About Us

Our History

Our history has been shaped by imagination, courage, perseverance and integrity. Our achievements over the years reflect the ‘Heart and Mind’ of ATCO and have laid the foundation for a future that is ripe with possibility and promise.

R.D. Southern was just 17 years old when ATCO was originally founded as Alberta Trailer Hire in 1947. With initial revenues of $1,077 and 15 utility trailers, R.D. Southern and his father, S.D. Southern, set a bold course to service Alberta’s booming oil industry.

Seventy years later, ATCO is a diversified $20 billion enterprise with thousands of employees worldwide providing innovative and integrated solutions in Structures & Logistics, Electricity, Pipelines & Liquids and Retail Energy.

ATCO in Australia

ATCO first started working in the Australia marketplace in 1961 with the establishment of a 6,500m2. modular structures plant in Adelaide.  The plant was expanded to 10,000m2 by 1971.

In the 1990’s the Australian subsidiary of CU Power International (now ATCO Power) commenced construction and then commissioned a 180MW cogeneration plant in South Australia.

The Karratha power generation station in Western Australia was opened by ATCO Power in 2010, an 86MW facility that set a new bar for efficiency and environmental standards in the Pilbara North West Interconnected System.

In 2011, ATCO brought all of their operations together in Australia to establish ATCO Australia. 2011 also saw the acquisition of WA Gas Networks (previously Alinta Gas Networks), and it's subsequent re-branding to ATCO Gas Australia. 

To learn more about ATCO around the world, we invite you to browse our timeline and share our journey. 

The ATCO Story

R.D. Southern (centre) with U.S. mobile home


ATCO began in 1947 in Alberta, Canada when father S.D. and son R.D. Southern started Alberta Trailer Hire to provide housing accommodations to workers in Canada’s first oil boom. 


The rapidly growing demand for modular housing led to the opening of ATCO’s original manufacturing facility in Airdrie, Alberta, a former Royal Canadian Airforce Hangar.

ATCO 1968 Annual Report


ATCO’s first large overseas contract supplied international workforce housing for the Mangla Dam project in Pakistan. This was followed by the Guri Dam project in Venezuela both of which established ATCO on the world stage.


Operations expanded to Australia with the opening of a 70,000 sq. ft. modular structures manufacturing facility in Adelaide, South Australia. This facility was expanded to 110,000 sq. ft. in 1971. Over 26 years of operation in Australia, ATCO became a leader in the supply of relocatable housing and once had a rental fleet of 6,500 units. 


On January 9, 1968 ATCO became a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange with 700,000 common shares listed at $7.50 each. Only nine months later, ATCO shares had more than doubled to $20.00.


From the mid to late 70s, massive housing projects for thousands of workers in the Middle East confirmed ATCO as the world leader in workforce housing.

  • ATCO Wins Control of Canadian Utilities
    ​A 58.1 per cent controlling interest in Canadian Utilities Limited was acquired from IU International of Philadelphia.


ATCO purchased 58.1 per cent of Canadian Utilities Limited from Philadelphia-based International Utilities returning it to Canadian ownership. This pivotal acquisition was a turning point for the company as it introduced consistent and reliable earnings to ATCO’s balance sheet and represented a long-term investment in Alberta. 


ATCO supplied the dramatic natural gas flare atop the Calgary Tower, as well as several major shelter and accommodation contracts for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games held in Calgary.  


ATCO was awarded a five-year contract worth $114.2 million to operate and maintain Canada’s North Warning System. 

1988 Calgary Olympics


By 1991, ATCO and its partners had secured $1.4 billion in financing for the Barking Power Station – a 1,000 MW natural gas-fired facility located in East London. To-date, this is the largest power station ATCO has ever been involved with. 


ATCO returned to Australia with the acquisition of a modular manufacturing and leasing company, adding two manufacturing facilities and a fleet of more than 2,000 space rental and workforce housing units, and the commencement of construction on a 180 MW cogeneration plant. 


ATCO provided support services to Canadian Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina – one of many future military contracts the company would deliver in its history. 

NATO Forces in Bosnia
Emission-free, 32 MW Oldman River hydroelectric generating facility


ATCO brought its emission-free, 32 MW Oldman River hydroelectric generating facility online. Now jointly owned with the Piikani Nation, it was ATCO’s first-ever hydroelectric project and its first electricity generating facility in southern Alberta.  


ATCO began its unique and highly successful EPIC (Employees Participating in Communities) fundraising initiative, benefiting more than 500 charitable and non-profit organizations. Since its inception, the program’s cumulative fundraising total has reached more than $31 million.


ATCO expanded its business in Australia with one of the largest acquisition in the company’s history – the $1.1 billion purchase of WA Gas Networks, the largest gas distribution utility in Western Australia. 


ATCO entered Mexico is awarded two major projects, marking a significant long-term commitment to the people and industries of Mexico. 


ATCO completed the longest transmission line in Alberta’s history. The Eastern Alberta Transmission Line will play a critical role helping meet increased demand and bringing renewable energy to Albertans across the province. 


In January, ATCO launched ATCOenergy, a new electricity and natural gas retail company that promises Albertans outstanding service and lower costs for their homes and businesses.  

Eastern Alberta Transmission Line


Find out what's great about working at ATCO, what positions we're currently hiring for, and how to apply for a job.