WesTower Communications

At WesTower Communications, the construction of towers never gets boring, Richard Kirby says. “There always seems to be a challenge, whether you’re building a tower in a very remote location with helicopters or putting a stealth site up in a major city,” he says, “it’s different, and it’s changing all the time.”

Kirby is the senior vice president of western Canada for WesTower, which provides a variety of services such as project and construction management, tower design and fabrication, architecture and engineering, and materials management and warehousing in the United States and Canada. Founders Roy Jeffrey and Calvin Payne started the company in 1989 as a small operation. 

In 1997, WesTower began to grow when it started acquiring similar companies, Kirby says. Today, “WesTower is a private company with nine offices in Canada, 15 in the U.S.A. and over 800 employees,” he says.

The company serves a customer base that includes communications carriers, broadcasters, tower owners, railroads and public utilities. Kirby notes that the company is distinguished by its ability to provide full turnkey services.

”I believe we have the best crews in the industry,” he says. “WesTower can offer all necessary services with in-house people.”

The company also has a strong reputation for its work that it strives to maintain, Kirby says. “We stand behind our products and services because an unhappy customer will not return,” he states. Most years, more than 90 percent of WesTower’s work is from repeat customers. 

Employee Focused

Kirby is a longtime veteran of WesTower. He joined the company in 1990 as a tower inspector and rigger as he attended college. “I had a brief banking career after university, but quickly realized I wanted to be in the communications industry,” he says, adding that he took his current role at WesTower earlier this year.

From WesTower’s office in Surrey, British Columbia, Kirby oversees the company’s work in western and midwest Canada, as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories. He notes that he has enjoyed his time at WesTower. “The owners are great to work for,” he says, adding that the company believes strongly in promoting from within and providing constant training to keep workers up to date on industry changes. 

For instance, two of the major carriers in Canada made the switch last year to go to 3.5 generation and fiber-fed antennas, he says. WesTower adapted by learning about new technologies, equipment and testing. “We did that with intensive training both in the office and out in the field,” Kirby adds. 

Some competitors do not train as much as WesTower, but Kirby says the company finds that the best workers want to grow professionally. “They want to learn [and] keep improving their skills,” he says. “A lot of people from other companies come here, because they’ve heard a lot about how we invest in our people with training.”

Lean and Efficient

WesTower’s recent work includes the largest antenna/equipment project ever undertaken in Canada, Kirby says. Last year, telecommunications firms Telus and Bell Canada had new antennas and equipment installed on each of their towers.

“Every tower had to be analyzed for the new loading, [and] plans had to be developed to install the new antennas, equipment and tower reinforcing, while maintaining the existing system,” he says.

WesTower was responsible for providing upgrades and antennas on towers that it had supplied to Telus in western Canada. “Wes­Tower had to analyze every tower it supplied over the past 10 years, provide reinforcing designs, and complete the civil and antenna work,” he says. 

Despite a tight schedule, the company met deadlines by working long hours and doubling its field staff. However, “We added only a few office staff, we reorganized a few people and had them focus exclusively on this project,” he says.

He adds that the office staff handled twice as many field workers than usual. “This is a testament to how efficient our system and structure can be,” he says, noting that the company had three project managers, six engineers and eight steel detailers dedicated to the Western portion of the project. “I don’t think we could have run this any leaner or more efficiently.”

Staying Open

Moving forward, WesTower plans to continue as a full turnkey operation and expand its technical group across Canada by trying to increase its market share in each region and adding technicians as required, Kirby says. However, the company is not restricting itself to these plans. 

“We’re open to any opportunity,” he says. “If it made sense to put a fabrication facility in Prince George or northern Ontario, we’d look at that.”

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