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Young entrepreneur hammers out the details.

Joe Cardinal started his own construction business at the age of 26. Now, just three years later, the owner of Cardinal Contracting in Edmonton is considering expanding. But before he can do that, he's got to figure something out.

"I want to become a larger company, but it's hard to find the guys," Cardinal said. The big hurdle he's faced with is keeping his employees. "I pay them well and I give them benefits, but they are always leaving and I don't know why."

He suspects his employees believe there is no opportunity for advancement with him. They don't see a career. They see only a job.

"I do everything I can. I even offer them apprenticeships." He makes a point of providing a happy work environment, and still they leave. He's stumped.

Cardinal's employee retention problem is just another challenge he'll have to learn to deal with as a young business owner. He's had to deal with others.

Cardinal began working in construction at the age of 13 at an after-school job on Saddle Lake First Nation. After graduation, his family moved to Edmonton where Cardinal found work at Safeway and Home Depot. He said he didn't want an inside job, so at 23 years old he started with a construction company.

"The owner taught me how to do this work and I've been doing it ever since," said Cardinal. "After three years I decided that I could go and do it on my own."

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Cardinal went through the Alberta Indian Investment Corporation for funding support to start his business. Formed in 1987, Alberta Indian Investment Corp. supports viable First Nation businesses in Alberta through direct business loans and equity investments.

Cardinal currently manages three crews of three employees each. He said he was "confident" he could run his own business because he had the experience and the training. The hardest part was figuring out the paper work, he said, so he got an accountant to train him in that department.

Since start up in 2002. he said he's surprised at how much work he's getting. He credits the hard work of his crews.

"I'm surprised about how much the home builders like me. I think it's because me and my crews work hard and fast. I've got a really good name in the city with about six different home builders. I have home builders calling me almost every day wanting me to come back, but I can only commit to a few."

Cardinal currently operates his business out of his home where he lives with his expectant wife and 23-month-old son. He said his short-term goal is to buy enough land to build a shop and a bigger house.
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Title Annotation:Gen-Next
Author:Stevens, Laura
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:453
Previous Article:Got 'em? Keep 'em! You've worked hard, learned lots and expended considerable resources to recuit Aboriginal people to your workforce.
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