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Alex Carrick’s retiring with his fascination of construction intact

Don Wall
Alex Carrick’s retiring with his fascination of construction intact
CONSTRUCTCONNECT — ConstructConnect chief economist Alex Carrick said he has had 100-per-cent job satisfaction during his 52-year career. He retires at the end of June.

As Alex Carrick heads into retirement this month after 52 years as a construction economist, he can be assured he has earned the deep admiration and respect of his peers and colleagues.

ConstructConnect’s chief economist was honoured with a retirement dinner in Cincinnati recently and he’s still receiving praise for a half-century of achievements in his field in his final weeks.

“Alex has a knack for viewing the construction industry both from the ground up and from above,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, who has worked with Carrick on construction webcasts.

“His analysis of trends in different segments of construction was usually spot-on.”

Giovanni Cautillo, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association, commented, “If you were to ask anyone in the construction industry to describe Alex Carrick, the response could be summed into two words: consistent and reliable.

“Alex has been a trusted source of information for half a century and has a very direct style of delivery that has always been appreciated by the construction industry.”

“I learned a great deal about our industry and how it fits into the Canadian economy from him for which I am grateful,” added Ian Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations. “None of us is irreplaceable but Alex leaves massive shoes to fill.”

Invaluable resource for the DCN

ConstructConnect director of news media Vince Versace remarked Carrick has been an important source of economic insights in the Daily Commercial News and Journal of Commerce newsrooms for decades.

“When I first started at the DCN I’d have weekly chats with Alex to better understand the economies of construction,” said Versace. “Those chats built such an incredible foundation for me, so I can only imagine how his insights and analysis helped guide so many firms and their decisions.”

A graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a degree in economics and then University of Toronto with a masters in the field, Carrick spent the first 13 years of his career with the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC). In 1985, he assumed the position of chief economist/editor with CanaData.

Carrick has given hundreds of presentations throughout North America while providing regular analysis of Canadian and world construction economics.

“In terms of the whole career, it has been 100-per-cent job satisfaction,” said Carrick recently. “That’s the way I would describe what it’s been like for me working for 52 years in this industry.”

In his early days at Western he assumed he would become a lawyer or enter business but an economics professor took him aside and suggested he had a future in economics, given his talents in both math and writing.

“He absolutely changed the course of my life,” said Carrick.

His father worked for a large insurance bonding company with territory in London and Windsor, Ont., and every night he would talk about construction. And he had a stack of copies of the Daily Commercial News in his office.

“I really liked these stories about the various contractors that he met,” said Carrick. “I really had construction in my background from the get-go.”

Recruited by the CISC as a summer student, Carrick became fascinated with the huge projects the steel industry was involved in.

“That was 13 wonderful years,” he said. “I learned all about steel fabrication and the steel mills…the really big showcase projects, like the big office towers that would be built downtown and nuclear power plants.”

While with the CISC he had regular dealings with Southam and its CanaData division and was eventually hired as an economist for CanaData. He quickly picked up on the extent to which construction was linked with a vast amount of economic activity, and he found himself cross-referencing what various firms and sectors were engaged in — institutional construction, housing, demographics, resources, technology and more.

‘Loved seeing buildings go up’

“I think one of the things I’ve been good at, one of the reasons I’ve had the staying power that I’ve had, is that I drew connections between bizarre stuff over there and bizarre stuff over there, and how they would fit together to influence investment and construction,” he said. “I just have always loved seeing buildings go up, roads being built, construction activity in general, over the years.”

For 35 years Carrick spearheaded CanaData, through several corporate evolutions. It’s a record that remains a career highlight for him, Carrick said, with its influence, topicality, cast of experts and array of guest speakers.

“It was the premier construction forecasting conference in the country for 35 years,” he said.

David Frum, Justin Trudeau and Bob Rae were among the notables who addressed the conference but the highlight for Carrick was journalist Carl Bernstein. He recalls sharing views on U.S. politics including Donald Trump.

In the pandemic trenches

Another test of his resources was the pandemic. He wrote a daily column called In the Trenches where he addressed daily “fear or flight” anxiety in the sector.

“It was just an unbelievable period of time,” he said.

Carrick said he is not going to miss being responsible for the forecasts and preparing public presentations in retirement.

“I’ve enjoyed a lot of them, but they’re a tremendous amount of work,” he said, but he looks forward to having more time to travel and spending time caring for his cottage near Wasaga Beach.

His wife, Donna, will continue to work and Carrick will tend to their joint side business, Carrick Publishing.

And he will continue to have opinions on the construction sector and economics.

Over the course of a recent hour-long conversation he lamented the TSX is not serving Canadians well, with the wealth effect blunted; suggested Canadians are too preoccupied with the environment to the detriment of projects and resource development; said we do not think strategically enough in terms of economic development; and predicted Canada is poised for major growth as immigration increases and more transformative megaprojects such as nitrogen, EV and battery projects get off the ground.

Investors in other sectors sometimes think conditions aren’t right for spending but that is not the way developers think, he said.

“It is fascinating, because developers think entirely differently, like, if I don’t go now, somebody will get in there and beat me to the punch,” Carrick said. “They’re risk takers. You can make a lot of money fast in the construction industry.

“It’s an exciting sector to be in.”

For more with Alex Carrick, listen to our special 350th episode of The Construction Record Podcast here.

Recent Comments (2 comments)

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Grant Cameron Image Grant Cameron

Nice writeup for an even nicer person. Many years ago, as a journalist at DCN, I had the pleasure of working in the same office as Alex. His sense of humour is legendary, as are his very fashionable suspenders. Time to live the dream Alex. Enjoy retirement.

William Conway Image William Conway

Alex had a wonderful sense of humour and would usually start his presentations with a lame joke which when delivered by him was hilarious.


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