In 1993, Daniel Mercier set up his own laboratory for material and soil analysis when he was a young civil engineer and couldn’t find a job. The ABS Group – for Asphalt, Concrete and Soil – has always grown organically, but really took off a decade ago thanks to revelations in the Public Procurement Management Inquiry in the construction sector.
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“We’ve always had good organic growth, which has allowed us to open ten offices in as many cities in the Quebec regions, but we haven’t been able to win large public contracts because everything was organized. We’ve made progress doing small projects for private entrepreneurs and in the real estate sector,” Daniel Mercier tells me.
“We didn’t have access to the Montreal market because we said we didn’t have a presence on the island. We bought the Joyal Environnement company in Montreal in 2008, but we didn’t get any more orders. I’ve already been told that I have the best offer, but I don’t belong to the group,” the entrepreneur recalls.
From 2012 to 2013, when the revelations about the nepotism that existed between engineering firms, major industry contractors and certain public contractors were described, ABS Group began losing major orders.
“We didn’t have access to Montreal airport construction sites because they required disproportionate skills, the same goes for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain bridges, or Hydro Quebec contracts because they told us they were already reliable suppliers had,” says Mr. Mercier.
In short, all of that has changed and we’ve grown from 250 to 725 employees since 2015.
Daniel Mercier, CEO of the ABS Group
Today, ABS’ expertise in materials testing and soil remediation was used to work on the new Samuel De Champlain Bridge. The company also performs tests for material manufacturers and has expanded its fields of activity.
The company is present on all construction sites to certify the quality and standards of the materials used, whether asphalt and concrete, or the floors.
From organic to strategic
“We created a signaling department to meet our needs, but today we’re one of the big players in signaling and construction sites like REM use our teams from our ABS signaling department.
“We also created the Solum division in Saint-Amable, specialized in soil remediation. When we decontaminate we mix the soil and there are particles that can escape into the air. For this reason we have created another department, Vert-Zéro, which plants trees to offset the emissions that we are able to generate,” continues Daniel Mercier.
The ABS Group has always grown organically, but after strategic planning, it was decided to make acquisitions to strengthen the group’s base.
“Six months ago we took over Qualilab Inspection, which gives us flexibility in our actions. It carries out private sector orders like we did at the beginning.
“Two weeks ago we acquired TechnoRem in Laval, which specializes in on-site decontamination, while our Solum division carries out off-site decontamination.
“In addition, TechnoRem is active in groundwater research and management. Around a hundred specialists are strengthening our workforce,” explains the CEO of the ABS Group.
Daniel Mercier’s desire is to create a benchmark group in his area in Quebec and most importantly ensure that it remains Quebec owned.
“We are the largest independent materials engineering laboratory in Quebec. The third if we count foreign companies. The next step will be to add, through merger or acquisition, a civil engineering company that will allow us to offer our customers fully integrated solutions,” summarizes the entrepreneur.
Canada’s Fastest Man
Parallel to the development of the ABS group, Daniel Mercier cultivates an amazing passion: he is a professional dragstersthose racing machines designed to be the fastest in the world on four wheels.
“I compete in about fifteen races a year in the United States. I have a team of three full-time guys, twelve when I race, and the next will be in Indianapolis in September for the US Nationals, the World Drag Race.
“I’m a native of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and my father, a farmer, took us in VR to watch regattas throughout Quebec and the American Northeast. I bought a boat and had my regatta team for 10 years. Then I decided to do it dragsters. We formed a team and I’m the driver,” says Daniel Mercier.
The ABS Group CEO was the 2006 Northeastern United States Champion and is the fastest Canadian on four wheels, having completed the quarter mile in 3.77 seconds.
The planes he flies across the United States fly at 540 kilometers per hour, and his season runs from February to mid-November. How does he balance that passion with the already overwhelming passion of running a business?
“A week has 168 hours. You sleep 48, so you have 120 left. I take 40 hours for my work, 40 hours for my passion and 40 hours for my family,” he summarizes simply.