A2SKI Industrial – Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

April 29, 2024

A2SKI Industrial

Driven by its Valued Partners and Working for the Community


Where Innovation Meets Community Connection

In western Canada, industrial opportunities are plentiful. With staples in agriculture and natural resources, the Prairies offer no shortage of economic activity and corporate competition within each respective industry.

What is rare, however, is an industrial company with a reputation for excellence, a deep network of partnerships, and an unyielding commitment to the community it serves. And that’s where A2SKI Industrial comes in.  Founded in 2022 and operated by Peter Ballantyne Group of Companies (PBGOC), A2SKI prides itself on being a modern industrial powerhouse, catering to a wide variety of construction services within the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PCBN), the province of Saskatchewan, and western Canada.

A 100% First Nations-owned company, A2SKI understands its role in the Indigenous community, sponsoring local apprenticeship programs and empowering local workers to join the trades. But the company also represents a remarkable liaison to non-Indigenous companies, where strong bonds are forged. The company is driven by its key partnerships and aware of its critical link to the strength of the local economy.

A Network Of Partners

The company is spearheaded by a star-studded leadership group, beginning with Gary Merasty, CEO of A2SKI Industrial and the Peter Ballantyne Group of Companies. The PBGOC umbrella stretches far and wide, compromising three wholly owned entities – A2SKI industrial, fuel and retail, and property – plus a dedication to major investments (from the 30% to 40% range) and minor investments (10% or less).

“We’re probably one of the larger First Nation groups of companies in the province,” says Merasty. “When you all land, it’s approximately 40 individual business units, with approximately 250-plus employees and a footprint from Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.”

PBGOC is a massive operation, and A2SKI Industrial stands out as one of its brightest and most successful stars. A2SKI manages and partakes in many significant construction projects, including the McIlvenna Bay copper and zinc mine, which involved a groundbreaking partnership between PCBN and Foran Mining Corporation beginning in 2023.

Craig Skaros, President

“That’s the most significant work that we have at the copper mine, but it’s not necessarily all of it,” says A2SKI President Craig Skaros. “A2SKI is relatively young in its age, but with these partnerships that we’re bringing along, it allows us to go all over.”

That’s what makes A2SKI such an indispensable resource in Saskatchewan and beyond. While the company specializes in concrete, earthworks, electrical, and construction management, among many other things, its connections with community partners and subcontractors open windows of opportunity.

For example, A2SKI provides labor to Hipperson Construction for building projects in Saskatoon and Regina. A2SKI Industrial is also working on a major renovation to a casino in Prince Albert owned by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.

The breadth of A2SKI’s impact goes deeper than that, too. The company originated, firstly, as a vessel for industrial and commercial opportunities within PBCN, but also as a way to plant its roots as an economic support structure for the local community. Sometimes that takes the form of hiring community members for construction projects. Other times, A2SKI works to empower Indigenous community businesses.

From vegetation management to road maintenance to trucking, A2SKI executes almost every conceivable industrial project under the sun. If you can name it, A2SKI can undertake it alone or through a partnership. And instead of being spoiled by its scope and success, A2SKI furthers its legacy in the community by opening doors for the next generation of laborers.

Fostering Labor Opportunities

A2SKI is constantly looking for ways to address ongoing labor shortages across western Canada with logical partnerships and initiatives. Recently, the company collaborated with Hy-Tech Drilling, a British Columbia-based contractor, with a program designed to recruit new laborers.

“They have a drillers helper program that we’re currently looking for people from the community to join,” says Skaros. “Our big thing is we understand the move and the hardships of trying to find labor.”

The goal, Skaros says, is to prioritize local young workers before looking elsewhere for new hires, and that begins with sponsoring training programs and education groups. With a background in welding, Skaros understands the urgency to indenture apprentices whenever possible. On top of that, A2SKI plans to sponsor annual career fairs to educate young tradespeople about the industry.

“We need to catch them at a young age,” emphasizes Skaros.

There’s also another side to the coin that Merasty has come to understand after decades of working for Indigenous and non-Indigenous companies.

“From an indigenous perspective, that circular economy, that mobilizing talent and mobilizing our people, is so critically important,” Merasty says. “It’s right up there with the profitability.”

Under Merasty’s vision, A2SKI Industrial hasn’t simply chased quarter-to-quarter profits. There’s a role for his companies to play in helping the PBCN communities recover from the oppression of past colonial events in Canada. These efforts begin with partnerships with places like the Indigenous Training Center and blossom into much more.

PBGOC, including A2SKI Industrial, represents tangible local success stories. And from there, a chain reaction occurs.

“It builds bridges for the people in our community, Indigenous people, to live a better quality of life, which then has an impact on the communities to be given an opportunity to prosper,” stresses Merasty. “But it also builds bridges with partnerships with non-Indigenous companies that make those companies stronger.”

As Merasty explains, connections between PBGOC and non-Indigenous companies are mutually beneficial, and the economic impact ripples across Canada.

“It’s important to understand that we’re all on the same boat, but we may do things differently that are not like regular Canadian business cultures,” says Merasty.


Overcoming Supply Chain Issues

It’s no secret that many companies across Canada, especially construction companies, are battling supply chain issues post-COVID. With civil works at the core of its business, A2SKI relies on heavy machinery to complete its projects. Inevitably, these machines will need repairs or specific parts, and that’s where the obstacles come in.

“You’re looking at long deliveries for almost everything,” says Kevin Reed, Director of Supply Chain for PBGOC. “It’s no longer overnight deliveries.”

Delivery times for replacement parts have bloated to multiple days, sometimes more. And when key machinery is down, projects can’t make progress. In short, it costs everyone money. The electrical industry is most adversely affected by the supply chain squeeze. In a large project, there will always be demand for cables, wires, and transformers. Right now, those pieces are harder to get.

“Those delivery dates have almost quadrupled on some [electrical] items,” says Reed, adding he doesn’t expect delivery times to ever return to pre-COVID status. “And so you’ve got to really forecast well ahead of the project on what you’re going to be requiring.”

So how has A2SKI managed to thrive during these challenging times? The company turns to its network of close partnerships for relief. Alpine Trucking, for example, has been a major player in helping PBGOC see quick replacement deliveries in light of the sluggish supply chain.

And thanks to A2SKI’s multifaceted offering of services, the company has prospered, even if electrical, for example, lags behind other elements of a project.

“One of the things we are very proud of is, through COVID, we were able to remain profitable because of the diversity in our group of companies,” says Merasty. “We strive to have this bigger-picture approach.”

What’s Next For A2SKI?

For A2SKI, the Foran Mining project is top of mind. There’s still plenty of work remaining on that site, Skaros says, including work with the Ministry of Highways on road maintenance in and around the area. More ambitiously, Skaros also hopes to push A2SKI into small modular reactor development, something he calls “a big passion” of his.

In the meantime, A2SKI wants to grow its roster of community-based subcontractors. By the end of 2024, Skaros is hoping for somewhere between 75 and 100 people working on most A2SKI sites, a goal he says is very attainable given the volume of work bestowed on A2SKI.

On a much broader scale, the company is emphasizing sustainability. It’s not only about pure growth; a balance of busy construction projects and community initiatives is key.

“That’s something that’s ongoing,” says Skaros. “No lulls. We don’t want to be diving, putting all of our eggs in one basket. We want to make sure we’re looking at everything, but we want to be responsible with that.”

That all-encompassing outlook aligns perfectly with the culture being championed at A2SKI. Merasty outlines the company’s cause-driven mission and authentic relationships as two key elements that set a high floor for success.

“Construction is not easy,” explains Merasty. “It’s global. It can be dangerous … Most construction projects around the world suffer from schedule creep, cost creep, and so on. If you want to be an outlier, you have to be better.”

So, what’s the third element Merasty wants to see?

“Continually building capacity and seeking to be better,” says Merasty.

The thirst for constant improvement cannot be forgotten. And, in just two years, that high-powered mentality has turned A2SKI into a budding industrial superpower with a bright future ahead.


A2SKI Industrial

What: a 100% First Nations-owned construction powerhouse with a diverse network of partnerships and a commitment to community empowerment.

Where: Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Website: https://a2ski.ca/


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