“At one point we were concerned about having to shut down, but because we were considered essential work we always kept working.”
The COVID19 pandemic had a devastating effect on industries across the globe, bring many to a standstill and leaving hundreds of millions without work. Luckily for Ali Mohtashami, the construction industry was deemed to be essential to the continued functioning of society and the economy, so companies like his own Pegah Construction Ltd. were able to continue operating in many regions with some slight modifications. “Once COVID hit, nobody actually knew which direction it was going to go” Ali says, adding “One of the first things we did, our Safety Officer incorporated all of the safety requirements with respect to masks, sanitization, the safety gear that people have to wear.” Protecting employees while continuing to work and deliver on projects was and is a high priority for Ali and Pegah Construction. Mandatory safety gear, facemasks, hand sanitizer, remote and blended working and staggering employee arrival times at the office are some of the measures the company has taken to try and minimize the risk of spreading the disease. “On all projects we added washing basins. Early on we realized that it is much better to wash hands than to just use the sanitizers,” Ali explains.
Ali founded Pegah Construction in 1988, after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1987. The inspiration for starting the company came from his family’s experience of trying to build a house. “Our family was building a house, and what happened was that the contractor was not working out. Him and my father were not seeing eye to eye, and I said, ‘You know, it would be better for me to come and take over.’”
For its first few years the company focused on building houses, mainly single-family homes. As the company began to experience success, this quickly expanded to include General Contracting work, something that the company still excels at to this day. Over this period of early growth, the company developed working relationships across a range of sectors, building partnerships in areas such as municipalities, school boards, federal and provincial governments and numerous private entities. In addition to these positive working relationships, effective “partnerships with great subcontractors” has also proven to be a contributing factor in the company’s success and growth. Then, about ten years ago, they branched out even further, setting up their own development arm; Format Group Inc. This enabled the company to diversify further, planning, developing and building projects in the Greater Toronto Area. When asked about the exciting projects that Pegah is working on at the moment, Ali replies “We recently got a project at the University of Toronto, and being alumni it is really good for us to get a job with the University of Toronto. Hopefully we get more work from them because they are one of the larger institutions in the city,” he adds.
“Ali is happy with the progress of the project and expects the station to be open soon.”
Despite the safety measures in places, working during a pandemic is not without its drawbacks. Some projects have faced delays due to the difficult nature of working under COVID. One such project is Toronto’s newest fire station. Station 144, in Downsview will be close to more than 400 new homes, and the “environmentally-conscious facility” allows natural light, uses “robust materials for a longer service life and includes a green roof.” The 12,992 square-foot post disaster facility will house a fire hall and Fire Investigations Team. The contract was awarded to Pegah in January 2020, and work on the project began shortly after in April of that year. Despite the delays that have troubled the industry for much of the past two years, the project is due for completion in Fall of this year. Even more impressively, given the difficulties faced with supply chains and sourcing materials, the project is coming in on budget. Ali is happy with the progress of the project and expects the station to be open soon. “We are going to have a big opening soon, the Mayor is going to be there. It is a big project for us and it has gone very smoothly,” he says. Another project completed during the pandemic was renovations on the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) Building. This enormous project involved the upgrading of a 16,000 square foot building. It was through this project that Pegah Construction got to demonstrate its attention to detail and expertise by remodelling the facility to enable it to service, maintain, and store TTC non-revenue vehicles and accommodate respective facility staff offices and change rooms. Due to the complexity of the project, Ali is rightfully proud of the job done by the company. “That has been a great experience for us, a big collaboration with the TTC and their staff to make sure that the project runs smoothly.”
Not limited to commercial interests, Ali and Pegah Construction are also involved in a number of charitable and community initiatives. When asked about the Parya Community Center and the Tirgan Festival, Ali responds that “These two projects are a little bit ethnically orientated where my background is. My background is “Iranian.” The community centre was built in collaboration with the Parya Trillium Foundation, to give members of the Iranian-Canadian community living in Toronto a place to gather, meet, and to ensure that all Iranians in the Greater Toronto Area feel they have somewhere to go to access excellent services, to interact with their peers, gain independence and ultimately become productive citizens in their new home. “With the Tirgan Festival, we have been mainly supporting by attending and being able to support financially,” says Ali. This demonstration of community and collaboration to enhance the overall livelihood of all Toronto residents is evidence of the innovative and positive impact that Pegah Construction aims to provide its clients and community.
Looking to the future, Ali believes that even with the pandemic, Pegah Construction will continue to grow and expand as a company. “As we do better work we get better opportunities, and we will be increasing our staff as a result.” Asked what excites him most about taking Pegah Construction into the future, he replies: “We think that we have a very good team to build on, and there is huge expansion particularly in the city of Toronto. There’s a lot of people from around the world that come here into this magnificent city, supported by different levels of the Government. We have been the beneficiaries of a very small amount of good work, but that is where we think we can be contributing the most. Doing good projects, on time and on budget.”
“We are very excited about the future of Canada, and being a part of it”.