Businesses Adapt to Survive

Innovation, risk and hard work keep people employed.

Author: Robert Barron, Nanaimo Daily News
Published: Monday, April 20, 2009

Financial hard times have seen numerous companies in Nanaimo either close down completely or drastically curtail operations in recent months.

But some city businesses are bucking the trend, despite the global recession. Many are even expanding operations, anticipating bright futures regardless of the economic turmoil around them.

Some sectors, like child daycare, are considered almost recession-proof in that there seems to be an almost endless demand for the services, while many high-tech companies and those that rely on skilled labour in the city are not only surviving, but are finding new and innovative ways to get through the recession.

Nanaimo's F&M Installations and Inuktun Services, both of which began operations in the 1980s, are no strangers to hard times and have adapted accordingly to keep healthy and productive over the years, while Carla Paradise had no hesitation in opening up her new business, Kids in Paradise Family Daycare, and envisions the success of her enterprise, regardless of the state of the economy.

"The secret to our success is flexibility," said Colin Dobell, president of Inuktun Services which is recognized internationally for its innovative mobile robotic systems.

"Many companies focus almost entirely on producing standard products and don't see when changes are coming and don't adapt to them, which is why we're seeing so many businesses in trouble these days."

Nanaimo's new business starts dropped in 2008 after three years of steady growth.

The city issued 1,028 new business licences in 2006, followed by 941 licences in 2007 but the numbers fell to just 752 in 2008 with the global recession stepping into full stride.

These numbers are of little concern to brothers Frank and Mike Crucil, owners of Nanaimo's F&M Installations which employs 120 full-time employees.

The company began in 1985 as an electrical contracting business but has branched out since then into industrial mechanical, piping, structural, and tank installation and repair.

F&M also has a significant investment in Harmac and Frank sits on Harmac's board of directors.

During its 14 years in operation, F&M has contracted with numerous utility companies in western Canada and the Yukon on a variety of projects that include B.C. Transmission Corporation's $298-million Vancouver Island Transmission Project that replaced the 51-year-old power lines that link the Island to B.C.'s electricity grid on the mainland, and the ongoing construction of the $200-million liquefied natural gas storage facility being built in Cassidy by Terasen Gas.

"No matter what the state of the economy, people still need to have their power come on when they flick the switch," Frank Crucil said from the company's headquarters in Nanaimo's south end.

"The two main factors that are keeping FMI busy these days are aging infrastructure that large utilities need to replace and the fact that the population continues to grow, creating more demands for power and other services."

Mike Crucil said while challenging economic times are having severe impacts on many businesses, opportunities also arise during such periods for companies like F&M that are positioned to take advantage of them.

He said F&M's decision to take on a 50% partnership with Williams Lake-based Pioneer Log Homes in the company's shares in Harmac was based on the brothers' belief that the mill could be successful, regardless of the dire predictions of many on Harmac's future. Pioneer is one of four partners who bought the mill for $13.2 million last year.