cgy-steel

Robin Furlong of Furlong Steel Industries Inc. says that in the past two months projects in Alberta have dried up for steel fabricators. ((CBC))

Local companies hurting for work say they hope the City of Calgary will consider limiting bids for a multimillion-dollar pedestrian bridge to domestic businesses.

The $22-million Peace Bridge will span the Bow River and link pedestrians and bicycles from Eau Claire, west of Prince's Island Park, to Sunnyside.

Award-winning Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the bridge. His past projects have been built by an Italian steel manufacturer.

Calgary officials say they will be opening the bids on the Peace Bridge to all Canadian and international firms.

"We do need a supplier of the steel that's going to have the quality of manufacturing that will meet our needs both for the structural design and also for durability," said Malcolm Logan, the city's director of roads.

Robin Furlong, who runs a steel fabrication business in southeast Calgary, said he hopes the winning firm will be local.

"We're hurting here, so I would like to see the city maybe have a stipulation on the job that say local vendors should be used to build this thing," he said.

'It would stimulate a lot of employees to come back to work and it would spread out to fabrication, paint, design.'—Robin Furlong, business owner

Furlong said that in the past two months projects in Alberta have dried up for steel fabricators, leading to dozens of cut positions.

"I have friends that are owners that have gone bankrupt; layoffs by 90 per cent of staff. A lot of people [are] out of work," said Furlong.

He said all the buzz in his industry is about the opportunities from Calgary's Peace Bridge.

"It would stimulate a lot of employees to come back to work and it would spread out to fabrication, paint, design."

But an Edmonton-based steel firm said there aren't any Calgary companies that can handle the bridge's complex design.

"Inside Alberta, Supreme Steel is the only bridge fabricator," said Todd Collister of Supreme Steel's bridge division.

Supreme Steel recently built a bridge over McKnight Boulevard and will be bidding on the Peace Bridge.

The city will be asking firms to submit their qualifications next month. Only those who pass certain criteria will be allowed to bid.