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Jack Nellis Turvey (1911-1990)
Jack Nellis Turvey was born in Harris, Saskatchewan, on Feb. 12, 1911, but moved to Vancouver after the death of his father. According to a biography published in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Jack was a smallish child unwilling to give any quarter. He grew up as something of a fighter, a trait he carried with him throughout his business career as he frequently scrapped with business and union leaders and politicians in later life.
He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1934 with a BA in economics, and spent most of his early business career working as an accountant, although he was never formally certified as such. He worked at a number of west coast businesses throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, and eventually joined Marwell Construction in 1949. Over the next six years there, he would acquire the contacts and the expertise that would serve him later in his career.
While working for Marwell, Jack met transplanted Texan Bill Sharp and the two founded Interprovincial Steel and Pipe Corporation (IPSCO), with Jack becoming its first Secretary-Treasurer in 1956. He remained with IPSCO for the rest of his career-including 20 years as president-and through that period was the driving force behind the company's growth.
Although the company faced significant challenges, Jack kept the company profitable as he fought what he called the steel industry's "eastern trust."
Regarded as a worker's boss, Jack nevertheless once locked out striking steelworkers and hired helicopters to ferry supplies to management inside IPSCO's plants. Still, he is better known as a feisty Irishman who constantly pushed company sales from a plush chair in an executive railcar outside the company's head office building.
Under Jack's watch, IPSCO expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s as it helped lay the expanding infrastructure of the western Canadian oil and gas industry. From pipe plants in Edmonton, Calgary, Brooks, Red Deer, Regina, and Vancouver, IPSCO helped build the oil and gas delivery network and played a key role in the industry's growth. Whether supplying pipe for field operations or large-diameter material for major export pipelines, IPSCO-acquired for US$7.7 billion in 2007 by Swedish-based SSAB Canada Inc.-is regarded as Canada's dominant steel supplier and is unquestionably the country's leading pipe maker.
Jack was the character who developed IPSCO's corporate culture and was, in many respects, the steel and pipe industry's equivalent of the oil industry wildcatter. He was a strong personality who laid a foundation for his own company to ultimately expand into the United States as one of the North American steel industry's most respected and profitable players.
However, in addition to his career at IPSCO, Jack also contributed greatly to the development of industry in western Canada through his ownership of such enterprises as Western Construction, Estevan Brick, and Pe Ben Industries Ltd.
He eventually retired to Vancouver in 1981, where he died in July 1990.