A family-owned Smithers business institution is now in the hands of a company from Alberta.
Mullen Group announced April 16 it had acquired the Bandstra Group of Companies.
Bandstra was founded in 1955 as Smithers Transport by John Bandstra Sr. shortly after he immigrated from Holland.
“Starting with two trucks and operating under the name Smithers Transport, John and two others began to haul groceries and general freight between Prince Rupert and Smithers,” a corporate history on the Bandstra website recounts. “Goods arrived in the Prince Rupert port by ships originating in Vancouver. Today the 350 km highway between these locations is a 4-hour drive, but with the road conditions being so poor in the late ’50s, the trip could take up to 12 hours. The drivers remember carrying planks of wood that they used to pry trucks and cars out of the mud along the route.”
Now, Bandstra Transportation and Babine Truck & Equipment, owns eight facilities and a fleet of 180 power units, 360 trailers and 70 pieces of support equipment. The companies employ 400 people throughout northern B.C. and generate annual revenue of $85 million.
“This is another gem of a company that I am delighted to have in our growing organization,” said Murray Mullen, Mullen CEO. “The Bandstra name is well-known to many in the transportation industry. Founded 65 years ago, this family-owned business has grown to be one of the largest diversified transportation companies in British Columbia earning a reputation for quality service and community involvement.”
Mullen’s early history shares quite a bit in common with the Bandstra story. In 1949, Roland Mullen started with a single truck hauling gravel growing to three trucks during the 1950s. From the 1960s to 1970s Mullen continued to grow the fleet and in the 1980s started acquiring other companies.
In 1991, Murray was appointed president and CEO. In 1993, he took the company public and it has since purchased numerous other logistics, freight and warehousing businesses all across Canada.
It trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol MTL.
While a difficult decision for the family, Phil Bandstra, company president, said in the end they felt it was in the best interests of everyone to make the move.
“As a mid-size company, we’re competing more and more in the big leagues as we grow and ultimately we needed the resources of a larger group to continue to be competitive and get access to technology that we couldn’t obtain elsewhere,” he said.
An while there has been interest in the company, from various quarters over the years, Mullen was the best opportunity for Bandstra to maintain the status quo while continuing to grow the business.
“We specifically chose Mullen based on their track record of running standalone businesses, leaving them alone, respecting the terms of existing employees’ wages, benefits and jobs, so we think it’s the best decision for our company and our employees going forward.”
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