Third generation pushes Parker Johnston growth

Parker Johnston Industries Ltd., a three-generation roofing company, is spending more than $8 million to relocate to a custom-built facility, fitted out with new equipment, in Central Saanich.

The 63-year-old family company, led by Rod Parker, has diversified, moved into new markets, recently opened a second office in Calgary and has further expansion plans in motion.

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Parker, 36, moves quickly and makes decisions quickly, all the time juggling a continuing stream of phone calls.

He’s at the office between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. and home by 4 p.m. to spend time with three-year-old son Thane.

He’s also got a sense of humour. An older-model Volkswagen van, beloved by West Coast free spirits, is featured on the company’s website with the announcement: “The hippies are coming … now proudly serving Calgary.”

The Calgary outlet opened five months ago.

Right now, the company has about 200 workers, a number Parker expects will increase by 50 or 60 by the end of the summer.

In December, Parker Johnston is moving to 6791 Oldfield Rd., where construction is underway on the .85 hectare former Keating Used Auto and Truck Parts property.

The existing building will remain and will be leased out or used by Parker Johnston.

A new 28,000 square foot building, designed by Victoria’s de Hoog and Kierulf Architects, will consolidate the company’s operations into one place. “This area is going through a bit of a resurgence,” Parker said.

The total cost of the new location will be $8.5 million, representing the cost of buying and remediating the site, constructing the new building and buying at least $1.5 million in new equipment, such as a rolling mill to create custom cladding which will help reduce costs, he said.

Located in the Keating Industrial Park, Parker said the new building will move operations from 759 Vanalman Ave. and from another site on Princess Avenue, which will be leased or sold. The company will retain ownership of the Vanalman property, which is already one-third leased.

Parker is general manager and owns the company 50-50 with his father, Dan, who is company president. It was founded in 1950 by Walter Parker and Bill Johnston. They sold roofing and insulation services, tile, flooring and building supplies. Dan Parker, Walter’s son, earlier bought out the partner, Rod said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have good family backing.”

Rod Parker earned his journeyman’s papers by age 19. He worked full-time as a roofer while attending the University of B.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree, first studying commerce before switching to English literature, favouring American poetry.

Parker Johnston’s Victoria office serves mainly southern Vancouver Island, but does some work elsewhere, such as a $7.5-million contract for a roof on the University of B.C.’s brain health centre.

The company is looking to the Lower Mainland and is in negotiations to purchase a company, Parker said.

Annual sales have increased to about $30 million, up from $2 million to $3 million in 1999, said Parker. Between $5 million and $7 million of today’s sales are through Integrity Exteriors, purchased by Parker Johnston in 2009. The remainder of sales is equally divided by roofing and cladding.

“The roofing industry is changing into the building envelope industry,” he said.

Buying Integrity allowed the company to offer scaffolding, building remediation, stucco walls and rainscreen walls. It was “a $1-million deal on a napkin at the Howard Johnson. That’s how the good deals in Victoria are always done,” Parker said with a smile.

Major projects include roofing and exterior cladding on the Royal Jubilee Hospital patient care centre, and roofing and cladding, installing zinc on the exterior and interior, and interior woodwork on the downtown Atrium office building. Those projects helped keep workers on the job during the recession. Parker Johnston will be installing the roof on Chard Development’s 90-unit condominium project in James Bay, he said.

The company’s roofing operation handles about 1,000 houses a year, as well as commercial and industrial sites, he said.

Multi-family developments and commercial properties account for much of the cladding work.

Parker Johnston is also doing the exterior of UVic’s new Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities.

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