provide the effective delivery of goods and services, which shows it’s the smart thing to do, too.”
This is reflected in the increased amount of business between Syncrude and Aboriginal-owned companies. Syncrude reached the $1-billion mark in business in 2006 while the $2-billion mark was passed in March 2014.
“We’ve reached $3 billion in half that time it took for us to go from $1 billion to $2 billion in spending,” says Doug Webb, Syncrude’s Aboriginal Business Liaison. “Syncrude works together with more than 50 Aboriginal-owned companies based in Wood Buffalo and are continuing to explore further opportunities based on the shared successes we’ve enjoyed.”
Samantha Whalen, chief executive officer for Christina River Enterprises, says her company appreciates Syncrude’s commitment to working with Aboriginal-owned ventures.
“Syncrude recognized the potential that exists among First Nations and Aboriginal communities for businesses and has helped develop that talent by providing opportunities for business ventures to succeed,” says Whalen, whose company — owned by the Fort McMurray 486 First Nation — has between 30 and 100 employees working on Syncrude’s sites at any one time through its custodial division and a joint venture with Northern Crane Services Group. “Our relationship has really changed over the years — we first started by manufacturing pallets for them in 1987. Our relationship has evolved and grown over 30 years and we look forward to many more years of working together. We see it as a win-win partnership.”
This article was originally published on syncrude.ca.