1997: “We were civil engineers, and we had to become mechanical, electrical, and all sorts of things to survive.” – Ron Triffo

Alberta was booming in 1997. Commodity prices were strong, there was a record level of activity in the oil and gas fields, exports were up and the equity markets were flush. And Ron Triffo, president and CEO of Edmonton-based Stanley Technology Group (now Stantec) was in the early stages of launching the engineering and design firm into the international stratosphere. “In many ways, we could be visioned like a McDonalds of the engineering industry,” he said at the time, “where every place you could think of needs our kinds of services.” And so it has come to be. Triffo had taken the company public in 1994, and under his leadership it started down the path that now sees it operating in more than 80 countries today with a workforce of 22,000. It has built hundreds of signature projects over the years, including Edmonton’s LRT system and the $840-million Confederation Bridge linking P.E.I. to the mainland. The professional services company is now one of the largest in Canada. “Part of the plan was to not be reliant on one geographic area for our existence, or on one specialty,” Triffo says. “We were civil engineers, and we had to become mechanical, electrical, and all sorts of things to survive.” Stantec’s operations now include planning management, architecture and professional services. The road wasn’t always smooth. Triffo says it was tough to adjust to the quarterly results focus of public markets, and there was also the challenge of growing through acquisitions. “We had to form the kind of acquisition team that could bring the companies we were acquiring into the fold,” he says, “to meld them and merge them in a cultural sense and to provide the platforms for the back office that were required from a financial perspective and from a project management perspective.” Now retired, Triffo says Albertans should shift their focus to agriculture and forestry and not limit their investments to oil and gas. “Diversification to some people springs to mind that all of a sudden we’re going to be doing something totally different than what we’re doing right now,” he says. “But Alberta diversification is simply building upon the strong pillars of the economy that we have.”

The Year that Was 1997

Alberta’s population 2.8 million (it’s now 4.2 million)

Ralph Klein wins a second term as premier and the eighth consecutive government for the Progressive Conservative Party

$2.6 billion The provincial budget surplus

Alberta gets the business magazine it deserves (yes, we mean the one you’re holding now)