Rankin Construction first contractor on site as Niagara Falls project begins
It is local workers who are now on site preparing for construction of the 12-storey hospital to serve south Niagara residents, although the contact to build it went to company from London, Ont.
And Rankin Construction chief executive officer Tom Rankin hopes his workers and other local tradespeople and suppliers will remain heavily involved as EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare — the company awarded the $3.6-billion contract in February to design, build, finance and maintain the hospital — develops the facility over the next five years.
“We’re the first guys on site,” Rankin said. “We moved 40,000 cubic metres of topsoil in a couple of weeks. We’re building roads, we’re building parking lots, we’re bringing the sewer and watermains in and we’re doing the excavation for the building. We’re doing quite a bit of the work for EllisDon.”
Rankin said there should be many more opportunities for Niagara businesses to benefit as the project continues.
“It’s to their (EllisDon’s) advantage to use as many trades as possible from Niagara,” he said. “You save on transportation, housing costs, etc., compared to having to bring people in from Toronto and other places.”
But local companies still have to be competitive when bidding on contracts that may become available as the work progresses, he added.
“Personally, I’d be shocked if another contractor came in and beat us,” he said. “We try to make a modest profit but someone from out of town cannot come in and beat me on my own turf.”
Rankin said his company also has an advantage by being the first subcontractor on site.
“I think it would be very difficult for another contractor to come in, and I’m hopeful this is just the first of many jobs that we’ll be doing on the site,” he said.
Niagara Health vice-president for finance, redevelopment and facilities Angela Zangari said the hospital system placed a focus on local trades and suppliers from the outset.
“For sure, we made that a priority,” she said. “As part of our request for proposals in partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, we made sure we incorporated community and equity focus requirements for the successful bidder, in this case EDIH (EllisDon).”
Zangari said Niagara Health teamed up with Niagara Economic Development to establish an online database to link EllisDon with local contractors and suppliers who could meet its needs as construction progressed.
She said Niagara Health also took steps to ensure equity seeking groups, as well as apprentices, would be included during the development of the south Niagara hospital.
Zangari said Niagara Health expects more than 1,000 people to be working on the site at peak construction times, and “we have some great trades in Niagara and I know EDIH will be reaching out to them.”
“It’s really important to us that Niagara benefits from an economic perspective as well, plus we have great trades and great businesses here, so we want to be able to highlight them,” she said.
Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates said he, too, has been working to ensure local involvement in the project since discussion about building a new hospital began a decade ago.
“Taxpayers are giving with their heart because health care is the No. 1 issue in their lives,” he said. “We’ve donated. We’ve supported the hospital. Now it’s your time to support our communities providing work (during the hospital’s construction).”
Niagara Region Chair Jim Bradley said getting local trades involved in the project “is almost natural.”
“You want to have people who are as close as possible to the project working on it,” he said. “We have local folks who are ready, willing and able.”
In addition to the work on the hospital, Bradley said local contractors stand to benefit from some of the regional projects needed to support the hospital, such as the redevelopment of part of Montrose Road — a contract that was also awarded to Rankin Construction.
Rankin said for many of the workers on the project, building a hospital in a community they call home is a matter of pride.
“We have 600 employees of which 450 are from right here in Niagara,” he said. “It’s nice to do work in your own backyard.”
“There’s a sense of pride in the community and it means a lot more,” she said.
Allan Benner is a St. Catharines-based reporter with the Standard. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org