David Tuccaro was selected as Resource Person of the Year on the basis of the inspiring spirit and abiding impact of his two-and-a-half decades of unceasing and increasingly influential entrepreneurialism in northern Alberta, particularly as it has driven and supported the orderly and responsible development of Alberta’s resources. Strongly augmenting this success, David has also been an especially effective and outspoken advocate and supporter of community, educational, and Aboriginal development.
From the histories of David’s path as a businessman and the ACR’s as an organization comes a parallel that aptly represents the nature of his contribution. The formation of the ACR in 1936 embodied a fairly simple but geographically ambitious purpose: aid the establishment and growth of northern hard-rock mines by building an unmatched labour and materiel supply capability in the south—that is, Edmonton and the rest of Alberta, which stood to gain greatly in the attempt. David’s voyage—even more full of risk and adventure, likely, given that he was essentially on his own—shares the clear but perhaps underappreciated recognition of an untapped opportunity, a sure-fire confidence in the power and potential of his own ability and effort, and a vision of a successful outcome and a better future—business and personal growth and shared prosperity.
Born and raised in the small, remote, and historically significant northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan, David showed potential and promise early on in school athletics and in his energy and ambition cutting his budding entrepreneurial teeth in a variety of early ventures that included a cab company, an automotive repair shop, and a janitorial service. In the late 1980s, largely on the power of his peerless determination and practical business acumen, he won the position of manager of the administration offices of the Mikisew Cree Tribal Council, one of the owners of Neegan Development Corporation Ltd. Neegan was a Fort McMurray-based, oil-sands focused heavy equipment construction company that, awaiting only David’s leadership, had yet to rise to its full potential; indeed, it seems likely that, but for David, the company would have failed and, along with David’s present-day peak workforce of about 500, been relegated to the pages of lost hopes and dreams.
As it was, becoming its sole owner in 1992, David turned Neegan around to the extent that, within five years, two more resource industry service companies—Tuc’s Contracting, a trucking business, and Neegan Technical Services, providing environmental engineering and laboratory services—stood solidly alongside the original business. Showing wisdom beyond his years, part of the secret of that success was a rare willingness to concede control—hiring a new general manager, for example—based on trust in the commitment and excellence of others and a confidence in his own ability to focus on his strengths and on the ongoing discovery of new opportunities. A water supply company soon followed along with real estate, woodworking, management and financial service, and tourism and recreation enterprises. And, in later years, new clients—in energy pipelines, for example—lessened the business risk and broadened the base of opportunity and expertise. A prospective business transaction recently valued David’s businesses in excess of $100 million.
David is also an archetype for the new brand of leader who, through the fruits of his entrepreneurial and economic triumphs, is increasingly expected to contribute as well to the social health and fabric of local communities. An early example for David is a partnership set up with Keyano College in Fort McMurray that, in addition to supporting his company’s demand for lab techs, also put out the call for and enabled higher education for aboriginal people in general. He continues to support educational initiatives, has donated generously of funds and energy to the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, and actively aims to employ aboriginal people within his group of companies and help them develop a variety of career and life skills through ongoing training and other forms of support.
As might be inferred from the record of accomplishment, David is no stranger to third-party accolades. He is, for example, the recipient of the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Award for Entrepreneur of the Year, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribal Chiefs Institute of Edmonton. He was also one among the Financial Post’s Top 40 Under 40 in 1998, was inducted into the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame in 2012, is a past director of the ACR, and is the founding president of the Northeastern Aboriginal Business Association.