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National Post Profiles APM group

Apr 22 2005

If there is one thing Tim Banks wants young entrepreneurial Islanders to know, it's that they don't have to leave Prince Edward Island to build a multimillion-dollar business. While Charlottetown hardly seems a likely place for the headquarters of a thriving construction conglomerate, it was the only place Mr. Banks considered when he launched Atlantic Project Management in 1980.

"I knew that staying would mean I'd have to branch out into other areas like property management and be willing to travel throughout Atlantic Canada, but this is where I wanted to be," he says.

What he didn't know was that, within a year of hanging his shingle, interest rates would soar to 21%. At the same time, the local government was planning a moratorium on retail building with the express design of keeping the big-box chains out - the very clientele he was after. Those first two years would see APM come within a breath of bankruptcy; they would also teach some valuable lessons.

"If you start a business during an economic downturn, you learn how to operate efficiently and finding ways to save costs becomes a way of life, even when times are good," he says. "You also learn about dignity and humility. If you are honest and forthright and work hard, then people will work with you. That goes for customers as well as employees. My support has always come from the people I've worked with."

Today, APM is one of the largest construction developers in Atlantic Canada, offering a complete construction development portfolio of services and boasting such A-list clients as EDS, Loblaws, Pizza Delight and, most recently, Sears Canada. With annual revenues in excess of $85-million and a staff of 400, APM is proof that, if you can make it in Prince Edward Island, you can surely make it anywhere. Its proven track record of completing projects on time and on budget earned it a spot as one of Atlantic Canada's top 101 companies last year. And, it recently signed on to build Sears' first free-standing store in Canada - a major departure for the giant department store, which traditionally anchors shopping malls from coast to coast.

Mr. Banks credits APM's success to the expertise it has built in all areas of the construction and property development business. "We are general contractors, project managers, design builders, construction managers and developers," he says. "There is not a community in Atlantic Canada we have not worked in. When you deal with a national retailer, they want to deal with businesses that have a good knowledge of the opportunities within a marketplace. They want to know where the available sites are, either to build on themselves or to lease. We can do all that. We have a professional team of architects and engineers who have been with the company for years who are focused on the whole retail planning concept. We have a crisp understanding of that."

That understanding has often placed APM ahead of the curve when it comes to being able to predict where the market is going and how communities are going to develop. It is this vision, together with a strong commitment to taking on projects that will benefit the community as well as the client, that sets APM apart from its competitors.

When the municipality of Charlottetown announced its moratorium, it forced residents to go to Moncton and Halifax to shop, costing the city money and jobs. APM went to court to relax the moratorium and allow the likes of Loblaw Companies to enter the marketplace. The net result was that the doors opened for new business.

When EDS came calling, APM was able to partner with the TK to build a 50,000-square-foot facility in economically depressed Port Hawkesbury. "It's not easy to go to a bank and tell them you want to build in Port Hawkesbury. They look at you as though you have three heads," Mr. Banks says. "It's our credibility that allows us to get that done and bring that opportunity to a community that needs it."

The project resulted in 600 new jobs in a market that needed them. APM recently expanded the building by another 25,000 sq. ft.

Mr. Banks is equally proud of APM's 20-year relationship with Loblaw Companies, which, he says, "has delivered a lot of choice and value to our marketplace in Atlantic Canada. It also attracts new business to enter the community, as well."

When APM got into retail and manufacturing with its own 85,000-sq.-ft. retail fixture plant, the goal was not just to expand its offerings, it was to help the local marketplace. "We built it in a community called Pooles Corner," Mr. Banks says. "That plant builds retail fixtures and ships all over Eastern Canada and into the U.S. I am excited about it because it brought jobs to the community and [helped] our company to grow bigger."

This strong sense of social responsibility permeates all facets of the business. An ongoing investment in safety and development, a focus on the environment and design with energy conservation in mind and a desire to create healthy economic communities all represent the mechanics of doing business at APM.

That commitment is not lost on clients, who want APM to export its expertise to areas beyond Atlantic Canada. It has already branched out into Ontario and Quebec at the request of clients, and it is planning to open an office in Ontario in the future.

That said, APM won't be leaving Charlottetown any time soon. "I want to prove to the young kids coming behind me that you don't have to go away. I am interested in doing projects that move forward and improve the marketplace."

Media Contact: MediaReleases@apm.ca