By R. Bruce Striegler
“We’re a northern based logistics company, headquartered in Edmonton,” says Heather Stewart, President BBE Expediting. “Most of our work is done in and out of remote places in the north, and we connect to Ottawa and Edmonton, which are flight transportation hubs into the Arctic.” Ms. Stewart explains that the company, started in 1977 from Yellowknife, handles logistics for air, road and sea freight. BBE initially supported exploration camps north of and around the northern city. The company provides cargo services for airlines in Edmonton, Ottawa and a variety of northern locations. In the winter, it hauls freight on ice roads while in the summer it uses more aircraft, tugs and barges, and ships as well as rail. “The company grew with developments in the Northwest Territories, but really took off when they found the kimberlite pipes at the Akati Diamond Mine. That’s what took BBE from being an expediting company to a logistics and supply chain company.”
In 2007, BBE was purchased by NorTerra Inc., a wholly owned Canadian investment and management company, owned by the Inuvialuit Development Corporation of Inuvik. But in September of this year, BBE’s senior management team reached an agreement with NorTerra Inc. to acquire the company’s assets and operations. Quoted in the September 2016 news release regarding the buyout, Heather Stewart said, “The acquisition is an exciting opportunity for the BBE leadership team to take ownership of the business. We are committed to working hard with our joint venture partners, valued customers, staff and stakeholders as we approach our 40th year anniversary in early 2017.” BBE’s clients include government agencies, resource development companies and others.
“With our management buyout, we’re no longer a solely aboriginal-owned company,” says Stewart. “However, we have aboriginal joint venture partners and we have a most remarkable young woman as one of BBE’s owners and senior managers.” Leah Sulyma was born in Inuvik, NT in 1989. She had a passion for hockey and played against men on local and Territorial teams at the Arctic Winter Games, Canada Winter Games as well as the National Aboriginal Hockey Team. In 2007, Boston’s NCAA Northeastern Huskies recruited Leah with a full scholarship that led to an undergraduate degree in Business Administration in 2011. She spent summers with BBE working in support of sealift projects for clients like Agnico Eagle Mines and Newmont Mining. Post graduate Leah took on a role with NorTerra Inc. as Business Analyst, responsible for mergers and acquisition analytics and financial analysis. She rejoined BBE in 2013 in operations, working through a variety of supply chain and freight forwarding positions before taking on the role of Senior Manager, Quality. In 2016, Leah Sulyma was named Young Entrepreneur of the year.
Looking to the future with information technology and new global agreements
In the spring of 2015, the company opened a new air and multi-modal cargo facility at the fast-growing Cargo Village at the south end of Edmonton International Airport. With 40,000 square feet, it has double the floor space of its old warehouse, increased cooler and freezer capacity for perishables and installed a six-metre drive-over scale as well as the airport’s first electric car charging station. The company handles freight for ten airlines in Edmonton, and in 2015, BBE concluded a cargo-handling agreement with Air China Cargo to connect Shanghai, Edmonton and Dallas-Fort Worth. Earlier in 2015, the company entered into a partnership with Menzies Aviation (Canada) and Air France–KLM Cargo, also from Edmonton’s Airport.
“In terms of the future, we are moving further into information technology, that is, the logistics systems we have in place, and expanding the technology which allows customers to fulfill more of their transportation needs on-line.” Originally, BBE developed its own software and tracking systems, allowing customers to ship freight originating from the south through the company’s Edmonton consolidation hub. The cargoes head to Yellowknife where each is entered on a priority list and then shipped to remote client sites across the north.” Ms. Stewart notes that it is BBE’s ability to provide client-specific logistics solutions in remote Arctic conditions that created the company’s competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace. The full-service logistics company handles project staffing and procurement from offices across Canada. Nearly a quarter of BBE’s business today is international freight forwarding, moving cargo all over world for customers. Management-owned, BBE is a proud partner with Inuvialuit, Inuit and First Nation businesses across Canada. The 38-year-old Stewart says, “Our corporate commitment to ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ sets us apart in the logistics industry.”