Catherine: Give me some examples of what you do for the community. Ian: We are responsible for keeping a large number of jobs on the harbour. We assembled a number of businesses that no one wanted or that had no management. They were on the market for years or sold a number of times. If they came to us, and if it made sense, we included the company in the group. People think it’s more planned out and nefarious than it is. They suspect it’s a real estate play for condominium development. But they should take it for what it is. The group is not designed to be wealth creating for a single shareholder. It’s a group of industrial companies that will remain on the harbour providing jobs. And we’ve done a good job cleaning up the harbour. Catherine: What clean-up have you done? Ian: I have been an active champion of the work that John Roe—the Veins of Life Society—has been doing to restore the Gorge waterway for more than three decades—and we are all benefiting from this concerted work. Ralmax is also helping with the clean-up of the derelict boats in Cadboro Bay. These two initiatives are community-driven and I’m proud to be a part of both, as these are my values. At Point Hope we have removed old pilings and built a riprap shoreline which is much better for birds and fish than soil. We removed derelict buildings. Most important of all, we stopped bad practices. Once you stop the bad practices nature will help restore itself. Roads are more polluting than we are now. Anything that falls onto a road: garbage, oil, food, pollen, even what leaches out of the asphalt itself, drains into the ocean untreated. At Point Hope, we treat all the water on the site. Even the rain doesn’t run into the ocean. We sloped the water away from the ocean and we treat it.
and gardens and I agree with all of that. But a farmer from Saskatchewan who is here for the winter might get tired of looking at grass and flowers. We, at Ralmax, are not buskers—but we are entertainers. You don’t see boats pulled out of the water in Saskatchewan—it’s interesting. We pulled down the wall of old buildings that hid Point Hope from the street. When we bought the business in 2003 you couldn’t see the harbour from Harbour Road. It was against the advice I got but I’ve been blown away by the support from the neighbours. One woman said to me that at first she thought they had made a mistake buying so close to the shipyard but now both she and her husband have binoculars and they watch the shipyard come to life in the morning. Some think industrial work is dirty and others think “what a cool way to make your living”. We had our first open house four years ago and now people come by the thousands to see what we do. It stunned me. I met so many nice people. There was a lady with a walker who was determined to get onto a spud barge and a tug. She was an educator and she liked to see there are good, interesting jobs for the kids who don’t like school. Being a journeyman can be just the start of a career—like university is. You can go on to be an estimator, a manager or a supervisor. We donate funds or in-kind contributions to over two dozen organizations and causes.
Mostly we respond to a need, and what has struck me the hardest this fall is to learn that far too many families in our region are struggling to feed their children three meals a day. We have gone out and met with four local schools this fall and are donating to their meal programs to ensure that kids who are hungry have something nutritious to eat so that they can focus on learning and having fun. This is a bigger problem than I ever imagined and we’ll be looking for ways to get more involved in this regard. Catherine: You’ve had a long working relationship with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. How did that come about? Ian: I met Chief Robert Sam of the Songhees Nation and Chief Andy Thomas of the Esquimalt Nation when I was on the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. They talked and I listened. Some people speak so you can learn—that’s how they talked. And we have a natural relationship because we are a waterborne company and they are a water-borne people. Their relationship with the federal government is changing and they have more influence now. Building positive relationships with the Nations was not just satisfying—it has also been good business for everyone. We can help finance business opportunities where they can’t because they can’t borrow against their land. We can help with management and executive services. We advertise all our jobs with the Nations
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We did the first risk assessment in B.C. on our property in 1996 with help from the federal government. It would have cost $13 million to dig out the contaminated soil and haul it away—to where? If it’s not hurting people or the environment it’s better to seal it in by paving it. But you do have a different level of responsibility depending on the problem. People can’t live without leaving a footprint. Fear of the cost of cleaning up contamination did save the industrial companies in this area though. Catherine: So you’ve mentioned jobs and environmental clean-up—are there other ways that Ralmax contributes?
Ian: The city is gentrified. There’s public art
BUSINESSMATTERS | november 2017