LMS Reinforcing Steel Group

As the economy rebounds, LMS Reinforcing Steel Group already is in an ideal position as the largest independent reinforced steel fabricator and installer in western Canada. How­ever, the Surrey, British Columbia-based company plans to increase its presence in the prov­inces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba by capitalizing on its unique competitive advantages and continuing to provide exceptional customer service in a diverse range of construction sectors.

“We’ve always been a relationship-based com­pany,” COO Norm Streu asserts. He says this applies not only to customers, but to vendors, suppliers, subcontractors and employees also.

In 1987, LMS founders and Co-Chairs Ron McNeil and Ivan Harmatny started a labor-only rebar installation company focused on residential high-rise and commercial work in the greater Vancouver area.

In 1998, McNeil and Harmatny acquired the assets of a company called Lower Mainland Steel and gained a fabrication facility to cut and bend rebar.  The next decade was characterized by rapid growth for LMS. By 2007, the company had between 500 and 600 employees, an additional 200 installers working under subcontract, and its annual revenues peaked at nearly $150 million. 

During this time, McNeil and Harmatny expanded LMS’s product portfolio to include infrastructure work, such as 44 bridge structures along the Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia; the six-lane Golden Years Bridge interlinking greater Vancouver’s surrounding communities; and portions of the 10-lane Port Mann Bridge spanning the Fraser River, which is the largest bridge structure in the province to date.

Expanding Eastward

Some of LMS’ growth can be att­r­i­b­uted to the firm’s decision to venture eastward, Streu says. When cus­tomers began ask­ing the company to work on projects in Ed­mon­ton and Calgary, its portfolio grew to the point where it became necessary to set up a fabrication yard on leased land in Calgary. “Since that time, we bought almost 6 acres of land in southeast Calgary and recently erected a new, purpose-built, 25,000-square-foot facility for the fabrication of reinforcing steel for the Alberta market, as well as for Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” he states. 

At this point, LMS has between 80 and 100 employees in Alberta undertaking 18 to 20 pro­jects at a time. The company recently was awar­ded the Southeast Stoney Trail project, the lar­gest highway project in Alberta’s history and the largest P3 project undertaken in the prov­ince to date. This operation – and all jobs east of Alberta – is headed by Greg Hubbard, LMS’ vice president of operations.

Good Deals on Steel

As a reinforced steel company independent of any particular steel mill, LMS has the ability to buy steel from anywhere in the world at the lowest prices available. 

According to Streu, this is a strong competitive advantage that makes the company a good ally for some of Canada’s largest general contractors. “Because of our size, we are able to buy a large volume of steel from a source that is most advantageous for a customer at any given time,” he says. 

LMS operates a steel broker division with an individual named Robert James working full time to buy steel for the company. 

“His job is to hunt the world for the best steel prices and make recommendations of what we should pur­chase,” Streu says. “He has over 30 years of experience getting to know people in the steel business around the world. We try to be relationship-focused with our suppliers and make sure we work well with them. We want them to value doing business with us so that we’ll get their best price the next time we need to buy from them.”

Healthy Economy

Much like the United States, the Canadian economy took a dramatic hit by the recession. Since then, things have improved considerably, Streu reports. “Economic activity in western Canada, while off of peak levels, is reasonably healthy again,” he says.

When residential and commercial projects began to dwindle, many contractors went after government-funded infrastructure work. “Yes, we certainly had to focus on infrastructure for the last two years as there really wasn’t much else to do until recently,” Streu says. “Given the amount of projects we work on – typically 70 to 80 at any given time – we knew infrastructure would never be able to fully fill our plates. We needed the return of a healthy residential and commercial sector.”

Some of the major projects LMS is undertaking now or recently completed are the Bow Tower in Calgary, which will be the tallest and largest building in western Canada; the Shangri-La Hotel, the tallest building in Van­couver; and a new Royal Canadian Mounted Police headquarters building in Surrey.

“We want to establish our­selves firmly as a western Canadian leader,” Streu says. “Our near-term plan is to solidify ourselves as significant in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.” 

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