Q&A with Scott Bone, CEO of the Northern Regional Construction Association

Scott Bone is the CEO of the Northern Regional Construction Association (NRCA). We recently caught up with Scott at our head office in Victoria to discuss projects and construction activity in Northern BC, one of the busiest areas of the province.

Watch the full Q&A with Scott on our Bid&Post Show.

Hi Scott. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about the NRCA?

Certainly, NRCA is one of four regional construction associations within the province. We’re located in the north and we represent areas north of Williams Lake up to the Alberta border and then out to Haida Gwaii and up to the Yukon. Geographically, we have the largest region within the province. Right now, our association has about 250 members. Our membership is very similar to our counterparts within the other regions, we represent general contractors, trade contractors, banks, and professional associations. Our association is one of the oldest in the province, we’ve been going for about 60 years now.

Incredible! How did you get involved?

Well, I’m fortunate. For three decades I was Director of Purchasing for the City of Prince George, so I have that public background, and when I retired my wife didn’t want me home alone with my tools so was I was forced to come out of retirement. I was approached by the Construction Association to fulfill a role of CEO in that organization.

Tell us a little about what’s happening up north. We hear it’s very busy!

It’s really a wonderful time for the north. When you look at the construction activity in the province right now there’s about $110 billion of current construction activity.

When you separate that out and look at the north about 50% of that activity is within our backyard.

When you look at those dollars and you look at the recent financial investment decision by LNG Canada, the construction activity for the pipeline, the recent announcement in Prince George of the $5 billion petrochemical project, there’s a huge amount of opportunities that are happening in the north.

I’m fortunate because before I started with the Construction Association I worked for TransCanada Pipeline for their procurement division. It’s nice to see all of these activities and projects now starting to come to fruition.

And what would you say is the busiest area within the northern region?

Right now there is a significant amount of activity in the Terrace and Kitimat area to support the LNG facility. $40 billion dollars are being spent there, that’s a lot of construction activity in that specific area. When you look at the Prince George area, which is the hub of what we’ll call the supply chain sector, we are representing all of the contractors from transportation to professional services. So, there’s a significant amount of activity not just in one area but throughout.

And do you have any smaller projects that are available in the region?

We’re working very closely with the Partnerships BC. For example, in the Terrace area, they’re putting in a brand-new hospital, $500 million. It’s being run through the BidCentral program. There are many small and large projects happening.

Wow, how do you keep up with the demand?

That’s the difficult thing. I think what we’re finding now is that construction activity in the north is really going to start to peak for the next three or four years and then in about 2023 you’re going to see it cut back down to about 2019 levels. Our members are looking at these projects and being very strategic, “what project do I want to bid on, and what capacity do I have to build on it?” The biggest challenge we’re facing throughout the province is workforce management. “Do I have enough people to fulfill the terms of the contract and finish on time for the owner?”

And how are they getting talent?

I think one of the key things is the BC Construction Association. They’re working with owners and contractors to find those gaps and fill them with various training dollars, like those available through the LNG Canada Trades Training Fund.

What do you see as the most important element in procurement for the next six months?

The biggest challenge that I think that we’re having right now, particularly in the public sector, is what we call “owners of choice”. You want the construction industry to be interested and excited about bidding on your projects. If they’re not interested and excited, because there’s so much activity, they’ll be selective in what they’re doing.

We’re working very closely with the BC Construction Association and our other partners about informing and educating these public owners on the best practices so that there are opportunities out there for them. We just had an event in Prince George with about 30 public owners and contractors as well as the Ministry of Finance and the BC Construction Association talking about the nuances of public procurement and how public owners might find better ways to attract their bids to public owners.

One of the things that that I learned in my three decades of public procurement, and I always remember being on the other side of the table in public procurement, is contractors were always criticizing us saying “if I would have known about this project before you went to public tender I could have been a little bit more strategic” and one of the tools that we’ve found significant benefit in, is Prebid. Our members are now using Prebid to say “there’s a project coming up three, four, five, six months down the road” and rather than reacting to a public tender they’re being strategic and looking at their capacity, their workforce, and saying “these are projects that are aligning with our objectives and we’re going to attract ourselves to those.”

The other thing that we’re finding particularly with our members is the use of the BidCentral platform. The projects, information, tools and access are all available to them there. The most important thing we hear from our members is when they wake up with their morning coffee all of the projects are in their inbox. They don’t have to go looking for it. It’s those types of tools that help them find the projects that they need.

If people want to learn more about the Northern Regional Construction Association how do, they get in touch with you?

Well, we have our website and we’re very well aligned with the BidCentral program, and with BCCA, but if you reach out to us, we’d be happy to walk you through the various projects that are happening in our area.

Thank you very much Scott, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you today, and I know we’re going to be talking to you a lot in the future and hearing about upcoming projects and the success that you’re having in your region.

Thank you very much.