Ontario's construction industry is facing labour supply issues despite the tremendous opportunities that await young people across a wide spectrum of trades. These opportunities will improve for two major reasons: (1) the wave of retirements that is anticipated over the next decade, and (2) the expectation that construction activity will increase due to the emphasis on infrastructure from Ottawa and Queen's Park, with budgets due this spring.
A daughter’s reflection on her father, Engelbert J. Baum, founder of Baum Publications Ltd.
Engelbert's professional ventures - publishing and construction equipment - were intertwined in two specific ways. Born in 1948 in Wiesbaden, West Germany, Engelbert came to maturity during a significant historic period. The postwar generation was characterized by an optimistic desire to find innovative ways to remake the country from bottom up. I believe my father took to heart the broader emphasis to create and to build. This ethos became Engelbert's lifelong sensibility, as well as characterized the two industries that defined his career.
Engelbert started in the publishing world with his twin brother, Heribert. Attracted to the informal, creative and collaborative world of publishing, they earned their publishing diplomas in 1969 from Schulze-Delitzsch School in Wiesbaden. During their studies, they worked together at the Textile Journal. In school or work, they were never in competition, but rather shared a goal of equal success. Influenced by the possibilities promised by the American dream, Engelbert unsuccessfully attempted to find work in Toronto and Chicago in 1970. He returned to Germany, where he met my mother, Susi. In 1972, he left Germany for Vancouver. It was in Vancouver, hometown of my mother, where my father successfully established himself professionally. Engelbert became a Canadian citizen in 1979, and in the mid to late 1970s, Vancouver also became the home of his brother and mother.
At Southam's Journal of Commerce, BC Lumberman, and Construction West, Engelbert worked as production manager, then sales manager, and in the early 1980s, he proudly became the associate publisher for the Journal of Commerce. My sister, Simone, and I share many happy memories of our father at Southam. Growing up, he always told us that he loved what he did for a living. My sister and I still can not drive past the old Southam building without a flood of memories coming up. He would take us to work and we would play around and under his desk, a desk where we would quickly gather his white and blue business cards and stationary in our pockets to use later in our game of being a "newspaper man" like our dad. With his wonderful deep voice, he would introduce us with the statement "these are my daughters" to everyone and then step back and watch our interactions with his associates. Almost 40 years later, we are still in contact with almost all of the people my father came to know in that period.
During this time, Engelbert's idea for Heavy Equipment Guide started to come together. My father envisioned the magazine as a vehicle to bring new product information to Canada. There were no construction magazines at that time in Canada that provided more than two or three pages of product information. Engelbert realized there was a need for a vehicle that expanded on the needs of heavy equipment buyers, as well as a place for manufacturers to publicize their products. Due to management changes, Engelbert left Southam in 1984 and worked part-time at Expo 86 in Vancouver as director of the transportation display at the Canadian Pavilion in Abbotsford.
With the editorial assistance of Len Webster, whom he met at the Journal of Commerce, Engelbert published the first issue of Canadian Heavy Equipment Guide (the name was later shortened to Heavy Equipment Guide) in June 1986. I remember the way my father's eyes lit up with excitement and pride as he handed copies to my sister and me. He said to us something to the effect that "this is for us," and when he chose the logo of an olive tree (Baum means tree in German) he clearly stated that it represented us too. These were big moments for us as a family as was every step on the road in the development of Baum Publications Ltd. In every new magazine he started, every new office building he moved into, every new employee he was excited to hire, every employee he was happy to see succeed and every new business opportunity ventured, my sister and I felt proud of our father's many accomplishments, as well as for the way he always seemed to rise after experiencing a setback or hardship.
Engelbert understood that publishing success grew from a robust understanding of the industry served. He had a commitment to seek out and form relationships in every facet of the construction equipment industry, from users, manufacturers and distributors to writers, editors, salespeople and publishers. It was from these varied relationships that my father's understanding of the industry was earned. His signature conversation opener, "What's new?" reflected not only his endless desire for information, but also his underlying belief in the importance of connection. He wanted industry news as much as he wanted to know about you. The latter quality is one that is typically reserved for family bonds, but my father really cared for the people he met professionally and nearly every associate or client would quickly be transformed into a dear and lifelong friend. The best of family values, loyalty, generosity and curiosity became his professional code of conduct.
In a very real way, Engelbert's larger than life personality, good humour, and general sense of fun was a positive force in the lives of the people around him. If you only met my father once, you would always remember the encounter and be able to recall details many years later. My sister noted recently that our father may not have been in a helping profession per se, but his personal and professional sensibility was always to help. I have been told many times how my father gave someone an idea to start their own magazine, set up their own venture, provide a job, make an industry connection, point to a lead, give a loan, and say or do something unexpectedly thoughtful. The people that shared with me these stories insisted that their success stemmed from the seeds my father gave them to plant. And it speaks volumes about the work community my father created that well over half of Baum Publications employees have been with the company for 10, 15, and even 20 years and continue to remain integral to the company's success.
Engelbert was recognized not only for his knowledge and expertise but also as an industry leader with an unflinching commitment to community building. Among his various industry roles in the publishing and construction equipment industries, my father was co-founder and president of Publications in Construction Association (PICA), marketing committee member of CONEXPO/CON-AGG trade show, board member of Construction Industry Manufacturers Association (CIMA), and director of the B.C. region of Canadian Associated Equipment Distributors (CAED). Engelbert not only uniquely transcended but also intertwined singular professional and industry categories: he was a publisher, editor, salesman, production manager and a virtual encyclopedia of trade and construction equipment and related industry knowledge.
Engelbert's brother also started a publishing company covering logging and the related construction equipment industry. They bought offices beside each other. Over their daily coffee breaks, they would often reminisce that they were living their early dreams. The commitment to family connection was also reflected in the ways in which my father encouraged my sister and I to participate in the company as children and teenagers. We went to trade shows with him, handing out magazines and talking to people about ad space and price, and performed various forms of office work. He shared with us the highs and lows of running a company, and we cheered him on, not from the sidelines, however, as he made us feel central to all his endeavors and a part of his community. He would often ask for our advice about various business matters and brainstorm business-related ideas with us. In fact, the idea for one magazine on health care came from my sister's interest in the medical field.
My father did encourage me to work in the company as an adult. He once arranged for me to represent the company in Lyon, France, at a trade show: he had business cards made for me, arranged meetings there and insisted I write a solid article upon returning. These experiences helped build my confidence and provided a new feeling of responsibility. I ended up following in my father's footsteps in a different way, the world of literary and academic editing. He was happy to assist me, arranging for printing when needed and proudly kept what I published in his night-side table. When the first article I wrote was published, I dedicated it to my father.
As with my sister, my father never expressed disappointment when I told him that I intended to work in a different field: in fact, he said he hoped that my sister and I would follow his example of working in a profession that we loved. This sentiment is one he often shared with his grandchildren, even though I know nothing would have made him happier if all five grandchildren decided their path was in his company.
My husband, Ken Singer, eventually started working at Baum Publications in digital development. My father happily mentored him on the larger business and quite simply he was thrilled to have Ken work with him. These were feelings shared by Ken. When the time came for him to step back from his role as publisher due to health issues, I know it was a great relief to my father that it was his son-in-law that took his place and that the company would remain family owned and operated. It is heartening to see my oldest son, Zev, now spending days with Ken in the office and it was particularly meaningful for me to see them work together at a recent trade show. I remember my father's smile when I showed him a picture of Ken and Zev holding up an issue of Heavy Equipment Guide at the show. My father said, "That's the third generation."
As stated in Canadian Heavy Equipment Guide's first editorial comment, Engelbert intended to succeed in the realization of his dreams and wanted all his family, associates, friends and communities to grow and prosper as well. In that spirit, Simone and I will always remember our dear father as a remarkable tree, a great and generous tree that played a role in the creation and building of many forests.
Acknowledgments: I appreciate the many details provided by Bruce Guerin, Bruce Davie, Greg Sitek, Sharon Holling, Lou Maggio, Jim Shepard, Stan Sauerwein, Larry Aller, Frank Raczon, Mike Porcaro, Don McIntosh, Ian Stuart, Dean Baxendale, Dee Egan, Lawrence Buser, David Gilmour, Sam Esmaili, Ariel Savion-Lemieux, and especially by Simone Baum, Heribert Baum and Ken Singer.
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