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Ron Southern


If Ron Southern had decided to become a tailor instead of an entrepreneur, Canada's business and social landscape would have looked as empty as Calgary without its Tower. His ATCO Group of companies, a $6.5-billion corporation, now employs 7000 Canadians.


The story began in 1947 when Ron and his father invested $2000 in the Alberta Trailer Hire Company. Six years later, after completing his bachelor of science from the University of Alberta Southern began working full-time for the company that was to become Canada's premier electric power provider.


The Alberta Trailer company's evolution began in the 1950s when it imported the first U.S. mobile homes to the Canadian public. The company soon established manufacturing operations in Edmonton under the name of Roadway Industries.


In the 1960s, ATCO branched into the international arena with its first contract to supply housing to the Mangla Dam Project in Pakistan. In that era, Boeing awarded ATCO the first of many rental contracts to provide administrative facilities for their minuteman IBM installations. Ten years later, the company participated in its first oil discovery. Construction of trailors for the Alyeska Pipeline project and for the first oilsands housing facilities boosted the company's revenues.


When the 1988 Olympics organizers were searching for a company to build temporary homes for athletes and logistical personnel, they turned to ATCO. The company received a coveted feather in its cap when the federal government awarded its subsidiary Frontec a five-year contract worth $114 million to maintain Canada's North Warning System. Frontec now provides logistics support to Canada's peacekeeping forces. In 2004, when world leaders met in Kananaskis for the G8 Summit, ATCO structures housed their logistical support teams.


In 1986, Southern was awarded Canada's highest distinction when he was inducted into the Order of Canada. Four years later, in recognition of his promotion of British-Canadian relations he was inducted into the Order of the British Empire and in 1995, he was promoted to commander of the Order of the British Empire. In August 2003, the Governor General conferred on Southern the title of officer within the Order of Canada. Many Canadians who will not be able to list any of Southern's awards will nevertheless know the Southern family for their support of the Spruce Meadows equestrian events and for their generosity in inviting the community to view the competitions free-of-charge.


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