Elevator Geek, Alberta Outdoorsman
In this Industry Profile, KJA Western Canada Manager Scot Harvey talks about his unusual path to the VT industry, his busy job and life on his ranch.
To mark his daughter’s graduation from high school earlier this year, KJA Western Canada Manager Scot Harvey gave her and his wife a trip to New York City. Something his wife did as soon as she and their daughter got home illustrates how much of an “elevator geek” he is, he says. “The first thing she shows me on her phone was a picture of the wooden escalators at Macy’s,” Harvey says. “She knew how much I would love them.”
As a young man holding various jobs in his hometown of Vernon, in British Columbia’s lush Okanagan region, Harvey could hardly have imagined turning into such an elevator geek. He worked as a bartender, bouncer, ski-lift attendant and assistant hotel manager before entering the trades as an electrician and carpenter. At one point, he says, he even obtained his real-estate license. During his time as an electrician, he flew in a vintage Grumman Goose amphibious aircraft while doing the wiring for West Coast fishing camps.
Vertical transportation (VT) entered the picture purely by chance in 2000, he says, recalling:
“I was running electrical crews in Calgary and pretty much working 12-14 hours, six days a week, for not a lot of money. The brother-in-law of a KONE branch manager worked with me on several jobs and said [the branch manager] needed some electrical work done at his residence. I went to talk to him, and, although I told him I didn’t have the time to handle that job, he liked my style and remembered me when an opening came up for a vertical-transportation project supervisor. One thing led to another, and I ended up working for KONE. I had some really great mechanics who took me under their wings and taught me about elevators, but I learned a lot more on my own.”
Harvey worked for KONE for nine years, then took a superintendent position with Otis, both in the Calgary area. He accepted the KJA position after being approached by KJA Chief Operating Officer Rob Isabelle, who is based at the company’s head office in Toronto. Harvey has been with KJA close to six years.
Working with clients including major OEMs on escalator and elevator projects in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Harvey stays busy at his job. Jobs in Calgary and Edmonton are his primary focus, while a “talented crew of young engineers” handles jobs in far-flung locations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Harvey says he enjoys connecting with contractors on a personal level to get complex jobs done. “In consulting, there are a lot of people who will sit and look at the specs and contracts for days and describe them in depth,” Harvey says. “Those are important documents, don’t get me wrong, but if you sit there and beat the contractor over the head with them every time you see him you’re never going to get results.”
With a quick wit, easygoing manner and willingness to tell a joke or spin a story, Harvey enjoys traveling; (these days, watching) sports; and outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and mowing the five acres of grass at his ranch approximately 50 km. outside of Calgary. He is a hunter of “moose, elk, deer, bear — pretty much anything,” and always harvests and eats what he shoots. “I’m not a trophy hunter at all,” Harvey says. “There are usually about three of us who work together and go out and hunt together. We share the meat from whoever gets what.”
Harvey also raises chickens on his ranch and says there is “a big difference” between the taste of his ranch-raised chicken and eggs and the ones labeled “free range” from the grocery store. One of his latest away-from-work projects is restoring a 1952 Chevrolet pickup truck. He took out the engine and is rebuilding it, observing that, between work, it is “probably a 10-year project.”
“As an elevator consultant, the sky’s the limit.” — Scot Harvey, KJA Western Canada manager
Whenever he’s not working, spending time outdoors or working on his truck, Harvey loves to spend time with his family, which includes his wife, Mishell, and their 18-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 20-year-old son, Justin, an apprentice electrician.
Like any self-respecting Canadian, he stays up on hockey news. At the time of this writing, who would win the Stanley Cup was a hot topic. He shared with your author that he used to play, once having a peripheral brush with fame when he was on a Pee Wee team with the brother of former National Hockey League star and current Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland.
As for work, Harvey has no plans of retiring anytime soon. He feels he is succeeding in helping make KJA the VT consultant of choice on big projects throughout Canada. “When I came over to KJA, I wanted to make a difference,” Harvey says. “I wanted KJA to be what contractors said when they were asked, ‘Who do you think can handle this job?’” With that happening more and more, Harvey says he believes he is helping make a difference.
Current projects he’s overseeing include the modernization of 43 early-1980s Otis Elevonic elevators in downtown Calgary’s Suncor Energy Centre, a pair of 32- and 53-story office towers owned by Brookfield Properties. He acknowledges this job will be challenging, as it is the first time the system has been modernized. He’s confident, however, the outcome will be successful. He states:
“I’m very proud of what we do here and what we’ve done. KJA has the right attitude and the right mentality. As an elevator consultant, the sky’s the limit. A buzz phrase in the industry is ‘move the needle.’ Because we know how our clients work and what they need, we can move the needle as well as, or better than, any of the bigger companies.”