“We knew we wanted to grow the company, and really combat that age-old perception that the experts have to come from ‘somewhere else’,” Rob Frenette recalls, sharing how he and his partner, Liana, first acquired Thunder Bay Testing in 1995. This venture would eventually grow to become the largest independently owned multidisciplinary engineering consulting firm in Northwestern Ontario.
“Growing up, Liana in Barwick and myself in Fort Frances, we had lots of friends in different industries, we had family in different industries, and we saw how routinely municipalities would have consultants coming in from somewhere else. Quite often, recommending products or policies or procedures that might work great in Southern Ontario or maybe Alberta, but not so much in Northwestern Ontario. There shouldn’t be anyone more expert in the conditions we live and work in than the people in the North.”
Investing in local professionals and diversifying the services offered was a long term strategy that has paid off very well 25 years on. From a staff of two to now over two hundred, TBT Engineering has become a one-stop shop for projects and developments with clients and partners as large as the Ministry of Transportation twinning a highway or as small as a private landowner requesting a survey and testing services to plan a septic field.
“Always, anyone, large or small,” Rob confirmed about their wide range of clients, “Whether they’re a First Nation community or a mining development, an institution or private developer, or a school. It starts with maybe some land surveying and from there to a whole range of civil engineering or electrical engineering, drilling and geotechnical, all the various aspects that go together along with a contractor to turn a vision into a reality. That’s really what it is we do, we help you to turn your vision into reality.”
TBT Engineering has a focus not only in sourcing local expertise, but in growing it in the wider region. With over a dozen formal relationships with First Nations led organizations, communities, and projects, increasing the capacity in northern communities is an important value for the company. Some partnerships for TBTE include Washteh, with Windigo Community Development, and the community-led collective Minodahmun Development, as well as numerous service agreements with many communities along the North shore. Services such as waste management, site testing, and electrical and mechanical support for infrastructure development are provided for projects such as mining sites and even subdivision development.
“We’re not a multinational share driven corporation whose primary focus is shareholders pockets,” explains Rob, “Of course we are a business, we do need to profit, but businesses should have a moral and social responsibility to the communities they live in, and we try to do that regularly and generously.”
One such project that allowed TBTE to give back to the region is one very meaningful to Rob and the TBTE team.
“One job, start to finish, was for the Salvation Army. We were a key part of the design, of all the civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, the materials testing, as well as a major corporate sponsor of the new Salvation Army in Thunder Bay. I strongly believe in the importance of that particular facility, it’s beautiful what they’ve done. It’s helping homeless men, providing a place where they can go and as long as they’re sober and drug free, to get back on their feet. There’s assistance with addictions, with trauma, mental health issues, and hopefully finding the strength and dignity to move forward, and get better… It’s a demonstration of what we can do personally and professionally when we all pitch in.”
When asked why a landowner, developer, or councilor with a community development portfolio should reach out to TBTE, Rob answered “at the end of the day, we’re local. Our head office is in Thunder Bay, our president, our people, they live in Thunder Bay. We’re all dealing with the same snowstorms. What little we had back in 1995 and growing into what we are today is exciting and it’s awesome to see the transition happening now. We’re confident that this will continue to be a locally owned, employee owned, northern focused consulting group that can relate with our clients and our colleagues and the communities we’re living and working in.”
If you’d like to submit a project summary or RFP, you can visit their website or call their Thunder Bay head office at (807) 624-5160. Reach out today for projects or partnerships to find out how TBT Engineering can help make your vision a reality.