Focus Corporation is starting out in Prince George much like the geo-technical giant started as a company - small but with big ambitions.
Across its international scope of activities, Focus is involved in everything from landscape architecture to gas treatment, from all kinds of construction to water resource engineering.
They were founded in the Edmonton area in 1977. Their first job was surveying a plot of land for a church in Leduc, just outside the Alberta capital. Today they are a multinational corporation with more than 1,400 employees.
In Prince George, their new office opened about a week ago. It will focus on a small set of skilled services and aim at future growth as the economy allows. They are here, literally, to get the lay of the land.
"Any surveying you can think of, we can do," said Tyler Mikkelson, regional manager for Focus's expansion into Prince George. "Right now we will be focused on legal surveys, topographic surveys, mine surveying, construction surveys, residential surveys and subdivisions, GIS [geographic information systems] and remote sensing [aeriel photography, aircraft-based laser scanning, etc.]. We have hopes to expand later on into transportation engineering, mine engineering, and support the liquified natural gas industry."
The Association of B.C. Land Surveyors has 350 members in B.C. According to Focus's market research, Prince George had two, plus another in Vanderhoof. Even Smithers, more than 10 times smaller than P.G., had more certified surveyors than Prince George.
"The area has been under-serviced on the land surveying side," said Mikkelson. "As Heather Oland [CEO of Initiatives Prince George] likes to say, there are $70 billion worth of projects proposed for the north and we want to be involved in that. There are so many opportunities."
It was one of those opportunities at the beginning of the city's prosperity momentum that brought Focus here at the outset. A Focus partner company (Construction Management Services or CMS Focus) was part of the subcontracting army involved in the building of the Simon Fraser Bridge between 2007 and 2009. After that project was finished, the office space was maintained to allow Focus staff a base of operations in northern B.C. for other work (Endako Mine, Mount Milligan Mine, etc.) on their agenda.
The new venture is an expansion of that office. Mikkelson will be joined by five others on the initial Focus team and if the company gets enough work, more could be added. Focus also purchased the WD McIntosch operation in Vanderhoof and will work with its founder Bill McIntosch, a veteran surveyor in the region.
The hiring is already underway for the Prince George office. Mikkelson is originally from Bella Coola but has moved here to lead the group. Two Prince George residents have also been hired already. The full team is expected to be in place by summer.
"Every office, no matter where it’s located, has access to all of the Focus resources, which allows us to bring a lot of horsepower into play," Mikkelson said. "We are a growing company, adding 500 new employees in the last year. We want to have local roots as much as we can, wherever we are, so you have people who know the area, know the climate, know the terrain. You don't have to explain as much to them, like what snow is."
Their new Prince George staff additions are located at the new Focus office located at 780 Third Ave.