Ottawa consultants help plan massive infrastructure projects around the world

CPCS signs partnership with Stonechair Capital to help manage US$300 million worth of investments in projects in Africa
CPCS managing partners
CPCS managing partners Jean-François Arsenault, left, and Marc-André Roy. Photo by Mark Holleron
Editor's Note

This article is part of OBJ's Go Global series, which highlights local companies finding success abroad. Read more stories of Ottawa businesses finding international success here.

When an Ottawa-based company competes and wins on a global stage, it’s a positive news story – especially in a year when good news has been hard to come by. 

CPCS, an Ottawa-based management consulting firm specializing in infrastructure projects around the world, has been thriving in 2020.

“I’m prouder than ever of the team,” says Marc-André Roy, the co-managing partner of CPCS. “We’ve all focused on moving things forward.  

“We all feel very much more part of a team than we did going into this.” 

The company began in the late 1800s when the federal government partnered with Canada’s private sector to build the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). The success of the railway saw the creation of a consulting arm, Canadian Pacific Consulting Services (CPCS). The consultancy had deep expertise in infrastructure management and offered that service to governments and service providers across the world. 

After a management buyout in the 1980s and a merger with another Ottawa-based firm in the 1990s, CPCS no longer has any equity relationship with the railway and instead is an employee-owned company. Out of the 120 or so staff, about half are now shareholders, Roy says.

Stonechair partnership

In recent years, CPCS’s advisers have assisted India’s Ministry of Railways in planning new freight corridors, explored public-private partnership options for urban transport infrastructure in Lagos and developed a guide for U.S. transportation agencies using new data sources such as GPS to ease freight truck congestion.

Earlier this year, the company announced a new partnership with private equity firm Stonechair Capital to help manage US$300 million worth of investments in projects in Africa. This is built off CPCS’s nearly three-year-old relationship with InfraCo Africa, in which the former assists the latter with early-stage infrastructure projects.

Where CPCS would work with clients on initial concepts and feasibility studies, Stonechair can deploy funding to make ideas into reality.  

“It’s been very positive,” says Roy. “We’re on the ground and understand the market very well. We also have a great ability to advise and identify new project ideas.”

Big data, smart cities

Roy says while COVID-19 has essentially eliminated all travel for his firm – which has clients across North America and in Africa and Europe – he has been pleasantly surprised that a lot of CPCS’s project work has been largely uninhibited by the lack of in-person client meetings.

Save for projects requiring stakeholder engagement that could not be done remotely, the firm has been able to continue on without a major pause in workflow. There were a few challenges, Roy says, but the slowdown has not been as pronounced as in the retail or restaurant industries. And, Roy says, unlike some other firms, CPCS is hiring and looking to expand – especially in the areas of big data and smart cities. 

“We reinvested that time in building up the foundations of the company, strengthening corporate policies. We’re seeing the fruits of that now, several months into it,” says Roy. “We’ve always had a good, dynamic culture, but it’s stronger now going through this period of uncertainty.”