Peter Stringer, President of Vector Geomatics Land Surveying, is confident their new Fort Nelson office - which will celebrate its first anniversary this July - is now in good hands.
Richard Gook, a British Columbia Land Surveyor with over thirty years of experience in the industry, assumed the role of branch manager in Fort Nelson on April 1, 2011. He had previously been owner and operator of R.E. Gook and Associates out of Prince George, as well as contracting his services to the oil and gas industry in the Peace Region since 1988.
"He'd worked for us for the last five years as a contractor," said Stringer, discussing the decision to hire Gook. "He's a BC Land Surveyor who had operated his own business and, in order to supplement that work, he would come to Fort St. John and surroundings - and quite often it led to Fort Nelson - to do contract work for us during the winter when we were busy. He just applied for the position and we were able to get him to take that position for us."
Prior to that appointment, a group of five BC Land Surveyors had been rotating through the office, each taking the reins for a week at a time. Vector had been looking for a permanent solution for about three months when they chose to hire Gook.
Stringer felt that Gook was a perfect fit for the area and Vector's clients in the region.
"He's excellent," said Stringer. "He's a first class man. He's a very well-seasoned professional. He's been a BC Land Surveyor for many years and he understands the business. He understands the oil and gas business as well as the more private land type work. He understands all those things quite well. And having had his own business for years, he's able to cope quite nicely with that. And he's also the kind of man that is interested in the community and he likes to get involved."
Community involvement is one aspect of this new opportunity that was of particular interest to Gook.
"Being on the location," Gook explained, "it's a whole lot to do with community. It really is. We're involved. I'm a director on the [Fort Nelson and District] Chamber of Commerce now. And it's just fun to be involved. When I used to run around in the field, I would never get involved with communities directly. You know, you'd be in them, but, of course, you'd be out in camps most of the time. And then when you're back home, of course, you're taking time off, so you never get a chance to get involved. But here, that's a really important part of it, too. It's really fun to be part of the community. And it is a smaller one. So, it's easy to meet people, it seems. Not that it's not easy to meet people there, but you sort of bump into them more often, if you know what I mean. So, it is a very enjoyable part of it."
Stringer noted that creating this permanent presence in Fort Nelson - particularly with a branch manager who is so keen to get involved in the life of the town - was an important step for their company in terms of working in a town where the municipal government has put an emphasis on local hiring for the oil and gas industry.
"And we've hired a number of people locally already," he added. "And that's what we intend to do. That's our first priority, to hire people who live and work around Fort Nelson. And hopefully we can build a very strong business from that. Now, in the kind of business that we're involved in, there aren't always the people available to do the work that you want locally. You sometimes have to go outside to get the kind of expertise that you need. However, Richard is great. He's good at finding the right people. And he'll also take the time to train people locally, too."
Vector appears to be serious about being in Fort Nelson for the long haul, also.
"A lot of it was an opportunity for us to get our foot in the door, as it were, in that area, in order to hopefully take advantage of what appears to be long-term building of a business - of a large business - in the Fort Nelson area," said Stringer. "You have to get your foot in. You have to get known by your clients. And they have to know that you're serious about what you're doing. So, we actually went about setting up a full time office with full time staff - you know, secretary, office manager, BC Land Surveyor, full time field staff, and so forth. We've actually gone those steps. We've put the money up to make those things happen."
"It's been a long time since they've had a really strong full-time BC Land Surveyor office in that area," he continued. "You know, there'd be a local office set up, kind of a satellite office with the main office in Fort St. John, with the idea of trying to service the local people as best they could. But it doesn't always work real well. We felt we needed a full time presence there."
Gook, who has always enjoyed his visits to the Peace Region, is quite pleased to part of that initiative, partly because it is an opportunity to spend less time moving from town to town on a contract basis, and less time working in the field.
"I was as small legal land surveyor, running up to two crews out of Prince George," said Gook. "And one of them would be myself. I always did fieldwork. And I would be the one who came up when we got work up here in the oil and gas - which would be probably six months of the year. I would be the one doing the work."
He will still be doing some fieldwork in his new role, but the majority of his time will be spent in the office, supervising the daily operations of the business in Fort Nelson.
"It takes a little adjustment," he said of the change of pace from fieldwork to sitting behind a desk, "but you know how life is. I'm 55 now."
"It's actually a wonderful opportunity for me," Gook concluded. "It really is. I had been keeping one eye out at other opportunities for a BC Land Surveyor throughout the whole of B.C. And, you know, you could have picked anywhere. But this one was the one for me. I like it here."