Issue 95

Cover Story, Bill Parr from EnerQuest, pg. 10. Story by By Jenn McMullan and photos by Trevor Booth.

EnerQuest Grounded in Harrow

What does Bill Parr have in common with the creators of Apple, Disney and Amazon. They all began their careers in a garage and turned them into lucrative companies. Following the footsteps of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Jeff Bezos, Parr decided to take a gamble on January of 2003 after suddenly losing his job. When the company he worked for for 10 years let him go during downsizing, Parr and his wife/co-owner Arlene decided to roll the dice.

What does Bill Parr have in common with the creators of Apple, Disney and Amazon. They all began their careers in a garage and turned them into lucrative companies. Following the footsteps of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney and Jeff Bezos, Parr decided to take a gamble on January of 2003 after suddenly losing his job. When the company he worked for for 10 years let him go during downsizing, Parr and his wife/co-owner Arlene decided to roll the dice.

“On January 15th I went to work and at eight o’ five I had a taxi ride home, it was a pretty quick decision in the restructuring,” said Parr. “My wife and I decided to start up EnerQuest and we incorporated January 23rd 2003. We decided to give it a shot and see what we could generate with $5,000 dollars in our savings account. Here we are today, eighty people strong, a couple of manufacturing plants and the largest electrical power distribution manufacturing facility this side of Toronto.”

Building from the ground up, EnerQuest has now become the largest OEM manufacturer of power distribution in Southwestern Ontario. The company builds electrical equipment that allows the energy produced from other sources (such as wind turbines, solar panels, etc.) to flow to the grid and eventually get to your home. Parr said the power that flows through their equipment into the power grid could power about 75, 000 homes per year.

“We’ve transitioned out of service into manufacturing complete distribution solutions for anything electrical,” said Parr. “Whether it’s oil and gas, mining, wind, solar, commercial, data centers, every sector that requires electrical power distribution equipment. I think we’re unique because of our field service background. We were always in the trenches with the installing contractors, with the owners, with the engineers, resolving issues. We’re not manufacturing a product, were manufacturing a solution.”

“One of the biggest phrases people will come to you and say is, ‘I have a problem’. We look at it as you don’t have a problem, but we have an opportunity to provide you a solution. We’ll customize a solution to satisfy our end users requirements. We’re always looking to come up with new solutions, I usually call it the bleeding edge of technology. We tend to do a lot of research and development, so there’s a lot of bleeding in the beginning until we get everything figured out and moving forward. It does take a little more time, effort and engineering, but that’s how we’ve grown our business, through specialized equipment and quick deliveries.”

To say EnerQuest has grown over the years, would be like saying Steve Jobs did fairly well for himself, it would be an understatement to say the least. The company, has gained success both locally and internationally over their nearly twelve year span. EnerQuest was part of the Casino hotel complex and theatre expansion a few years back, supplying electrical power distribution equipment. The equipment is located in the basement and parking garage, and distributes power to Caesar’s Windsor.

“If it wasn’t for EnerQuest landing the Casino Windsor project we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “It upset the apple cart in the electrical world and got people asking who is EnerQuest and what do they do. The Casino Windsor job really spearheaded our capability for the manufacturing industry.” It’s not just at home the name EnerQuest can be heard, the company has equipment all over Canada, in the U.S., Korea, Mexico, Belize and the Artic Circle. Parr said outside out sourcing will only continue to grow.

“We’ve been partnering up with global electrical wholesalers to take our product basically around the world,” he said. “Our export activity outside of Canada is going to grow considerably over the next three to five years.”

The company has come a long way since starting out in theirgarage in Leamington. This past year they acquired a large area of vacant land in Harrow and with the help of the talented team and Architectural Design Associates ( ADA ) and the extensive background of STC Construction Group they began this Greenfield Application Design Build of a 5 phase schedule housing our headquarters and manufacturing any with the first phase 70,000 square foot weld, paint and structural assembly facility.

“Our facility in Harrow has sixteen acres of heavy industrial land which gives us the ability to expand on the same piece of property,” said Parr. “As we continue to expand we can build onto that facility and bring in more rural jobs and increase our revenue and export market. The Harrow facility, I call it my field of dreams, if you build it they will come.”

Parr said what’s coming next is another 16,000 square feet of storage space, 42,000 square feet of factory space and 17,000 square feet of office space. Starting out twelve years ago as a single entity he never imagined the impact it could have on the community around him.

“Now we’re coming into a community with 80,000 to 130,000 square foot facility and eighty people. You get the town recognizing that you’re now bringing in $2.5 to 3 million dollars of economic impact into a rural community. You don’t think of those things when you’re starting a business, but as we’re continually growing we are having a huge impact on the rural area of Harrow, Ontario.”

This impact on community goes both ways, allowing the people to influence EnerQuest just as much, if not more. Parr attributes much of the quality and substance of their product to the people who build it.

“Employees have a huge impact on what we do,” said Parr. “We have an excellent core group of individuals. A lot of our success is on the quality of the workmanship that each and every employee in our company contributes to the EnerQuest name. The employees really have pushed our business in the last couple of years, with the quality, heart and soul that goes into our solutions.”

If the employees are the heart and soul of the company, Parr considers his wife Arlene the backbone. Parr said if it wasn’t for Arlene, who is fifty percent co-owner, they never would have been as successful as they have been. He said the stress of owning a company can be overwhelming at times and when you’re self-employed your head is always in the business.

“There’s just so many hats that an owner of a business has to wear,” he said. “They have to have legal, they have to know the ministry of labour guidelines. They have to know financial, they have to know the product, they have to be a salesman and they have to be marketing.” It may be a challenge at times, but Parr has never shied away from a challenge and it seems EnerQuest was a path he started on long ago.

“Years ago in high school I worked as a summer student in the Canadian Coast Guard,” he said. “My boss at the time was pretty senior and he asked me what I was going to do when I go into post secondary education. I mentioned computer science or something to do with computers. He just shook my hand and said ‘son if you go into computers everyone is going that direction these days, but if you go into high powered electrical distribution you’ll always have a job’. He was right, because all these guys that are doing computers or electronics need power. I would say he was basically looking into a crystal ball 25 years into the future and he was right.”

Parr said many times people tried to deter him from this risky path but it was their doubt that led his way.

“A lot of people said you shouldn’t do that you should go work for somebody else,” said Parr. “You can’t do this, or you can’t do that there’s too much risk involved, and I guess that was the drive. I was a little bit younger then and I guess I didn’t want people telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Any time there’s a challenge failure’s never an option, we have to find a solution and that’s the fun part of EnerQuest. We’re able to design and build whatever we need for our customers. To do it right you do have to make mistakes, but you have to be able to correct them. You just have to keep moving forward one step at a time, failure’s not an option.”

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