When Traven Huscroft graduated from Prince Charles Secondary School in 2001, he headed straight for Alberta. When he returned to Creston 10 years later, he was coming back on his own terms, with a business plan and as a tradesman.
Tratech Mechanical Ltd. is what Huscroft describes as “Creston Valley’s full service plumbing, heating and cooling contractor” with all services offered by journeymen with a variety of trades.
Huscroft didn’t set out to become a plumber. He enrolled in the University of Lethbridge to study business administration but after a year became attracted to the Canadian Army, where he became a full-time reservist for six years. The early years were a lesson in economics and priorities, he said, with a struggling national economy and a federal government that wasn’t exactly big on pouring money into the military.
“The army couldn’t afford bullets to train its reserves,” he recalls. “We had to pretend we were shooting. That all started to change when Canada went into Afghanistan in 2007, though. Then the money rolled in.”
Huscroft was in air defense, but his enthusiasm for the army deteriorated when his unit was shut down.
“I didn’t want to go into field artillery so I got out,” he says. “I knew trades were big around the Lethbridge area and I started to look for new work.”
A job offer arrived from a boiler shop — “one of the only places that makes commercial boilers” — and for the next two-and-a-half years he was immersed in the fabrication shop, where he began his apprenticeship.
He then moved on to work for one of the Southern Alberta’s largest plumbing and heating companies. He continued with his apprenticeship and by his third year he was working as a foreman on multimillion-dollar jobs, including, coincidentally, at the University of Lethbridge. Soon Huscroft became a project manager, in charge of running large construction projects. Before leaving he also earned his industrial ticket in gas fitting.
“I really wasn’t happy as an employee, though. I always wanted to run my own business.”
In 2011 a health scare with his father pushed Traven and his wife, with their baby, to make the move to Creston.
“In 2012 I starting hiring guys and we have just had steady growth,” he says. “Now I have five guys working for Tratech and they are all journeymen — in plumbing, refrigeration, gas fitting and sheet metal.”
Each of the Tratech journeymen moved from Alberta, two of them with young families.
“I offer my guys full benefits and we all regularly go off for upgrades. You need constant updates to keep on top of the technology. We have to go to Kelowna, Calgary, wherever courses are offered. But it’s worth it to our customers.”
Tratech has started to branch out in the last year-and-a-half, working on refrigeration and boilers. The full service aspect is a boon to builders, who like working with one company for their plumbing, heating and cooling needs.
“It saves them money, too,” he laughs.
With his industrial certifications, Huscroft is able to bid on local projects that previously were awarded to out-of-town contractors from as far away as Vancouver. He has done work for both sawmills, the brewery, Sullivan Stone concrete plant, the Arrow Creek water treatment plant and Creston’s waste water treatment plant. Recently Tratech has been doing the plumbing, heating and cooling work at the Lower Kootenay Band roundhouse construction.
As a young tradesman, Huscroft is quick to embrace new technology. Tratech has camera systems to inspect drain and sewer lines and has also embraced solderless joint technology wherever it is cost-effective.
A quick look at the company website (www.tratechmechanical.ca), which Huscroft designed himself, illustrates the range of services and projects offered by Tratech.
But he sees his role in the community as more than just business. The company sponsors community activities and he is an active Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce director, following the example set by his father, John.
“Creston was a great place to grow up, and it’s great to be able to come back here, raise a family and earn a living,” he says. “I am not sure exactly where Tratech is heading, but it is satisfying to look back and see how far we have come in a short time.”