• Buy Local and Build Relationships

    August 3, 2017


    Buy Local and Build Relationships

    This week I was contacted by a member company being excluded from the opportunity to bid on a large-scale private project for a national grocery chain. The member was being excluded because they hadn’t been made aware of the project by an owner with no connection to the local construction market. The owner’s use of a pre-qualification system that didn’t (at least at last report) provide the member company with enough time to register, get qualified, and then submit pricing meant that by the time the member learned of the project the opportunity was already lost.

    I wrote to the owner expressing our support for the member and encouraging them to give the member time to get qualified and submit pricing. My argument was simple and familiar to my readers: the more companies that bid, the more competitive your pricing will be. At the same time, using local contractors builds local brand strength for the owner, while controlling labour and transportation costs during the construction phase.

    I haven’t heard back from the owner yet and I’m not sure I will. But the whole episode raised a couple of important points that I’ve been thinking about for a while now:

    1. We as a construction industry have clout to wield, but only if we do so together; and
    2. We as an association need to do a better job of building relationships with private-sector owners.

    Construction Industry Clout

    There are more than 50,000 Saskatchewan residents that work in construction right now. If you factor in families, we’re probably talking more than 120,000 people in Saskatchewan that depend on construction for income. That’s not to mention the rest of population that relies on the construction industry to build the things that let them earn a living. Just looking at those directly employed in construction and their families, we’re talking about more than 10% of our population. That’s enough to create real shift in the economy.

    What if people involved in construction didn’t shop at grocery stores or shops that didn’t engage local contractors in construction, repairs, maintenance, renovations, etc.? What might that do to the equation that owners and their consultants use when determining which contractors to engage?

    That’s precisely what our member company planned to do. Letting their employees know which stores support local contractors, and which don’t. Now, one member company might not be able to shift the behaviour of large corporations, but what if more member companies banded together on issues like this?

    We often talk the talk that owners should buy local when it comes to construction services. Perhaps we should walk the walk by doing the same ourselves? Not just buying from local vendors – which is a critical element in supporting local businesses – but only supporting stores that support local business. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the construction industry in Saskatchewan started buying local too.

    I don’t have a plan for this, but I’d be interested in getting your feedback. What role do you think the construction industry can have in shaping the behaviour of the people that should be buying our services? Let me know your thoughts at

    Building Relationships with Private Owners

    The incident above is also a perfect example of why the SCA and our partner associations need to keep building relationships with private sector owners, especially large-scale owners. Frankly about 80% of all construction activity in the province is private-sector work, and yet we spend almost no time building relationships with the people who spend that money. That needs to change.

    I’ve been hearing about this from members as I meet with them – that while the SCA is doing good work in improving the way the province procures construction services, too many private-sector owners are not following best practices. Way too much work going out of province with not enough opportunity to compete for that work.

    This is a space that we have never been active in, but that is going to change. Starting this fall, I want the SCA to begin building relationships with private sector owners and investors. I would like your thoughts on how best to do this. Please let me know by sending me an email at

    Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

    President and CEO
    Saskatchewan Construction Association