In 1974 George Shields purchased an 11-year-old equipment company with less than 10 employees that supplied construction rentals to the Peace Region. Fast-forward 47 years, and the company has six locations across the Peace Region with over 100 employees.
From its unassuming beginnings, Rentco has always been family owned and people focused. Joan Nellis has fond memories working alongside her family members as she grew up. Today, Joan is CFO and part owner, along with her sister, two brothers and cousin that she worked with growing up and grew a passion for the business with.
“We’ve always catered to local companies, supported local initiatives, and built relationships with not only our customers, but took care of our work family.”
Rentco’s growth and diversity mimics that of the City’s economy over the last five decades. Starting out mainly renting to the construction industry, they grew their customer base by adapting and catering to the expanding presence of oil & gas and forestry.
The population of Grande Prairie quadrupled from 16,618 to 69,088 since the Shields purchased the company in 1974, and along with it, the many services the City now has today. Like Rentco, the City provides services for the surrounding area which represents a trading population of nearly 300,000.
While the company’s size and location changed over the years, it’s their customer and employee focus, combined with being headquartered in Grande Prairie that allowed the company to thrive along with the rapid growth of the economy in the region.
Despite the ebbs and flows of the nature of the businesses they serve, their ability to adapt and serve the multiple yet distinct industries in the region supported their growth and diversification.
“It’s not just one industry, or one customer. Our customers are in construction, oil & gas, forestry and all over the Peace region. Our location is central, and we wouldn’t be here without Grande Prairie.”
Their ability to pivot, diversify their customer base and continued focus on what’s contributed to their growth over the last five decades has now contributed significantly to their COVID-19 recovery efforts.
“Like everyone else, we have faced challenges - from slower activity in the construction and oilfield market, to the mounting stress that our staff and their families dealt with. There’s been an increasing shortage on some supplies and equipment, but we’re doing our best to make sure we have what our customers want, when they need it and we continue to look at new lines of products.”