Putting the Family First

How hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit forged the next generation of Kang Construction

tunneling haul truck

By Caroline Schweitzer

Ferlin Kang didn’t always know he wanted to go into the construction industry. Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, he was exposed to the energy and opportunity that comes with living in a growing, evolving city. Ferlin knew he could pursue different paths in life, but he also knew how unique it was to have the opportunity to carry on his father’s business as a first-generation Canadian.

“My father had humble beginnings, immigrating from Asia. He had been in construction since the 1960s before starting Kang Construction Ltd. in 1982 in Calgary,” Ferlin said. “When I was in my teen years, I started working with the company and thought there was no way I’d be doing this.”

But for Ferlin, the opportunity to carry on the family business was something he grew interested in, and soon began to enjoy.

“My father came here, established himself, started a business and became an entrepreneur. Being able to grow the business to this point is not something to take lightly,” Ferlin said. “I didn’t want that legacy to go away.”

And that legacy will remain intact. Ferlin is now the vice president of the 60-employee Kang Construction, as his father, Alvin, gradually steps back.

Forged from Orange

Initially, Kang Construction began carving out a niche in the petroleum industry. Due to an industry need for excavation, Kang Construction purchased its first excavator in early 1988: a Hitachi EX200LC. It was the first excavator of its kind to operate in Alberta.

“For us, the Hitachi brand loyalty reaches all the way back to our beginnings as a company when we first purchased our EX200,” Ferlin said. “Hitachi’s always been known for manufacturing heavy equipment that is tried, tested and true. They’re very reputable and providing the right equipment for the right job is always very important to us.”

The EX200 wasn’t the only “first” for this company. In December 2018, Kang Construction was also the first company in Alberta to purchase the ZX345USLC-6.

“Our fleet of Hitachi excavators ranges from a 470, which is our largest, to the 225, 160, 135, 85, all the way down to the minis. We also have a 350 that has a long-reach telescopic boom mounted to it for deep excavations, or we can change it to a 60-feet-long-reach boom,” Ferlin said. “Just from our fleet, you can see the versatility that Hitachi equipment provides.”

While Kang Construction began with a niche in the petroleum industry, they have since grown drastically. Their growing fleet is a result of growing services.

“We started to go more into the earthwork side of things and away from the petroleum side toward the 2000s,” Ferlin said. “We got into more detail and mass excavations for commercial, retail and industrial projects.”

Bringing an Edge to the Fleet

Soon, Kang Construction expanded to offer installation of water and sewer underground utilities to their projects. This is where the 345’s versatility really shined.

“With the inner-city job sites, we deal with some tighter areas,” Ferlin said. “Accessibility of the 345 is definitely a positive.”

As it has grown, Kang Construction has tackled larger, high-profile jobs within the area. Recently, the company has been working at the Foothills Hospital Calgary Cancer Centre connector, providing earthworks, and water and sewer utilities to the project.

“The 345 worked out really well for this project in the sense that we have a new Tier 4 engine in there, which just gives minimal emissions,” Ferlin said. “A new machine like the 345 is perfect when working near a sensitive hospital environment.”

Another advantage of the 345 is the power it brings to tight spaces as a reduced-tail-swing model.

“The fact that it’s a reduced-tail-swing and has power, that’s just an added bonus,” Ferlin said. “It’s perfect for our fleet.”

Productivity is the Name of the Game

If Ferlin had to choose one word that is most important to Kang Construction, it would be “productivity.” As technology advances and the needs of their clients become more stringent, he has to rely on equipment that can deliver.

“If equipment works efficiently and safely, that’s paramount,” Ferlin said. “Breakdowns or reliability issues are critical in our business. I find that for us, Hitachi works.”

For their Hitachi equipment needs, Kang Construction turns to Wajax, one of Canada’s longest standing and most diversified industrial products and services providers.

“Our dealer support from Wajax has been fantastic. We’re able to get anything we need from them quickly to keep us up and running,” Ferlin said.

Along with contributing to the bottom line, Hitachi excavators are a favorite among Kang Construction operators, too.

“Getting a new piece of equipment is always like Christmas to everybody,” Ferlin said. “They love the 345. They find that being inside the machine, it’s quite roomy. They’re not crunched like they are in some other machines.”

The Future of Kang

Ferlin has hopes that the company will continue to grow in Calgary, a city which he describes as “opportunistic.” And he is grateful for the growth Kang Construction has seen thus far.

“We’ve always been aggressive, ever since our small beginnings. But I couldn’t have envisioned us being involved on the types of jobs we’re working today, 15 years ago,” Ferlin said. “We are excited to see the legacy continue for our company.”

As for the company’s culture, Ferlin plans on keeping a family mentality at the core.

“I think in our current society, some-times family might be overlooked. Family is very important to me and has always been,” he said. “We always try to treat our company and employees like family, and I don’t see that changing in the future.”