"I think being environmentally responsible just comes naturally. Growing up on the farm we were taught that land is important, it’s where our food comes from."
David Werklund combines the individualism of the entrepreneur with the generous perspective of one who values his community. Throughout his very successful career in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, he has kept his eye on the big picture, pioneering environmental protection techniques and investing in youth leadership and public education.
David Werklund was born in 1945 and grew up on a farm near Valleyview, Alberta. Farm life provided David with the foundation for his success. It demanded teamwork from him and his five siblings and afforded them opportunities to be innovative and visionary by inventing new tools to make their work more efficient.
The farming culture also planted in David the seeds of community and fair play, instilled in him through his father’s teachings and actions. David’s father often called on him and his brothers to haul hay to their neighbours’ farm in the dead of winter when their cattle were out of feed, or to “always give an extra pail” when selling a neighbour a bushel of seed grain. These day-to-day lessons of honesty in business and sense of community became David’s guiding principles.
While those early years helped him and his siblings to appreciate the values of hard work and innovation, a teenage David was curious about life outside the farm. Seeking his own path, he found his independence at his first job away from the farm as an oilrig worker. It was there he developed his mental and emotional toughness through working with some mean characters. He remembers carrying a wrench in his pocket for his own protection.
In 1965, David moved to a job with Shell Canada as a production operator. Through supervising the crews, he realized there was good money in owning a servicing company. After five years with Shell, he branched out on his own, founding Dave’s Oilfield Service.
David built the company up to a workforce of approximately 150 employees, though their numbers fluctuated greatly through the ups and downs of the notoriously cyclical oil business. In a bid for more sustainable work, he founded Concord Well Servicing in 1979. Concord grew from a one-rig operation to the third-largest well servicing company in Canada. In 1984, recognizing a need, David branched into the crude oil processing and waste management business with the founding of Canadian Crude Separators (CCS).
A concern for our natural landscape has led David to be environmentally responsible in all of his oilfield businesses. Canadian Crude Separators operated under the maxim, “Protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground we walk on.” Believing that waste products should never touch the earth, David pushed his team to develop cutting edge environmental practices that not only exceeded existing standards but in many cases set the regulatory bar for the industry. He has travelled to many parts of the world and maintains that Alberta’s standards are second to none.
In 1994, CCS was merged with Concord’s well servicing business. Through the next decade and a half, CCS acquired a number of companies that broadened its operations from drilling through to well site reclamation. In 2012, CCS and its twelve related divisions came together under the name Tervita Corporation. Today Tervita has over a thousand employees across Canada and offers the industry's most comprehensive array of environmental and waste management services.
Beyond Tervita, David is chairman of Aveda Transportation and Energy Services, one of the largest rig moving companies in North America. He continues his entrepreneurial endeavours through Werklund Ventures and is chairman of RS Technologies, a company that produces composite utility poles. He is also chairman of Payload, an innovative technology company focused on the oil and gas industry with a purpose to streamline collaboration between producers and their service providers.
Success in business has allowed David to put his belief in strong communities to work. In 2006, he created the Werklund Foundation, a family-run organization whose mission is to “transform communities by inspiring youth to achieve their full potential.” One of its key initiatives, Empowering Minds™, operates in Calgary schools, helping teens to develop their self-confidence, motivation and resilience. David has seen many examples of participants’ and their families’ lives changed for the better, thanks to Empowering Minds™.
David sees the public education system as an ideal instrument for making a difference. In 2013, David endowed the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Education with the largest donation ever received by an education faculty in Canada. In recognition of his generosity, the faculty was renamed as the Werklund School of Education.
In 2017 David and his wife, Susan Norman, made a historic donation to Olds College, the largest ever to an Alberta college or technical institution. This gift will help create the Werklund Agriculture Institute (WAI). The institute will offer an integrated agricultural leadership learning experience that engages students, researchers and industry in smart and sustainable agriculture.
David’s lifelong environmental commitment is expressed in his and Susan’s support for a project by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The Waldron Conservation Project was initiated in 2014 to preserve a habitat of incredible beauty and diversity in the southern foothills along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. It will protect for all time the headwaters of streams and rivers critical to the entire prairie region.
Through the Foundation, David has supported an array of charitable causes, from the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter to the Telus Spark Centre; from the Calgary Arts Academy to the Aga Khan University's Institute for Educational Development in East Africa. He is a founding member of the Economics Future Council of the Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta. He and Susan also spend many hours volunteering through the Scarborough United Church and Unitarian Church to support refugee families upon their arrival and throughout their first year in Calgary.
David’s commitment to excellence in business and his philanthropic generosity have brought him many honours. He was named Ernst & Young’s Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year; he has received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Calgary and an Honorary Degree in Applied Technology from SAIT Polytechnic; he has been inducted into the Calgary Business Hall of Fame and the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame; in 2006 he was named one of Alberta’s 50 most influential people by the Globe and Mail, Financial Post and Calgary Herald.
David Werklund has been a farmer, an oilman, an entrepreneur, a CEO and a philanthropist, and he has no plans to retire anytime soon. He is excited by new opportunities and innovations and is confident in Alberta’s and Canada’s future.
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence