Casman Group of Companies

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For more than 26 years, the Casman Group of Companies has operated within three segments of the construction arena: residential, commercial and industrial—from multi-family condominiums to strip malls to oil sands plant construction. As a company based in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the Casman Group in addition to projects with the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, also supports the oil sands industry with work at the plant sites.  It is no accident the company thrives in Fort McMurray. 

Owner and President, Norm Castiglione, came to Fort McMurray 30 years ago and worked as a Senior Manager in a large residential development firm. When the National Energy Program was implemented in 1980, Alberta took a big dip economically and Castiglione found himself without a job. Instead of moving away to find work, Castiglione decided to stay in Fort McMurray and start his own business, Casman Construction.

Casman Construction’s first jobs included small projects, such as playgrounds, decks, fences and garage packages. But as the community started growing again and the oil sands activity increased, the company’s role in the construction industry expanded.  To manage its growth, a second company was created, Casman Building Ltd.  Casman Construction would remain industrial sector focused and become unionized with an oil sands support mandate.  The new company, Casman Building, would manage and complete construction projects within the city.

To ensure continued success, more companies have been added to the Casman Group: Four C’s Millwork, Borealis Mechanical, FMR Mechanical and RCI Electrical.  If you ask Jeff Fitzner, Casman Group CEO, why expansion included acquisitions he’ll sum it up in two words: quality control.

Take the millwork for instance. Fitzner says that, early on, local millwork wasn’t available, even though many of their projects were dependent on quality millwork delivered on a timely basis. “Product would arrive damaged from transit, which delayed our projects,” he says. “So, we started our own millwork company. And that is a key theme for us. To be successful, we needed better control.” 

“Other companies have a similar story,” Fitzner continues. “Our long-time plumbing and heating contractor went out of business. Their staff, many of whom had been working with us exclusively for three or four years, were at risk. We didn’t want to lose those valuable contributors, so we started our own mechanical business to keep that key skill set as part of our future success. This company became Borealis Mechanical. The subsequent purchase of FMR Mechanical created real value for the heavy industrial group and an opportunity to bid on larger projects. Most recently, the Casman Group acquired a local electrical contracting firm, RCI Electrical Services. This company has tripled in size since they came on board.” 

Special projects
Sometimes a company takes on a project that changes a corporation forever, at least that’s how Fitzner explains it. “The most recent one was a few years ago,” he says. “We took on a large-scale job in our heavy industrial group, the scope of which had never been completed by a local firm before.  It was so broad that we joined with another local industrial construction company. We often competed with this company for jobs, but never before had we worked side by side.  It was an unusual arrangement, but it proved to our clients that we could combine competencies and meet local needs—you don’t have to bring in outside firms to get the big jobs done. It was very rewarding.”

Another significant project for Casman was introducing geothermal heating and cooling systems to Fort McMurray. Even more interesting was this technology was debuted in a multi-family residence. “It takes a certain skill set and competency to bring geothermal heating and cooling into affordable housing,” says Fitzner. “It changed our business and the kind of value statement we can give to our clients.”

Safety 2.0
For the Casman Group, safety has moved from compliance with safety regulations to adopting a safety culture.

“At one point, we were concerned with consistency in messaging,” recalls Fitzner. “To make sure everyone was hearing the same message, we hired a film crew and made our own video. We wanted our messaging to come from the leadership so everyone would understand our commitment to safety.  We wanted employees to be empowered to say no or to change any unsafe activity.” To further show that safety comes from the top-down, Fitzner went through the certification himself—a rarity for a CEO.

“The next stage was communicating that safety doesn’t come from a boardroom but from the job site,” Fitzner adds, “so we made a second video on location at an oil sands site, re-enacting a real accident and how it could be prevented. We wanted to grab the attention of those who have been to a thousand safety meetings so we used a real-life situation. The video also included an interview with one of the individuals involved in that accident, detailing the impact it had on his life. Needless to say, it got traction. Other oil sands companies have asked to use it.”

Every year, the Casman Group goes through a safety audit that requires an 80 per cent pass rating. Raising their personal standards, the company has implemented a 90 per cent pass rating for their safety audit—a standard that even affects compensation of management if it is not met. The target was reached and one of the companies (FMR Mechanical) was identified as the number-one company in the province for safety in their industry segment.

In 2009, Casman Group of Companies received a Bronze Telly Award for their safety video, “Who’s Waiting for You?” This video was originally designed for supervisors to enforce safety in their teams but the response was outstanding, resulting in its presentation at all new employee orientations.  

“We care about our people at work;” says Fitzner, “but more importantly we care about how many people are going home safely each day.” 

Building communities
In addition to building the community through construction projects, the Casman Group of Companies continues to expand and help build the Fort McMurray community culture itself. One of the ways the company accomplishes this is by offering management support for community boards. Casman employees serve on such boards as the Family and Child Services Board; the Personal Support Network Board; the Chamber of Commerce Board; the Construction Safety Association Board; the Urban Development Institute Board; and the Fort McMurray Construction Association Board.

“It’s not just about making a living here,” says Fitzner, “it’s about raising families and building a better community. Casman will continue to be front and centre in the initiatives that will aid in the choice to come to this city to have a high-quality life and eventually retire here. We’ve been here for 26 years; it’s our home, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Directory of Companies
Four C’s Holdings
Casman Building
Casman Construction
Four C’s Millwork
Borealis Mechanical
FMR Mechanical
Infinity Homes
Infinity Bold Homes
Cherrywood Homes

“It’s not just about making a living here,” says Fitzner, “it’s about raising families and building a better community. Casman will continue to be front and centre in the initiatives that will aid in the choice to come to this city to have a high-quality life and eventually retire here. We’ve been here for 26 years; it’s our home, and we’re not going anywhere.”

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