Expanding service options to cater to a diverse clientele has made this company a success

Customers’ changing needs led Gerry Dignard to make some changes of his own at Canadian Shield Consultants Agency.

When initially profiled in the September 2011 issue of Gas, Oil & Mining Contractor, the St. Charles, Ontario, company focused on designing, installing and servicing wastewater systems. Today, the company provides turnkey on-site wastewater and water treatment systems, including spill cleanup, for clients in several industries, including mining, oil and gas.

“We really diversified what we do and that was in response to what clients were looking for,” says Dignard, CEO and founder of Canadian Shield. “Clients want to streamline the cleanup process. They want to make one call instead of having three or four different people working on it.”

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Canadian Shield engineers, designs, manufactures, installs and maintains the self-contained systems, which are primarily used in remote, inaccessible areas. It also provides environmental engineering services along with spill response and aviation services. Canadian Shield services clients primarily in Ontario, but have worked on projects throughout Canada, including Vancouver, Nova Scotia and the far north.

“We purchased a helicopter so we can survey the area by air to get a handle on the situation. We also bought other equipment and brought on new people so we can be that turn-key, one-stop option for clients,” Dignard said. “This is what customers want and are demanding. We want to provide a simplified, streamlined approach to protecting the environment.”

The company invested $1.5 million to buy the helicopter, build a hangar and purchase other equipment. Dignard also hired a full-time pilot, three part-time pilots and an operation manager to work in the company’s new environmental first-response unit. The division prepares and oversees plans for spills that pose an environmental threat.

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“If there’s a problem, we can get in the helicopter and look at it from the air and we also have the engineering experience to evaluate the situation,” Dignard says. “We can get out there faster than other companies who would have to hire a pilot. In this business, the faster you move, the better since it means you’re able to assess the situation and implement solutions.”

The company’s diverse clientele – besides the oil, gas and mining industries, it also serves the forestry and tourism markets – insulated it from any negative impact from falling oil prices, Dignard said. Some clients, however, have been affected by the higher value of the American dollar.

“We’ve experienced positives and negatives from that, but a lot of our tourism work is up because more Americans are traveling here so they are busier while maybe the mines have slowed a bit,” he says.

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If running Canadian Shield wasn’t enough to keep Dignard busy, he’s also working with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine on two research projects. The first looks at whether blue-green algae can be turned into fuel, while the second one is evaluating the impact that leachate from abandoned mines has on the environment.

“It all goes back to protecting the environment, which is our underlying theme,” Dignard says.

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