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crete Mix Ltd. – and it was equally owned by Danilowich of Calgary, United Cement Contractors Ltd., and J.F. Burns Sand & Gravel. The plant was built in the Manchester Pit where Jim II supplied the sand and gravel while the other two partners continued to operate their concrete business as separate entities. The concept worked for a number of years until two of the partners locked horns. Jim II purchased one business and then the other – placing him back in sole ownership of the concrete business. Much like his father, while Jim II was growing the companies, he and his wife, Pearl, were also raising a family. J.F. Burns (III) arrived on the job site in 1949 – just after his 14th birthday when school was out for the summer. Jim III worked the following three summers: in the office, driving a truck, running the dragline and operating the loader/ bulldozer. By 1953, he was working full time and two years later, Jim III became the general manager of the sand and gravel operation. That same year, Jim II purchased two gravel properties from P. Burns Ranches; the more notable one was the Bow River pit, where operations continue today as BURNCO’s flagship Landscape Centre. In 1958 Jim II, Clayton Carroll and Jim III (to the surprise of his new wife Patricia), purchased a 160-acre parcel of land at Nose Hill which became an additional gravel pit, and later, part of the 2600-acre Nose Hill Park. In 1959 a 350-acre parcel was acquired in Ogden, which after mining, was reclaimed and sold to developers and is now Calgary’s Riverbend subdivision. Prior to the sale of the Ogden property, BURNCO developed and presented the well-known Carburn Park to the city at no cost. In 1969 a 540-acre parcel of gravel land was acquired in Springbank just west of Canada Olympic Park, which is still active today. Also in 1969, Jim III convinced his father that the various operating companies – which had developed since the mid ’50s – were starting to work against each other and suggested a merger. In September of that year, five of the companies were amalgamated into one: BURNCO Industries Ltd. The five companies were J.F. Burns Sand & Gravel Ltd., Burnco Sand & Gravel Ltd., Enterprise Loading and Trucking Ltd., Southside Concrete Mix Ltd., and United Cement Contractors Ltd. Jim II was the president and Jim III was the executive vice president of the new entity. BURNCO Industries Ltd. and Clayton Carroll owned Pioneer Paving Ltd. equally, and it continued to operate separately after the amalgamation, with Clayton Carroll as president. Clayton sold his shares in Pioneer Paving to BURNCO in 1978. BURNCO Rock Products Ltd. was established in 1977 as a subsidiary of BURNCO Industries Ltd. (which later became BURNSWEST Corporation) to include all of the operating entities. Jim III’s son, Scott, joined the company in 1987 and in 1994 purchased BURNCO Rock Products Ltd. from BURNSWEST (Jim III and Patricia’s parent company) – marking the fourth generation to run the operating business. As BURNCO embarks on its second century, the family values remain at the forefront as an industry-leader in aggregate-based construction materials.

Today, the management team has positioned the group of companies for solid growth. “We have the ability to think long-term and we have the financial strength to help us grow, and that’s because the family has always reinvested the profits back into the business,” says Mike Powell, President. “We have almost 1000 employees who are very talented and proud to work at BURNCO; we also have a very strong Management Committee: Kim Titus: Vice President, Aggregate Division; Doug Brewster: Controller; brand that is highly respectWil Fedirko: Senior Vice President and Vice President, Ready Mix Division; Bill Bakala: Division Manager, ed. These are key building Landscape Centres; Randy Reamer: Chief Financial Officer; Scott Burns: Chief Executive Officer and blocks for future growth.” Chairman of the Board; Randy Cousins: Vice President, Asphalt Division; Mike Powell: President. Many of BURNCO’s senior people have been with the company for decades and were hired by Jim III. “These people ascended into more BURNCO has always taken a conservative but assenior positions and there were many others before sertive approach to business and that has supportthem who helped to build the business with the same ed its legacy, but it also engages long-term growth. passion and vision the Burns family has,” adds Mike. And as BURNCO celebrates 100 years, they thank “Our brand is very strong and that echoes back to all the business partners, suppliers, customers and Jim III. Likewise, we take great pride in our people and past generations who played a role in the company’s the work they undertake, and we work hard to ensure growth and success. “Our approach to business and that our people, properties and equipment fleet supstrong values allow us to look to the future and fifth port our brand,” asserts Mike. generation with confidence,” says Scott Burns, CEO.

BURNCO Rock Products Ltd:

100 Years in the Making


efore Alberta was declared a province and like many ambitious young men, James Francis Burns (I) boarded the CP Rail in Ontario and travelled west – hopeful he could carve out a respectable life, find a wife and raise a family. Jim headed west on the advice of his doctor, to recover from bronchitis – claiming the dry climate was the only way to rid himself of the affliction. He departed Ontario with $25 that his father had given him as a nest egg and by the time he arrived in Calgary, he had $1.50 to his name. At the time, Jim did not realize the coming years would find him running a successful excavation and concrete business that

THE BURNCO OPERATING DIVISIONS: AGGREGATE: Produces and sells sand and gravel from company-owned or leased pits in Alberta and B.C., ensures compliance with increasing government regulations and sets standards for minimizing environmental concerns, land use conflicts and reclamation. READY MIX: With 25 concrete plants strategically located throughout Alberta and B.C., BURNCO provides a full range of construction services for residential and commercial markets. The company-owned fleet of over 300 mixer trucks, truck-mounted boom pumps and experienced drivers provide maximum flexibility to meet any customer demands. LANDSCAPE CENTRES: Developed in 1987, these centres provide retail customers and contractors with a “one-stop-shop” for landscape supplies. ASPHALT: Four modern drum plants and one batch plant, which are located in Calgary, Edmonton and Springbank, produce a full range of hot and cold mixes. Fifty-eight years of asphalt paving and production experience combined with these high-capacity, environmentally-friendly production facilities enable BURNCO to meet the specific needs of each paving customer.


would eventually grow to become one of Western Canada’s largest privately-owned businesses known today as BURNCO Rock Products Ltd. As 2012 marks BURNCO’s centennial year, it would seem that Jim not only carved out a respectable livelihood, but one that transcended the generations even though his dream was just to provide for his family. Through lessons learned and absolute attention to quality, service, price, fair dealings, creativity and action, BURNCO is positioned to satisfy customers’ demands. Profits have been continuously reinvested in the business and the company is a role model of appropriate stewardship toward safety and the environment. Today, as the fourth generation sits at the helm of BURNCO, take a glance back and honour their history.

Glancing Back…

men periodically when tempers flared – for various reasons – which would leave him to do the concrete finishing work alone, often late into the night. Once the business was sold, Jim I moved to Vancouver, driving his meticulously kept 1932 Studebaker sedan. He often remarked that when he could no longer keep his books in the glove compartment of his Studebaker, it was time to retire. Jim II merged the two concrete businesses and divided his time between it and the sand and gravel. The businesses flourished after the war and there was no shortage of work. When soldiers began returning home, the available workforce, which had been limited for many years, expanded almost overnight, and the new Manchester Gravel Pit was a flurry of activity. On the concrete side, things were a bit different: a new competitor had arrived. Alberta Transit Mix was open for business complete with truck-mounted mixers, a centrally-located ready-mix plant and a sales team to offer contractors and homebuilders a better price, with concrete delivered to the job site in trucks. In 1950, True Mix Concrete was established with a used stationary concrete plant purchased from a dam site, and a fleet of six new White-brand trucks complete with mounted mixers. The operation was set up across the Elbow River from the Stampede Grounds. Jim II and Ernie Lutz established this new business as equal partners, but maintained their own gravel operations that supplied the plant with raw materials. In short order the new operation had two adjoining plants and an additional 20 larger White mixer trucks. A few years later, Jim II decided to sell his shares in True Mix Concrete, but Ernie didn’t have the capital to buy him out. His shares were sold to an outside company and the transaction took Jim II out of the concrete business – a first since he was 14 years old. As the Manchester Pit expanded, part of it contained lowerquality sand than what was needed for concrete and Jim II believed it would work well for hot mix asphalt. At the time, there was only one other asphalt contractor in Calgary, so in 1954, Jim II along with a longtime friend and silent partner, Clayton Carroll, set up Pioneer Paving Ltd. and within a few months, they were busy. The following year, two past concrete competitors approached Jim II about creating a partnership – Southside Con-

Looking Forward…


im I was born in 1882 in Petrolia, Ontario and he came to Alberta when he was 21 years old. Jim transited through Calgary in 1903 following a tip from a CP Rail stationmaster that his skills were needed at the Bankhead coal mines, just outside of Banff. Jim had become very adept at handling horses and was hired as a teamster: driving horses to pull loaded coal cars from the mine. After a few winters spent at Bankhead, and summers on a new homestead in the Gadsby/Stettler area, around 1908 Jim was drawn to the ever-growing business activity in Calgary. He initially worked for others as a teamster, but it wasn’t long before he bought his own team of work horses and a dump wagon with aspirations to own a business. As Calgary started to take shape, teamsters and their horses and wagons were found working on a variety of projects. One of Calgary’s earlier projects required teamsters to cut through the upper edge of the North Hill riverbank to access the new Centre Street Bridge. In 1912, Jim started BURNCO as a concrete and excavation business where his team of work horses, a four-wheeled dump wagon and hand shovels were the tools of the day. A slip scraper was used to excavate basements and during the colder months, dynamite was used to loosen the frozen ground. During the initial years, Jim drummed up concrete work that included sidewalks, concrete floors and poured foundations that quite often replaced wooden basement walls. Sand and gravel was screened through the tines of a coal fork at the Elbow or Bow River, then shovelled into the dump wagon. Upon arrival at the job site it was again shovelled onto a batter board, cement and water added, hand-mixed and placed into the concrete forms. The Bowness Golf and Country Club, on Bowfort Road, was one of his first large-scale excavation and concrete projects. In later years, it became a restaurant known as the Romeo and Juliet Inn, and provided a castle-like landmark for travellers heading west on the Trans-Canada Highway. During the early days, he ran the business from his home on 15th Avenue NE, complete with a large barn and a garage to house two teams of horses and a blacksmith shop. He hired helpers as needed, but the flat-work trowelling and finishing work was still done by Jim. With the advent of trucks and job-site mixers, he purchased his first gravel truck and tow-behind mixer in 1923. While he was growing the business, he and his wife were also raising a family. James Francis Burns (II) joined the company after Grade 8 to labour and drive a truck. His pride was a new 1929 two-ton

Jim I

Jim II

REO dump truck with a hand-crank dump. Before long, Jim II independently was involved with quoting jobs, supervising the crew, collecting payment and honing his concrete finishing skills. He worked along with his father for many years, but when the Great Depression hit, business slowed and the father and son had a falling out. In 1937, Jim II acquired a mining permit for a gravel operation on the north bank of the Bow River between the Langevin and Centre Street Bridges. His ingenuity and hard work along with periodic help from others allowed him to erect a plant with a cableway system built on a low budget and this marked the beginning of J.F. Burns Sand & Gravel. With the disagreement behind father and son, they started to work together again via the two businesses. By now, Jim II had started his own concrete operation in addition to the sand and gravel business, but had exhausted the supply from his permitted section of the river. In a discussion with an ‘old gent’ one day, Jim II became aware of a potential new gravel deposit – an old stream bed – located in the Manchester area that was accessible only via a rutted trail across the prairie. The parcel was owned by P. Burns Ranches Ltd. (no relation to Jim II), and after testing the land, he purchased 12 acres in 1948. The site was on the east side of 6th Street SE, which later became the Blackfoot Trail and 46th Avenue SE. Meanwhile, Jim I’s concrete operations were continuing at a mediocre pace, due mainly to the effect of the war on the economy. Jim II was managing both concrete operations and in 1945, Jim I returned to Calgary, after an extended time away, to announce his business was for sale. He gave Jim II two weeks to generate the necessary capital, otherwise it would be sold to the insurance agent who lived down the street, but as fate would have it, the business remained in the family as Jim II agreed to take on debt to buy the business – albeit reluctantly. One of the drawbacks of the concrete business was finishing the concrete. Jim II had trained and hired many excellent concrete finishers, however it was not uncommon to lose good Continued...

Timeline 1912 A young man named James Francis Burns I started a concrete and excavation business in Calgary, Alberta using his team of work horses, hand shovels and a four-wheeled dump wagon.

1945 J. F. Burns I gives his son first opportunity and

a short period of time to buy the business, the price was reluctantly agreed to by Jim II.

1950 Jim II continued the family tradition of innovation by introducing one of Western Canada’s first central mix plants for concrete, True Mix Concrete.

1955 Jim Burns III becomes the General Manager of J.F. Burns Sand & Gravel at the age of 20.

1974 Jim Burns III buys the remaining

interest of J.F. Burns II and Pearl Burns in BURNCO Industries Ltd over 15 years.

1976 Pickering Rock Products is purchased in Banff and Canmore,

1946 First office at 46th Avenue Calgary & Jim II’s company

setting up BURNCO’s first concrete plant distant from Calgary.

car, a Hudson ‘38 Terraplane.


Having previously worked summers in various capacities in the business or been at school continuously since he was 15, Scott Burns, the 4th generation, begins his full time career in the business initially as Executive Assistant to Jim Burns III, then within BURNCO’s Aggregate Division.

1996 BURNCO begins expansion into nearby Edmonton

Centres, Leduc, Acheson, Fort Saskatchewan and the west side of the City, eventually replicating its positions in the Calgary District. In the same year Fort McMurrary operations commence.

2008 BURNCO sells its precast and packaging business and begins expansion into the aggregate business in B.C.

1988 BURNCO enters the retail market supplying do-it-yourself 1954 Asphalt paving operations began with Jim II and partner

1923 J. F. Burns I purchased a truck that could haul

gravel and tow a mixer to jobsites. Work horses were being phased out in favour of mechanization and a growing work force.


Clayton Carroll starting a business called Pioneer Paving Ltd.

Jim II expands his sand and gravel operations from mining the Bow River by purchasing land and opening up the Manchester Gravel Pit.

packaged products along with landscaping materials for retail customers and contractors.

1958 Jim II asks Clayton Carroll and Jim III to join him in acquiring land, together they form the joint venture, Carburn Aggregates. This company would continue to purchase land in support of the operating businesses.

1960 Jim III creates Enterprise Trucking & Loading Ltd with Joe Pearson.

Fort Saskatchewan

1928 At the age of 14, J. F. Burns II started working full

time for his Dad and soon after he was placed in charge of the crew. His duties included quoting prices for work, supervising the work and collecting the money after the job was done. He also began his development into an accomplished concrete finisher.

1949 As a summer student at the age of 14, Jim Burns III

goes to work for his Dad taking on various jobs each summer: shoveling gravel, driving trucks, working in the office and operating equipment. In 1953, after returning from the University of Alberta, he began full time work.

1955 Jim II and two others come together to form Southside

company started a 24 day continual pour of concrete to build the Calgary Tower. The slip-form technique they used was a relatively new idea, the record pour over 24 hours was 39 vertical feet.

BURNCO begins to conduct its own real estate operations.

1993 BURNCO begins operations in the Edmonton market area.

2004 BURNCO operations commence in British Columbia

and now operate from multiple sites in Metro Vancouver and the Okanagan/Shuswap Districts.

1978 The Company expands to Red Deer, Okotoks, Airdrie, 1983

known as BURNCO Industries Ltd.

2010 Mike Powell, joins the Company as the first non-family President.

BURNCO Rock Products Ltd to hold all of the operating business except Pioneer Paving.

2011 Landscape Centres continue to grow with the purchase of Landscape Depot in the BC Lower Mainland

2011 BURNCO proceeds with Project Enable, a complete

replacement of its ERP and front end systems to provide for growth into its second century of operations.


BURNCO expands Calgary Ready Mix business with the acquisition of the assets of Four Star Concrete and Construction.

and Medicine Hat with initial work done to facilitate expansion to Cochrane and Lethbridge.

Concrete Mix Ltd.

1969 In September five companies were amalgamated into one

1994 Scott Burns, enters into a purchase arrangement over

BURNCO’s asphalt paving operations begin to be wound down, selling the rolling stock but keeping the asphalt plants to supply asphalt to independent contactors.

20 years to acquire BURNCO Rock Products Ltd and becomes President of the Company.


BURNCO purchases Key Concrete Ltd a then 23 year old family business to enter the precast concrete business.

1937 Jim II inquires about

a mining permit to excavate gravel from the Bow River like others were doing. He was granted a permit and this was the beginning of J. F. Burns Sand & Gravel.

1998 A sister firm, Tricycle Lane Ranches is created where

1977 A new subsidiary company is created under the name

1967 On May 15, the Jim II in Truck

McNab Creek in Howe Sound

Paving 14th Street Calgary


2007 Scott Burns completes the purchase of BURNCO.


BURNCO celebrates it’s 100th Anniversary on June 21, 2012!

Burnco 100th Anniversary Timeline  
Burnco 100th Anniversary Timeline  

Burnco History Timeline