2012 Real Estate and Construction EOY: Ted Pickell

Congratulations to Ted Pickell, president of Arctic Construction Ltd., and the 2012 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Real Estate and Construction.

Ted Pickell, president, Arctic Construction Ltd. | BCBusiness
Return to: B.C. Entrepreneur of the Year 2012

Congratulations to Ted Pickell, president of Arctic Construction Ltd., and the 2012 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Real Estate and Construction.

Soft-spoken and respectful, Ted Pickell has overseen some of the most aggressive and ambitious construction projects in B.C. Pickell’s father, Bill, launched Pickell Construction Ltd. in Fort St. John in 1953, when Pickell was 12. He always wanted to be a builder, and when his father died in a 1957 motor vehicle accident, Pickell found himself at the company’s helm. “I inherited a name and one machine and a little ambition,” he says. (Pickell remains the sole family member involved in the business.)

The oil and gas sector was starting to take off in the Peace River region, and business flowed in. Pickell received his pilot’s license in 1965, allowing him to oversee projects in increasingly remote areas, many accessible only by air. “I’m a field guy,” he says. “I’m all about challenges. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the project, the more interested I get.”

The company became Arctic Construction Ltd. in 1980, and despite the decade’s high interest rates, the company held its own. It drove 155 kilometres of road through virgin country northwest of Telegraph Creek in a heart-stopping eight months for the Hunter Dickinson Group mining conglomerate in 1988, and in the same year built a sawmill for Fibreco Pulp at Taylor — a project that opened the door to mechanical installation projects.

When times turned tough in 1990, Pickell turned to Russia. “There was very little work going on here. I wanted to go somewhere to work,” he says. Vladivostok on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the country’s wild east was his first stop. Since local accommodations weren’t up to snuff, Pickell opened the Vlad Motor Inn. The inn served as a calling card for the company, and led to major projects in Russia’s far north as well as Kazakhstan for U.S. oil companies.

Arctic Construction sold its international operations five years ago, but that doesn’t mean Pickell has slowed down. It completed Yukon Zinc Corp.’s Wolverine mine in eastern Yukon in 2010, and planning is proceeding for Stewart World Port, a multi-purpose cargo facility that will handle a variety of outgoing and incoming cargo — which he describes as the only such facility north of Vancouver. 

Four Questions

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I always wanted to be a contractor.

What was your first big break in your current business?
I don’t know of any one particular big break. We’ve struggled at different times. But we’re presently a strong, debt-free company. We have zero debt and no leased equipment. Clients like that.

Looking back, what’s one thing you would do differently, professionally speaking?
Nothing. I like what I do, I like going to work in the morning.

What book do you recommend for entrepreneurs just starting out?
I don’t think there’s any particular book I would recommend; hard work’s usually rewarded in any company.