With a legacy stretching back to the 1950s, E. Gruben’s Transport has found success by staying diversified and flexible in its services, CEO Russell Newmark says. “It seems that, every year, there’s a new, different set of projects,”
Based in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada, the company provides construction, transport and environmental clean-up services. For example, when oil and gas companies decide to drill wells in the Northwest Territories, “What we do is [construct] winter roads out of snow and ice [for them],” he says, adding that the firm also builds lease pads and transports equipment for oil and gas clients.
In its work for government projects, E. Gruben’s Transport will build summer roads and install culverts, Newmark says. In its environmental clean-up work, the company demolishes buildings and disposes of the waste.
“We’re in a place where the economy has been subject to a lot of ups and downs,” Newmark admits. “[Other] companies come and go, [and] we have to be flexible to whatever opportunities present themselves.”
Growing Gruben’s Transport
Founder Eddie Gruben started E. Gruben’s Transport in the 1950s. A hunter and trapper, Gruben began by providing wood hauling services, Newmark says.
In the 1960s, the company’s focus grew when the government of Canada decided to build schools and health centers in the Arctic, Newmark says. Gruben then purchased a truck to haul gravel to the construction sites.
The gravel, Newmark explains, was for insulation. “When you build anything in the Arctic, what you have to do is find a way to insulate your building from the ground,” he says. “Back in the 1960s and 1970s, if you were going to build a building, you were going to haul gravel to build an insulation pad for the building.”
When the region saw a strong amount of oil and gas operations in the 1980s, “The business was able to take advantage of that,” Newmark says. “[The company] grew steadily [into] one of the largest companies in the Northwest Territories.”
Today, Gruben shares ownership of the company with his grandsons, Justin and Mervin Gruben. In addition, the company enjoys annual revenues of approximately $30 million and employs a staff of 75, and that work force includes several longtime employees.
This includes Newmark himself, who has managed the firm since 1980. “Everybody feels that we [have] an excellent team,” he says, noting that key members include Operations Manager Doug Sanders, who has been with the company for more than
a decade, and Vice President of Business Development James Lay, who has nearly 30 years with E. Gruben’s Transport.
Newmark also names Mervin Gruben, who also is the mayor of Tuktoyaktuk. “[Mervin] is a leader within the company who is involved with all of our strategic work,” Newmark asserts.
Although E. Gruben’s Transport has felt the effects of the economic downturn, it is staying busy, Newmark says. “We’ve got some government projects and some ongoing clean-up projects that should take us through for the next two to three years,”
he says, noting that Gruben’s Transport also has found success with Horizon North Logistics Inc, a spinoff company it formed with the Mullen Group.
Newmark says E. Gruben’s Transport is hoping to see a boost in its gas projects with the Mackenzie Gas Project, a proposed gas pipeline system in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
If it goes forward, “I could see huge growth in the company,” he says. “If it does not continue to go ahead, we’re going to have to be pretty opportunistic.”
This would find it pursuing more environmental and government projects. “We’re still optimistic,” he says, noting with the pipeline project, “we could see exponential growth in the next five years.”