Local builder lays foundation for economic growth in Estevan - Vote for Saskatchewan's finalist in the race for $100,000 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award Grand Prize

ESTEVAN, SK, May 29, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) announced today that the turning-point project, "Building Boom," submitted by local businessman, Nathan Wilhelm, will represent Saskatchewan in the finals of the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award (BDC YEA).

Nathan's project aims to expand his business, Wilhelm Construction Services Inc. (WCSI), into off-site constructed housing to address the severe housing shortage that is hindering the city's economic growth. To claim the $100,000 Grand Prize and tackle this new market boom, Nathan needs votes from Canadians coast-to-coast.

WCSI is literally laying the foundations for its community's future growth and prosperity. As a design-build service provider, it takes a project from foundation to roof cap, with a turnkey service offering that includes the initial concept and design, trades and labour, and project management. Business is brisk thanks to Estevan's booming resource economy, which includes a new clean-coal carbon-capture project implemented by the province. But that's also the problem: The local economy is in dire need of new workers, but the current pace of new home construction is far too slow to keep up with demand for housing.

"The housing shortage is at the heart of a vicious circle," says Nathan. "Businesses can't retain, hire or send new employees for training because of the housing shortage. Jobs are available here, but this means nothing if people don't have an affordable place to live."

Various housing studies have revealed a need for 2,000 new housing units in Estevan by 2025 – an average of 154 a year. Current homebuilding capacity in the area is only 30 to 50 per year. Over the past seven years, WCSI has grown from two people into an award-winning, 34-person operation that has the ability to manage trades, resources and project deadlines to deliver what its community needs.

Nathan wants to leverage WCSI's capabilities to address Estevan's housing shortage with off-site home construction. In this model, complete single-family homes, townhouses and even multi-unit condos are built offsite in modular sections, transported to the construction site, and assembled for final finishing. Off-site constructed units can be completed in as little as half the time of traditional "stick-built" housing, and WCSI has already completed a 55-unit condo development this way. Nathan is confident this project will open up new opportunities for WCSI in other communities that face similar housing shortages across Western Canada and beyond.

"Each of this year's finalists has shared a compelling story about how their business stands at that crucial crossroads where the right mix of vision and action can secure future growth and success," says Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC. "Nathan's story illustrates how adequate housing investment is fundamental to local economic growth and tried and tested building solutions lead to great business opportunities."

"If we don't act now, this housing shortage will stall Estevan's economy and our own business will plateau as a result," says Nathan. "Instead, our company is taking on a challenge no one else in the area has the capacity to address. We need your votes to bring together the resources and partnerships that will help our community grow and prosper."

Voting for the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest runs from May 29 to June 12 at noon EST. To support your favourite project, log into the contest website and vote once a day. Follow the contest through updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Visit bdc.ca/awards to learn other ways in which BDC recognizes Canadian entrepreneurs. The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award winner and runner-up will be announced on June 18. The runner-up will receive $25,000 in consulting services offered by BDC.

About the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest pays tribute to remarkable Canadian entrepreneurs between 18 and 35.  This year, nine finalists were selected to compete for a $100,000 Grand Prize. A second prize of $25,000 in consulting services offered by BDC will be awarded to the contest runner-up. For the first time in 2014, a national committee evaluated the quality of the finalist projects and gave each finalist a ranking that will be combined with the public vote. The national committee evaluation was weighted to account for 30% of each project's final ranking and the public vote will account for the remaining 70% of the ranking. www.bdc.ca/yea.

About BDC
Canada's business development bank, BDC puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 2,000 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers financing, subordinate financing, venture capital, securitization and consulting services to more than 28,000 small and medium-sized companies. Their success is vital to Canada's economic prosperity.

SOURCE: Business Development Bank of Canada

For further information: Maria Constantinescu, Senior Advisor, Public Relations, BDC, maria.constantinescu@bdc.ca, (514) 496-7146

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