In a series of conversations with workers and business operators, The Province and Resource Works explore the contributions that trade, industry and natural resources make to the British Columbia economy
This week, we talk with Jim Longo of Ideal Welders. He started his business from scratch in the 1960s and now serves markets in BC and abroad.
Postmedia News: What inspired you to get into the welding business?
Jim Longo: If your father is a baker, you work in the bakery. My father was a welder. At 10 or 11 years old, if I wanted to get to my little league baseball game, I had to get my chores done, and that was welding.
PN: When did you get started in business?
JL: I lived in south Vancouver, graduated high school 1967, was at BCIT 1968-69, then I started doing a little bit of business myself. I started with a pickup truck. It took all the money I had. I went around and said, 'Hey, give me something to weld.'
PN: Ideal describes itself as the largest pressure vessel and piping fabrication shop in British Columbia. How did that growth happen?
JL: A bit at a time. I started with the truck. Then I used my Dad's garage. Then I ended up with two or three trucks, then six trucks, then rented a small shop, 2,000 square feet. Then I bought an old house and built a shop in Burnaby. We outgrew that in three or four years. We moved to Annacis Island and went from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet. We added on twice, to give us 50,000. Then we had to buy another plant to give us an additional 20,000. Then we bought the Domtar site on Annacis Island, which had about 400,000 square feet. We've been renovating it a bit at a time - today we have about 250,000 square feet.
PN: How many employees do you have, and what does Ideal look for when you hire someone?
JL: We have about 125 people. A lot of people knock on the door. It's a relative, or a friend of a friend or whatever it might be. I always say, 'If we have the space, we will give you the opportunity.' If there's a grey area, always give the benefit of the doubt to the employee - give these guys the opportunity to succeed.
PN: You've sent product all over the world. How do you reach international customers?
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