Bettenson’s Sand & Gravel of Red Deer, Alberta
By Treena Hein
This family-owned business meets the needs of its community by maintaining values of hard work
By Treena Hein
With some things in life, size doesn’t matter. At Bettenson’s Sand &
Gravel, whether it’s a small residential job or a large and complex
commercial construction project, they make sure to provide the same
commitment and dedication to each customer.
With some things in life, size doesn’t matter. At Bettenson’s Sand & Gravel, whether it’s a small residential job or a large and complex commercial construction project, they make sure to provide the same commitment and dedication to each customer. “We have a long-standing reputation with the community of Red Deer, and in the region, as a consistently reliable and hardworking company,” says project manager Joe Bettenson. “We always provide exceptional service with the utmost integrity.” Focusing on these values and maintaining a high level of respect for all business relationships are what keeps Bettenson’s Sand and Gravel going strong as it approaches its 50th anniversary year in 2015.
|In early March, Bettenson’s traded in its Eagle 1000-CC crusher for a new and larger Eagle 1400-45 OC. The company appreciates the way Eagle worked with them to design a plant that didn’t need to be taken apart in order to comply with strict weight regulations.|
The company took root in 1928 with horse-drawn cartage services and concrete production by the batch offered by Jack Bettenson (grandfather of current president Doug Bettenson) and his partner Frank Stewart. Jack bought out Frank in 1942 and he and his son Carl turned the company towards aggregate and demolition operations, officially making it Bettenson’s Sand & Gravel in 1965. Today, the company’s day-to-day operations also involve fourth generation family members Jeff Conklin (office manager), and Doug’s sons Joe and Parker Bettenson (company director).
Bettenson’s currently owns 18 heavy truck/trailer combinations (the trucks are International and Freightliner), 20 pieces of heavy equipment (most are John Deere and Caterpillar) and about 30 pieces of support equipment. Their core staff numbers are about 20 in the colder months, but swell to about double that during construction season. “We are a mid-sized company for this area,” says Parker.
|Bettenson’s new Eagle crusher crushes concrete, asphalt and the company’s own gravel.|
Like many other aggregate companies, Bettenson’s offers a variety of diversified services. In addition to supplying pit-run fill, crushed gravel and sand for residential, commercial and industrial projects, the company also provides trucking, excavation, grading and structural demolition services. “We demolish anywhere from six to 15 residential and commercial buildings per year using excavators and other pieces of equipment,” says Parker. “These are mostly older structures that are demolished to make way for new development.
The cost of demolition is typically much less than that of retrofitting and renovating an old building.” Parker says his company has been responsible over the years for about 75 per cent of building demolition in the Red Deer area, and almost all the larger-scale demolition.
The company also operates a landscape material retail centre in Red Deer, where the general public can purchase topsoil, large round boulders, washed rock, sand and different types of gravels in bulk.
As each construction season winds down, Bettenson’s gears up as one of central Alberta’s largest private snow removal and sanding contractors. “We operate just in Red Deer, serving about 60 to 80 private clients every year,” says Parker. “We’ll also haul snow for the City once in a while if they require that, but they have their own snow removal service.”
Expanding crusher capacity
Since the late 1990s, Bettenson’s has been involved in recycling the concrete and asphalt that has come from demolition projects. “We used to have a company come and crush material for us every two or three years when the volume was large enough to meet their requirements,” Parker explains. “Then in 2006, we decided that we had enough volume coming in on an ongoing basis that buying our own crusher made sense. They now have two recycling facilities in Red Deer where they crush their own concrete and asphalt as well as concrete and asphalt from other companies. The crusher is moved between the two. Parker explains that they researched options for three years before deciding which crusher to purchase. “We chose an Eagle 1000-CC because they have well-built machines and a good reputation,” he says.
|The Bettensons are particularly impressed with the Eagle |
1400-45’s reliable and strong rotor design.
This year however, Bettenson’s decided it was time to expand. “Demand for recycled materials has grown quite a bit,” says Parker, “so we wanted a bigger crusher, but still one that was portable.” In early March, they traded in their 1000-CC for a new and larger Eagle 1400-45 OC. “We decided to stay with Eagle because of our positive experience with our first crusher, and we also appreciated Eagle’s ability to work with us to design a plant that didn’t need to be taken apart in order to comply with strict weight regulations,” Parker explains. “We’ve also always had strong dealer support from WRT Equipment Ltd. in Saskatoon, Sask.” (WRT has been Eagle Crusher Inc.’s Western Canada dealer for the past 12 years).
“The 1400-45 can accept much larger chucks of concrete, pieces that previously had to be pre-processed in order to fit into their former crusher’s opening,” says WRT’s district sales manager Doug Price. “With the 1400-45, Bettenson’s saw a 50 per cent increase in production in the first day.” Eagle offers six crusher sizes in total.
Parker notes that in particular, they were impressed with the 1400-45’s reliable and strong rotor design. “We feel really good about the choice we made, because we’ve put some pretty mean things through it and it kept right on going,” he says. “With this purchase, we now consider ourselves a leader in the concrete and asphalt recycling industry within our province and we are building on this each day.”
The economic crisis that began in 2008 has affected most aggregate companies in Canada to some extent, and Bettenson’s is no exception, but things have picked up steadily since that point. “Alberta has been a pretty resilient place to do business,” says Joe. Indeed, the province’s economy has bounced back so much that Parker says the business that Bettenson’s will do this year is approaching what it was in 2006 – the highest point it ever reached.
|With the purchase of a newer and larger crusher, the Bettensons now consider themselves a leader in the concrete and asphalt recycling industry within Alberta.|
However, like many companies in Alberta in sectors outside the oil sands, Bettenson’s anticipates facing labour shortages. Parker believes the values of their company will continue to be attractive to workers. “We are quite family-oriented,” he notes. “We have a unique outlook for a construction company in that we recognize that there is life outside of work. And we have had many employees who have been with us for decades.”
Aggregate supply is another growing challenge as the sources in the area become depleted. “There are ever-tightening regulations and concerns over the carbon footprint with travelling further distances to get aggregates,” says Joe, “so we do our best to promote the use of recycled concrete and asphalt. It makes both great environmental and economic sense.” Parker says that, as in other provinces, Alberta will likely pass regulations that make the use of recycled asphalt and concrete mandatory. “It’s a great solution, especially for the smaller communities,” he says. “Their demolition projects can produce enough material to last them two years in some cases.”
Bettenson’s has two pits, one sand, and one sand and gravel, and Parker says looking for other opportunities is something they do on an ongoing basis. “You have to be diligent and on top of aggregate sourcing in central Alberta,” he explains. “We’re always looking around, and local municipalities where aggregate supplies are located are always interested in opening new pits and quarries, but recycling is getting more popular every year. The demand is much higher this year than it’s been in previous years.”
Community involvement is also important to Bettenson’s Sand & Gravel. The company offers an annual athletic scholarship and also sponsors several junior sports teams. “We plan to continue to build on the hard work and integrity of earlier generations of our family,” says Joe, “and maintain the quality of work that the Bettenson name has provided for the last 84 years.”