Business takes off for Torbear

Torbear, established in 1994, is an active Ontario contractor with a history of expertise in a variety of industries. Only a couple dozen people strong, the staff at Torbear are dedicated to exceptional quality and cost-effective solutions. Despite its size in staff numbers, Torbear “has enjoyed modest growth over the years by focusing attention to only a few projects at any given time,” owing its success to continued referrals and happy customers.

The company is responsible for many institutional and commercial buildings province-wide, and has also done complicated alterations in one of the busiest transportation hubs in the country.

A valued customer

Torbear has worked on Pearson International Airport in Mississauga on repeat occasions, completing complicated renovations to make the airport more accessible. The company has completed several projects through airport contracts, including a temporary baggage facility at Terminal 3, new airline check-in counters, customs and immigration expansion, new office spaces for various airlines and also upgrades of current airport systems.

For example, the temporary baggage facility Torbear constructed was built airside in confined space between operating aircraft boarding gates, so security and coordination with ongoing operation of the terminal was critical—a challenge, but Torbear was more than up for it. Pearson is the best example of a repeat customer for Torbear—the company has completed many projects for the airport over the years, most done while terminal activities remained in full operation.

It seems there are not many projects too large for this small team to handle. Michael Helyer, General Manager for the company, says that the company always had eyes on bigger projects, preferring to stay in major institutional and commercial projects from the start.

“It’s been a progression of growth,” Helyer explains. “We started in school construction, building a Montessori school in 1996, but then we took on work at Pearson and have continued with the airport ever since.”

“We work on building restoration, and we’ve dabbled in different sectors, but we’ve always been in building construction and most of our projects are now in sewer and wastewater—we always had our eye on that sector,” he continues.

Water and wastewater projects

Torbear has actively been working in the water and wastewater sector for a decade. One of their biggest projects has been the Humber Treatment Plant, an upgrade of the plant’s waste activated sludge thickening facility in Etobicoke. At a project value of $40 million, Torbear effectively improved process performance at the plant, and boosted system reliability of the waste activated sludge thickening facility by doing major structural, electrical, control and process mechanical upgrades in two major phases. This process included demolition and renovation of existing chorine building; the addition and renovation of the existing waste activated sludge facility; provisions for seven new waste thickening centrifuges and associated process piping and equipment; a new electrical substation; and the provision of new instrumentation and controls. All of this process was completed, as are all Torbear projects, to above-standard environmental and safety specs.

“We are a built-to-spec contractor, and safety is a paramount concern for us. We work with health and safety professionals who ensure compliance with the projects we do,” Helyer assures.

Torbear completed another notable project in water—this time not in its southern Ontario region. The North Bay water treatment facility, which takes water from Trout Lake and filters it for city residents, is valued at $45 million—and Torbear was commissioned to be the General Contractor on this giant project.
Helyer and his team endeavoured to make the treatment plant highly automated and environmentally sustainable. The facility includes green features like solar panels on the roof, that collect energy for the water system, and the plant is cooled in the summertime through a lake water cooling system.

A testament to success

There is a good reason why Torbear is called on to projects outside of its geographical region to do these large-scale projects, and why the company sees repeat business, year after year. The company boasts a staff of experienced and knowledgeable professionals who work together with clients and consultants to achieve common goals. “All our site supervisors are capable personnel with more than 15 years’ field experience managing the type of projects in which we are engaged. Our team approach to the construction process ensures that projects are run smoothly and successfully,” a company brochure explains.
Luckily for Torbear, infrastructure investment from Canadian governments has kept business flowing as well, and in fact the company did quite well through the recession.

Last year, the value of work in progress for Torbear was in excess of $20 million. If the numbers here show anything, it’s that the company should see much success as they take on projects in transportation, water and wastewater, and beyond.