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ATCO Structures

ATCO Structures started as a small family business, and rode the Alberta oil boom of the late 1940s and 1950s to eventually expand into a worldwide organization of companies engaged in utilities, power, industrials, technologies and energy services.

More than two generations of workers at remote oil, gas, forestry and mining sites have stayed in ATCO trailers, and the structures have been used for many purposes including major international events like the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and Expo’86 in Vancouver.

The company was founded in 1947 in Calgary when S.D. and R.D. Southern started renting 15 utility trailers under the company name Alberta Trailer Hire (now known as ATCO Structures). In 1953, the company established a manufacturing plant near Edmonton, and after a 1955 fire destroyed the plant, manufacturing was shifted to a site near Airdrie. Sales of the company’s manufactured homes steadily grew, especially as air defense stations and resource developments in the Arctic regions of North America spurred demand for pre-built housing that could be installed without basements.

By the end of the 1960s, ATCO had relocated from Airdrie to a 54 acre site in southwest Calgary called the ATCO Industrial Park, and had manufacturing plants in Montreal, Australia and the United States, supplying a wide range of prefabricated housing to projects around the globe. The boom in oil and gas exploration and pipeline construction in the 1970s also meant heady times for ATCO, and many of the workers on the massive TransAlaska pipeline project stayed in camps constructed by the company.

During the 1970s, the ATCO corporate portfolio expanded into oil and gas production, and the firm’s manufactured modular structures became a familiar sight around the world. ATCO’s international stature was enhanced when the company supplied support buildings and athlete accommodations for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Following the Games, the 500 homes used to accommodate the media and Olympic family, which had been purchased by the Government of Canada (200) and the Province of Alberta (300), were relocated throughout western Canada for student housing (Mount Royal College – 150), senior citizens and other housing needs. This ATCO solution ensured that surplus housing from the Olympic Games did not occur in Calgary.

For many people, ATCO’s name has become synonymous with workforce accommodation, and the familiar white trailers with ATCO yellow and black trim (and the ATCO logo at the top) have become part of their working landscape.

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