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Building on its Niche

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Canada is in the midst of its biggest construction boom since the 1970s. Toronto’s famous skyline is now awash with cranes all busily completing existing and beginning exciting new building projects. Migration, increased demand for housing and facilities coupled with an increase in investment is the catalyst for the boom. While the large national and international construction companies are able to secure the most lucrative contracts, there is certainly room for small and mid-sized family run companies to get in on the action and find a niche in the market.

Within a growing market, the ability to adapt, embrace change and move forward are integral components to ensuring success. Shifting trends and ideas in the construction world means that any company in the industry has to have its finger on the pulse when it comes to adapting to customer’s needs. Within this environment, there is an important emphasis on management organization and planning. Understandably, in order to give them a chance of competing with their better funded counterparts, this very much applies to the smaller construction companies.

Based in the former city of Etobicoke on the banks of the Humber River, now a suburb in Toronto’s West End, is Berkim Construction. Established in 1966 by a newly arrived immigrant to Canada in the basement of his home, the company was originally called Kim Construction. Following shortly thereafter, the firm partnered with another family turning the name from Kim to Berkim. Many years later, Jonas Birket entered the firm, growing into a partner. Berkim specializes in pre-construction management and construction management, using the wealth of knowledge it has acquired over half a century to ensure its clients are well supported by a team of experienced employees.

Berkim project interior

In addition to its focus on Construction Management, Berkim also offers General Contracting and Design Build services. This allows the company to have input and overview of the most vital steps of any building process. Crucially, this experience leads to a greater level of service for its clients. With close business relationships forged over its fifty-seven years in business in the province of Ontario, Berkim is able to offer the most competitive prices, with financial viability being an important factor. For those at Berkim Construction, working hard to ensure that a cost-effective design is provided to its customers is paramount. Berkim CEO, Jonas Birket believes that, as well as trying to meet their client’s financial needs, a transparent and honest approach is key to maintaining the good relationships they have forged. “With any client I divulge information they may want, transparency is very important to us, we show our clients everything, if they ask to see an invoice for a particular thing we show it to them straight away, we show them the cost report and welcome any questions they may have.”

“Berkim Construction was praised for its sophisticated approach as well as its ‘flawless’ attention to detail.”

In 2021, in the midst of the COVID pandemic –a time where the construction industry was massively affected—Jonas & Silvia Birket became the sole owners of Berkim Construction. It was a long arduous process which spanned almost a decade and although Birket admits that the timing was unfortunate, it was a positive development for the company. “It probably wasn’t the best time to do it, but we had been waiting for a long time.”

With a rich history and an exciting new chapter beginning, it was important that Berkim Construction had an identity, something that would allow it to grow and develop even further. For the Birket’s, it was evident that the company should continue with what had brought it so much success and when you delve into the history of its projects across Ontario, there is a recurring theme. The company had found its niche. While Berkim Construction can work on projects across the industry, from automotive dealerships for multinational companies such as Ford and Toyota, to restaurants such as Taco Bell and Tim Hortons, it is most well-known for the construction and renovation of churches and Christian organizations. Currently working on two churches in a construction management process, the company’s connection to its faith goes back a long way. Its founder was a born-again Christian which, according to Birket, helped the firm cement its’ reputation among the Christian community. He explains that “churches tend to approach them,” thus cementing its niche within the industry.

Berkim Construction’s most unique project to date was The People’s Christian Academy. This project, completed in 2011, involved the conversion of a 63,000 square foot office and warehouse to a private Christian school with classrooms, gymnasiums, and a fully functioning kitchen. The project was such a success that Berkim was invited back again in 2013 to add three more classrooms to the school. However, it was in 2020 where Berkim really left its mark on The People’s Christian Academy site. The company returned for a third time to implement the “raising the roof” project, an inimitable and complex undertaking which saw it remove the middle of the building, literally raising the roof to its new 20 ft height, to create a FIBA regulation gymnasium complete with a running track, performance stage, bleacher seating and four new classrooms. This project was unique because it was carried out while the school was open. Incredibly, teachers worked in their classroom’s as reinforced steel was put in over their heads and new columns were inserted through the existing roof. In a testimonial written by The People’s Christian Academy, Berkim Construction was praised for its sophisticated approach as well as its “flawless” attention to detail. Unique projects such as this has bolstered its reputation as a highly skilled and innovative firm in the local community, particularly amongst Christian organizations.

However, within the construction world, challenges will always remain and there have been obstacles for Birket and his wife Silvia to overcome since acquiring full ownership of the company. Purchasing the company during a pandemic was never going to be easy, and the recent escalation of costs due to inflation has been a challenge for the Birket’s. While he acknowledges that these rising costs can be a challenge, it is one that can be overcome through hard work and maintaining positive relationships with its clients. Despite these complications the future looks bright for Berkim Construction.

The recent relocation of the business from an old site in Willowdale twenty miles across the city to a larger modern premises on Jutland Road is a positive move according to Birket. The hope and expectation is that it will enable Berkim Construction to grow further. With expansion, Berkim Construction can maintain the highest level of performance across existing projects and also expand its niche into new markets such as upscale restaurants, dealerships and new home builds. Clearly, it is an exciting time for the company.

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