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Environmental Engineering Firm Shows True Grit

When faced with a choice between relocating or starting from scratch in the hometown he and his wife Carolyn love, Eric Zakrewski’s true grit was put to the test.

True Grit Consulting

Front row, l-r: Eileen McGonigal, Environmental
Technician, Lesley Drager, Manager, Finance and
Administration, Eric Zakrewski, President, Paula Sdao,
Manager, Air Services, Meghan Boutotte, Project Secretary, Tom Bragnalo, Engineer In Training.
Back row, l-r: Chris Perusse, Project Manager,Gus Hunt, Manager-Engineering Services, Cliff Long, Project Manager, Jason Garatti, Manager - Environmental Services.

In 2006, the national engineering firm Zakrewski was helping to manage was bought out by a US-based company. The firm began closing its smaller operations around Canada, including Thunder Bay, giving staff the option to relocate.

At a crossroads, Zakrewski decided to put everything he had into the birth of True Grit Consulting Ltd.

“People honestly thought my wife and I were crazy to be starting a risky new venture at a time when mills and manufacturing facilities were being closed nearly every month,” said Zakrewski, President – True Grit Consulting Ltd.

“Sure, we could have simply moved away and started over, but we believe in Thunder Bay and love the quality of life this city provides. This was also an opportunity to create high-paying jobs for other talented professionals here in Thunder Bay.”

Zakrewski convinced a handful of staff from the other firm to join him and, in less than three years, turned an idea and his life savings, into a successful locally owned company that provides engineering and environmental services throughout Northwestern Ontario, Western Canada and the Arctic. True Grit now provides 15 high-paying, full-time jobs to employees who, he says, “are among the most talented in the industry.” The company’s roster includes professional engineers, geoscientists, hydrogeologists, technologists and indoor air quality professionals.

True Grit has attracted senior engineers from as far away as Newfoundland, including the firm’s Engineering Services Manager Gus Hunt. A weekend visit convinced Zakrewski’s former colleague to relocate his young family to Thunder Bay.

“We were blown away by the natural beauty, cultural opportunities and quality of life we could have here,” said Hunt. “The move was a great professional opportunity to be a part of the amazing growth and work environment at True Grit - a huge improvement over the international firms I previously worked with. We’ve settled in and are really impressed with the community. Thunder Bay has a great balance for us.”

“Being a regional firm based out of Thunder Bay has in no way limited our growth or exposure to larger markets,” says Zakrewski. “The firm has completed large-scale projects valued in the millions across Ontario and in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and recently as far away as Nunavut.”