Alexander – A lot has changed for James Arcand over the past decade. He’s gone from helping a friend, to learning a trade, to ultimately owning his own company and employing people in his community. But one thing that has remained the same is his love of working with his hands and his desire to do a good job for his clients.
Arcand, the owner of TRK Construction & Labour Services Inc., said he was working with children when he was first introduced to the prospect of working with wood.
“I started in child care over at the children’s centre,” Arcand said, noting that his introduction to carpentry more than a decade ago came when he was off shift and a man asked him if he wanted to help him build a deck. “I never went back. I love this trade.”
A journeyman carpenter for the past four years, Arcand said it was the hands-on work that made him fall in love with the trade and want to advance in it. “I just fell in love with it, I guess,” he said. “It was just everything: the marking, measuring everything and making things so they fit right and every thing looks good.”
Arcand took his four years of trades training at Portage College in Lac La Biche and said he was impressed with the teaching staff at the school. “The teachers is what made me go back every year,” he said. “We were a class of eight and we had two instructors, so it was pretty much one-on-one all day.”
As a journeyman carpenter for the past four years and business owner, Arcand now tries to pass on his knowledge of the trade and doing the trade right to his own employees. Arcand’s friend and fellow entrepreneur Marcel Arcand, owner of B.L.A.H.K. Consulting, said the carpenter and his crew have developed a solid reputation in Alexander as a company that pays attention to detail. Marcel said a bathroom renovation Arcand did for him ended up looking like something one would see in a decorating magazine. But the carpenter himself is less inclined to extol the virtues of his own workmanship. For Arcand, the attention to detail is just a necessary part of the job.
“It’s seeing the other work that got left behind and coming in and having to fix it,” Arcand said of his attention to detail. “Knowing where the problem started, you can fix that problem first. Why just put a Band-Aid on it. I call it lipstick and mascara. You’re just putting a face on the house if you don’t go fix the problem.”
Arcand said most of his work is in the areas of home renovation and framing, and while Arcand and his crew are well versed in all aspects of modern home construction, he has aspirations to one day create homes reminiscent of those his ancestors would have lived in. The contractor has been trying to bring the idea of monolithic homes, popular in the United States, to Alexander.
“They’re dome homes made out of wood or concrete,” Arcand said. “I’ve been trying to get the band to start that because our sweat lodges and stuff are round houses.”
Beyond his hopes of building homes in keeping with his cultural heritage, Arcand also focuses on respecting the environment as part of his daily work routine, something he said is becoming more commonplace among contractors all the time.
“It’s a matter of keeping things clean and when we put our stuff in here, we don’t want to be using adhesives that are harmful to your health,” Arcand said, noting he also tries to select materials that are green and healthy.
Looking to the future, Arcand said he’d like to get into manufacturing ready-to-move (RTM) homes. “Everybody now, they want homes that are built indoors because of the control of the environment,” Arcand said. “You’re not outdoors, so your plywood’s not swelling up. Your wood isn’t getting rotten. That’s the direction I’d like to move in.”
Another direction Arcand has moved in is reaching out and branching out beyond Alexander. The journeyman carpenter was encouraged by his friend Marcel to join the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce. The two Alexander businessmen share the distinction of being the first independent business owners from Alexander to become Chamber members.
“I wasn’t too familiar with it because nobody out here’s ever done it before,” Arcand said of joining the business association, noting that his membership in the Chamber has brought great exposure to his business. “Marcel actually introduced me to that. It’s taken some getting used to. It’s a whole new game for me, considering I was always working for somebody.”