ISL Calgary Celebrates 20 Years

With 114 employees and 24,000 ft2 of office space, ISL Calgary is booming. Even in Alberta’s current economic slowdown, ISL’s commitment to client success and community growth has helped the Calgary office flourish.

ISL is not a company that just opens new offices because that is where all the work is,” explains Cal McClary, Director. “ISL goes into a place to become part of that community and aims to fulfill its role as civil engineers and design professionals by helping the community thrive and grow.

As ISL Calgary celebrates its 20 year milestone, Cal McClary and Joe Thoms, Calgary Manager, took some time to reflect on the last 20 years and to forecast what the next 20 years may bring.

Cal McClary joined ISL Calgary in 2005 as Transportation Manager and in 2010 became Calgary Manager and an ISL Director. A Senior Project Manager for ISL Calgary since 2011, Joe Thoms became the new Calgary Manager in 2015 allowing Cal to focus on his responsibilities with the Board of Directors.

In the early days, McClary recalls a much different office, "It was smaller – maybe six employees with only two disciplines. It was municipal and transportation engineering that got the office started. For the first seven or eight years, the office didn’t see much growth."

The first real turning point was the Glenmore Causeway Planning Study that led to the Glenmore Causeway Upgrades. Cal was hired by ISL to manage the Glenmore Causeway Upgrades and at about the same time, there were what Cal deems "two key transfers from Edmonton to Calgary" – Geoffrey Schulmeister and Chris Delanoy.

"Starting with the Glenmore Causeway Upgrades and continuing with each new project, the transportation, municipal and structural disciplines grew," remembers McClary. The economy was booming, enabling the Calgary office to help grow other offices within Alberta including both Lethbridge and Canmore – much like Edmonton had done for Calgary.

The teams began to build strong relationships with the province and municipality that exist to this day. While the economic downturn and 2008 recession led many companies to shrink, it is these longstanding relationships and our ability to adapt that has helped the Calgary office continue to bring in jobs and grow even in the face of economic trials.

When the local government decided to invest in infrastructure to help stimulate the economy, we were fortunate because we had shovel ready projects – like the 32 Street Crossing in the Town of Okotoks. Mario Prezelj was instrumental in completing the successful grant application in 2008 and the Town got the funding to start the project in 2009.

Even in hard times, Calgary kept growing and building its reputation for completing projects on time and on budget. By 2010, the Calgary office was up to 39 staff members and when the Calgary floods hit in 2013, the office had reached 62 employees.

"The floods were a game changer," says Cal, "because suddenly there was an even greater need for services and disciplines that had not yet been at the forefront. Geomatics and environmental services were in high demand and proved integral to ISL’s contributions to relief efforts."

Both environmental services and geomatics have since been reclassified as ISL disciplines.

Today, the office is experiencing what Joe Thoms believes can only be described as “an explosion in growth”.

With 114 staff and 24,000 ft2, Joe notes that “the office has nearly tripled in terms of the number of employees and almost doubled in terms of physical space”.

He adds that “not only is the transportation team huge but Calgary houses nearly every ISL discipline now” and indeed they do – Calgary is home to municipal, transportation, structural—bridges, structural—buildings, landscape architecture, land development, geomatics, environmental services, land use planning and water and wastewater teams. It is also known for its public consultation services.

Both Cal and Joe remain optimistic that the growth will continue.

Joe anticipates “continued growth but not so much with the major disciplines, more with the smaller disciplines like land development, geomatics and environmental services. As the City of Calgary introduces more regulations and attempts to limit urban sprawl, I [Joe] expect there will be a greater demand for environmental services, in particular. I [Joe] think our smaller disciplines are going to start to gain more recognition within projects.

ISL’s greatest benefit is that we do not work in silos – our office works collaboratively on multidisciplinary projects as one big team,” says Cal. To see continued success ISL Calgary has to continue to work in an environment that encourages collaboration across disciplines and remember that it is not about being the biggest, it is about being the best.

Congratulations, ISL Calgary!

August 2016

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