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WGI Westman acquires another Manitoba firm

Published by CME Manitoba on March 04, 2017

This article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on  March 4, 2017

WGI Westman has added to its sprawling empire of Western Canadian agricultural-focused metal fabrication companies with the acquisition of EMSIPS (Eagle Mountain Structural Insulated Panel Systems) of Winkler.

EMSIPS makes innovative modular housing units featuring metal clad walls and floors that are mould-impervious to fire-resistant.

WGI Westman CEO Paul Cunningham said the deal was set to close last month, days before the fatal plane accident near Brunkild last month that took the life of EMSIPS owner and founder Arthur Paetkau.

"We offer our deepest condolences to the Paetkau family and we are honoured that they have chosen to entrust the continuation of their EMSIPS business to our group," Cunningham said.

This is the fourth southern Manitoba company WGI Westman has acquired in the past 12 months. Others were Elias Reliabelt Inc. of Morden last March, Convey-All Industries of Winkler in July and Norstar Manufacturing in Morris in August.

The purchase brings the number of WGI Westman locations to more than 30 and employees to more than 2,100.

"It’s crazy how many locations we have," Cunningham said.

"It’s getting hard to keep track."

Obviously Cunningham and his 15-person head office staff in Winnipeg are fully aware of the private holdings that now generate close to $400 million in annual revenue.

Founded by Russ Edwards in 1976, the company has grown to become one of Western Canada’s largest users of raw steel.

And although it’s based in Winnipeg and has a small culvert production facility here, it has only about 20 employees in the city including its head office staff.

While other companies might go ahead and consolidate scattered locations, Cunningham said his company is patient and careful not to tinker too much with the success of the companies they acquire.

"There is always a little push and pull," he said.

For instance, it has a company in Iowa that makes bulk seed tenders, most of which are sold in Canada and Convey-All makes smaller ones that have a good market in the U.S.

Cunningham said plans are in place to move around production of merchandise to be closer to their respective markets.

"Our first rule when we do buy a business is to not break it," Cunningham said. "We don’t run around and make rash decisions on Day 1. You make sure you figure out what the secret sauce is before you start throwing stuff out."

But he did say that the company is in the process of rationalizing a number of properties it owns in Winkler.

In addition to the spate of acquisitions, its Brandon-based Behlen Industries just closed a $45-million deal to build three large buildings for the republic of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, just south of Russia on the Black Sea.

Behlen is Canada’s largest manufacturer of pre-engineered steel building systems. This turnkey deal includes the erection of the buildings, each of which includes two basketball courts and seating for 2,000 people.

They are scheduled to be shipped next year. Cunningham said the company has a good order book and does not expect a lull after the completion of such a large order.

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