continued growth S
outh Country Co-op, with nearly 700 employees, and 62,000 members, is expanding every day. When the Medicine Hat and Vauxhall co-ops amalgamated in 2015, South
Country became the third largest co-op in the Co-operative Retailing System (CRS).
It’s been a hectic few years, with grocery store renovations, gas bar facelifts and cardlock construction, new liquor stores, and more popping up all over southern Alberta, and sales for the co-operative topped $500 million in 2018.
It’s been a busy time, to say the least.
But throughout this period of accelerated growth and expansion, South Country Co-op has remained focused on the values that embody its very existence — care and support for local communities.
South Country’s commitment to local doesn’t only mean returning profits to members and carrying products from local producers; all expansions, renovations, and new construction are tendered out to local contractors in the region and they will always be given the first opportunity to bid on a project.
“It’s the Co-op way,” says CEO Paul Haynes. “The only time we would go outside the area is if it is something that just can’t be done locally.
“We use as much local as humanly possible. Always.”
Rick Bolen, Project Development Manager, has been with South Country for 11 years and has seen extended benefits from completing projects using as many local vendors and contractors as possible. When a community works with, and for, each other, a positive ripple effect occurs.
“We encourage the general contractors who price out our projects to also hire subcontractors in the local trading area,” Bolen says. “And that just builds on our business, because we support them and they support us — and that’s our model, it always has been as a co-operative.”
South Country’s CEO Paul Haynes enthusiastically agrees. “It’s a pleasure for me to see a contract awarded to a local contractor, and then run into the owner of the company shopping at one of our stores. We give them work and support, they support us—it’s a circle of sustainability, right here at home. The money stays at home.”
A Co-op exists to make a positive impact in the community it serves, so it makes sense
12 | CO-OP Telling our Story
Our growth continues so we remain relevant
“Some of it’s double contained, even triple contained, so with proper monitoring, if there’s even the lowest chance of a potential failure, we’ll know well in advance.”
South Country purchases all its lighting with superior efficiency in mind; it ensures its HVAC systems are put together with the highest environmental standards available. Whatever can be done to maximize environmental efficiency, South Country tries to implement it.
“It’s just the way we’ve been doing things all along,” Bolen says. “As technology changes, we change with it.”
It’s not just a policy that makes Co-op feel good about its environmental footprint — though it does do that. Bolen says the company sees return on investment that simply can’t be denied, citing an example during the Northlands grocery store renovation then they decided to replace interior fluorescent lighting with LED at the 11th hour.
“The return was almost instant,” he says, referring to the decrease in maintenance costs from frequent fluorescent bulb replacements, and a long-term decrease in utility bills.
The past few years have seen expansion within the region like no time before it, Bolen says. There doesn’t seem to be any slowing down, either.
that South Country has been implementing as many environmentally sustainable products and practices in all its projects. While the world perfects a Go Green attitude, South Country does its part by evolving its facilities as ever- evolving innovation allows.
“For example, I’ll just pick a gas bar,” Bolen says. “For the underground storage tanks and the underground product piping that supplies the fuel dispensers, all equipment installed is compliant with the most current industry and environmental standards.
“Our growth continues so we remain relevant.”
“We always have to keep our attention on our current infrastructure, as well,” Bolen continues, regarding maintaining the high standards of existing facilities.
Whether it’s new construction, maintaining current structures and facilities, or finding innovative ways to continue to evolve, South Country Co-op takes the same pride in its facilities that it does in its Team and its communities. When your customers are your owners — when they‘re your friends, family, and neighbours — there is only one way to operate.
“We are always looking to the best interests of our members,” Haynes says. “We have our Annual General Meeting every year and that’s an opportunity for our membership to come to the meetings and express what they would like to see as we move forward into the future.
“And that’s what we’re about — we’re about staying local and doing what’s best for our membership and the communities we serve.”
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