Verreault Construction was founded in 1927 by J.E. Verreault. Back then, Verreault worked with two of his sons, and the third son joined the same year of Verreault’s death, in 1959. All three sons continued the business until the 1980s, when three of the grandsons slowly started buying them out. By 1995, Michel Verreault, President, and one other grandson were left to carry on the hard-earned reputation and steer the company into further success.
Before Michel arrived at the Québec City-based company in the 1970s, Verreault Construction was strictly a general contractor. Wanting more for the future of the business, Michel got his degree in Building and Construction Management from the University of Waterloo. Once his education was complete, Michel returned to the company Verreault Construction was able to start adding Project and Construction Management jobs to their profile. “Now, we offer turnkey services in a variety of construction fields,” says Michel. “We offer specialised work in the industrial, commercial and high-rise residential markets.”
Eighty years of success
With over 80 years in their industry, Verreault Construction has had the opportunity to build a solid reputation. Today, it is one of the largest construction firms in Québec.
If you ask the management team what the secret is to their success, they would say they owe their achievements to two groups of people. First are their dedicated staff who have the drive, know-how and talent for innovation. Because of them, Verreault Construction has managed to stand apart from the competition and carve out a name for itself for the quality of its services.
Verreault Construction makes sure to value its staff for all their efforts. “We have always operated the company like a family business,” says Michel, “and we are very close to our staff. It has always been important that we maintain a tight-knit company culture. Because of that, people have stayed here and the company doesn’t experience a high turnover. In fact, there are people here that have been here for 40 years. We value that and we are loyal to their needs in return.”
The second group is, of course, their clients. “At least 50 per cent of our clients are repeat customers,” beams Michel. “We have built great relationships with many of our clients over the past few years.” In the construction industry, relationships are invaluable to the livelihood of a company and Verreault recognises that.
According to the company website, “Verreault philosophy is firmly rooted in respect for its clients, partners, human resources and suppliers with a partnership approach. For more than three-quarters of a century, this value has been sustained, thanks to the quality and dedication of the men and women who continue to ensure the company’s reputation and client service and drive its growth and success.”
As for projects, Verreault Construction has years’ worth of interesting and complex construction work they are proud of. Having said that, there is one that the company keeps coming back to.
“We built the business offices of Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec in Montreal,” says Michel. Caisse is one of the largest institutional fund managers in North America. “Our team did the layout and construction of their green office buildings,” he adds,” with 13 above-ground floors and two basement floors above three underground highway lanes.”
Merging with Dessau
In June of 2008, Verreault joined Dessau to create one of Canada’s largest engineering-construction groups. Dessau is a global leader in engineering with over 3,500 employees in Canada, North Africa, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The two industry leaders decided to consolidate their activities in order to sustain growth and meet clients’ needs even more effectively, by offering a wider range of services. Michel remains the President of the construction group.
“Two things led us to this integration,” says Michel. “First, we wanted to provide our clients with more integrative services, such as design and construction at the same time. Second, it was a good fit because both companies have the same philosophy. The company culture remains the same.”
Initially, the decision to sell the company was a difficult one, but Michel has no regrets. “I had to integrate because we don’t have anyone within the family to carry on the business,” he says. “I had to think about the future, my employees and how the market is developing in favour of integrated services. It was a good thing because we’re involved in large-scale projects within the province and we needed to increase staff and expertise. Partnering with Dessau will give us much more credibility, more depth and more capability. We think we’ll be much more successful in the future.”
New wave in the construction industry
The focus on public-private partnership (P3) projects is a big change for the construction industry in Québec.
What are P3s?
A public-private partnership is a legally-binding contract between government and businesses for the provision of assets or services. In a P3 arrangement, the government remains actively involved throughout the project’s life cycle, but the private sector is responsible for the commercial functions, such as project design, construction, finance and operations.
P3s take a variety of forms, with varying degrees of public and private sector involvement and risk. In fact, risk transfer from the public to the private sector is a critical element of all P3s. The goal is to combine the best capabilities of the public and private sectors for mutual benefit.
For example, if a private company assumes responsibility for financing and building a parking structure, it also assumes responsibility for related risks, such as rising interest rates, delays in construction, increased labour costs and so on.
Why would the private sector be willing to assume these risks? Because where risk exists, so does opportunity. The private sector partner gains a relatively stable, long-term investment opportunity—the revenue stream may be secure for as long as 50 years or more. Revenues are in the form of either a fee for service, paid by government, or fees collected from users.
Private firms can also use their own strengths and abilities to add value to P3 arrangements, such as finding efficiencies or innovations to offset risks and costs. In addition, companies are also building P3 expertise, which can be marketed in other sectors or jurisdictions.
Verreault Construction is certainly involved in P3 projects, which has been an adjustment. “Public-private partnerships involve more people, more design and more guarantees,” says Michel. “We have to alter the way our company does business to follow that trend, so that has taken some time to get used to.”
“P3 isn’t new to construction,” Michel adds. “It is popular in Ontario and out in Western Canada, but it’s new here in Québec City. It started with large-scale projects like three hospitals. We had to figure out what we were doing and then we discovered it takes money to answer the tendering documents. It was actually another good reason to join Dessau, because of all that financing we have to provide to meet the P3 specifications.”
Looking ahead, Verreault Construction has a lot more to give to the construction industry and to Québec. Of course, merging with Dessau means new high-level goals that involve growth. “Our goal is to develop integrative services, incorporating engineering and construction under the same company,” says Michel. The one-stop shop concept is a step forward, as the industry moves toward a multi-service experience.
Growth also involves expanding into new locations. With two locations already in Montreal and Québec City, Verreault Construction is interested in moving into the Outaouais region in western Québec, as well as out east, in the Maritimes. “We’ll grow at a slow and controlled pace,” says Michel. “That’s the plan for the next few years.
Main Offerings and Services at a Glance
Verreault offers its clients a wide range of construction-related services, delivered from our Montreal and Quebec City offices and covering the entire world. Generally, we provide the following services:
• General contracting
• Integrated solutions : engineering-procurement-construction management (EPCM), engineering-procurement-construction (EPC – turn key) and public-private partnership (PPP)
• Project management
• Construction management
• Value analysis and economic studies
• Process equipment installation
• Start-up, commissioning and training
Verreault’s project expertise
• Highrise public and commercial buildings, convention centres and museums;
• Expansion, renovation, upgrading and restoration of existing buildings;
• Major interior layouts;
• Multilevel parking facilities;
• Transportation, shopping malls and store layouts;
• Healthcare facilities, laboratories and research centres and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries;
• Industrial projects involving manufacturing procedures;
• Show business, outdoor activities, recreation and entertainment.