KAMLOOPS — It could be months before Fort McMurray residents are allowed to return home following the wildfire that swept through portions of that city. With many homes destroyed, it will likely take a massive effort to rebuild, but one company has plans to simplify the process.
When tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate Fort McMurray, Horizon North provided temporary lodging.
"We opened our camp doors," said president and CEO, Rod Graham. "We have roughly eight camps in the region and almost 1,250 evacuees came to our camps. We provided food, water, and shelter, and as much comfort as we possibly (could)."
Evacuees have moved on from those camps, but the company's work is far from over. Horizon North has plans to be involved in rebuilding Fort McMurray.
Entire modular homes are being crafted inside the Kamloops manufacturing facility, homes that can be completed in as little as 10 months.
"We can provide a series of single family and multi-family homes," Graham said, "along with retail installations as well as hotels, and office complexes. So we believe we'll be part of the solution, along with some other peers, as the town of Fort McMurray gets rebuilt permanently."
Building these homes is not "business as usual" for Horizon North. Another Alberta tragedy has made the project far more personal for Graham.
"My wife and my three daughters, we actually lost our house in the floods in Calgary in 2013," Graham said. "So I have great sympathy and empathy for the individuals that are going through this. I've lived it."
"It's a very raw experience and I have tremendous sympathy for the individuals that are going through this. This isn't kind of the loss of a TV or of a couch. This is a letter from a grandmother, or a lock of hair from your child or wedding pictures. And so this is very personal for me. "
Graham is calling for Canadians to donate to the Red Cross to assist Fort McMurray residents displaced by this recent tragedy.
"Fort McMurray is not a Fort McMurray issue, it's not a province of Alberta issue. It's a Canadian issue," Graham said. "I've been extraordinarily impressed by the outpouring of support that I've seen from Canadians. It is a wonderful thing to see."
COMPANY CELEBRATES TK'EMLUPS BASE
While Horizon North constructs plans to help Fort McMurray rebuild, they have taken some time out to celebrate a successful partnership here at home.
Thursday marked the grand opening of the 27,000 sq. ft. regional office building on the Tk'emlups Indian Band.
The office building was a shared vision between Horizon North and band members. CEO Rod Graham said it's important to maintain that strong relationship.
"We have a very strong kind of Aboriginal - First Nations team within our organization," Graham said. "From a head count perspective we have roughly 1,250 employees and roughly 12 per cent of that would be of First Nations decent. One of our core values is community and we walk that talk and so it has been a very interactive process and a very respectul process. It's a great place to do business."
The company has been hit hard by the shift in commodity prices over the last 15 month. More than 100 employees have been laid off at the Kamloops operation since February.
With a potential increase in workload comes the chance to re-hire some of those employees.
"Certainly, taking a look at the rebuild and what we're calling permanent modular or designer prefab solution for places like Fort McMurray, certainly we'll be looking to add to our head count as we start to get busier."
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