The resident of Port au Choix could be heading to a job anywhere, from Goose Bay to St. John’s, or he might need to stop at one of his three work sheds only a couple minutes from home.
Inside these sheds are numerous pieces of heavy equipment, including two large boom trucks — one 30-tonne and one 35-tonne.
For the past 10 years, Spence has operated Northern Peninsula Enterprises, a heavy equipment business, out of his hometown.
The 35-year-old grew up with saltwater in his veins, watching his father and older brothers in the commercial fishery, and even participating himself.
Spence fished shrimp on and off with his father since he was in his late teens. After 12 years on the water, and a decrease in shrimp quotas,
he realized the fishery no longer seemed like a viable career path. He knew he had to find a new route.
Northern Peninsula Enterprises is well known throughout the region.
Spence doesn’t only own the business, he’s a certified crane operator and puts in solid work hours both using and working on the equipment.
It’s the personalized touch he has with his customers and clients and the relationships he has built over the past decade that have helped develop it into a successful business. It’s also one of his favourite parts of the job — working with people.
Since starting up in 2007, there has been plenty of growth, although there were times when the future didn’t seem so bright.
His small business started with one 30-tonne boom truck and a loader, but rapidly grew.
“The first year was hit and miss,” he recalled. “But then people got to know me and what I was capable of.”
With each passing year, Spence continued to get busier. As business picked up, he needed more equipment and staff.
Spence has since added to his inventory a 35-tonne boom truck, four dump trucks, a backhoe, a Bobcat, two excavators, one front-end loader and an assortment of trailers. He now employs four people, and his father often helps with maintenance.
After a few good years for Spence’s business, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric mega-project began. He saw it as an opportunity to get more work, and it has added to his company’s success. However, he spends a lot of time on the Northern Peninsula, with steady jobs and repeat customers.
“I often work long hours and I am on call 24/7,” he said. “You have to go when you’re called.”
When asked where he sees his business in the future, Spence was quick to point out how unpredictable the industry is, especially in the province right now.
“With the way the Newfoundland and Labrador economy is going, it’s hard to know where (a small business) is going to be one day to the next,” he said.
One of the big concerns he has is about the increase in fees for permits and licensing and fuel taxes. He says small businesses are getting hit hardest. Especially ones that rely heavily on fuel, like his.
“It costs a lot of money to keep it all going,” Spence said. “It’s been getting harder and harder.”
That doesn’t keep him down, though. In fact, he has an optimistic attitude and sees potential for more growth, getting into the larger markets.
He was recently part of a project in Corner Brook for a national company. And it’s not uncommon for him to take jobs in other parts of the island. It’s something he believes will continue.
For now, business is going strong and he can continue to work at what he loves.
“The goal is to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said.