Pardee Equipment: Came for the work, stayed for the community.
When Jeff Pardee left his career in finance to support the family business back in the 1990s, he didn’t expect to stay in Fort McMurray for more than a few years. That said, he didn’t expect to fall in love with the small western Canadian community, either.
Providing financial expertise to Pardee Equipment—a burgeoning industrial tractor dealership—was quite different from his life on Bay Street in downtown Toronto. Jeff quickly grew to love the change in pace, local camaraderie and starkly different community feel—so much so that when his family eventually sold the business, Jeff opted to stay in town.
“When I joined Pardee Equipment, the founder—who was my late stepfather—told me to get as involved in the community as I could,” he recalls. Jeff took the advice to heart, serving for six years on the board of the United Way, for 16 years on the board of the local Chamber of Commerce, for five years on the board of Keyano College and for two years as President of the Fort McMurray Oilsands Rotary Club.
He also volunteered, and ultimately ended up working, with the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA) from 2002 to 2007. As the general manager, he helped NAABA further advance its mission of promoting businesses, jobs and training for Aboriginal people in the region—work that ultimately saw both Syncrude and Suncor surpass the $1 billion mark for procurement of goods and services from Aboriginal businesses.
Over the years, his extensive volunteer activities have helped to contribute to the community’s well-being in countless other ways too. For instance, the annual Rotary Club Music Festival, which attracted over 3,500 participants, raised over $1 million following the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire—money that was contributed to local organizations to help them rebuild. More recently, the Rotary Club partnered with the local Lions Club to develop two disc golf courses in the community.
“Mainstream media reports on Fort McMurray’s highs and lows, but there’s a huge community spirit here, a great economy and the incredible outdoors,” he says. Jeff loves that he can leave the office early, and him and his wife can go out and enjoy the incredible outdoors, such as visiting Clearwater River.
It’s these little traditions—combined with the warmth of the Fort McMurray people—that prompted Jeff to find work with a number of local contractors after his tenure at NAABA, eventually becoming the account manager at Aluma Systems Inc., a global energy, industrial and infrastructure services provider. Throughout, he has continued to model the power of volunteerism and community spirit.
“It’s imperative that business leaders give back to the community. Their commitment carries on in the culture of these companies and becomes part of the culture of the community,” he says.