When Kelly Sherman was 17, he jotted down two life goals.
“It was 1990 and I was young and just graduating from high school, so I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” said Sherman, now 44. “But I did write a short list. I wanted to get my pilot’s license and own my own company.”
It would take about 20 years, but Sherman achieved both milestones.
He earned his private pilot’s license in 2010, about the same time he co-founded Ecora Engineering & Resource Group.
“The company is in a good place and so am I,” said Sherman. “I see only a strong and positive future where we continue to grow.”
Combining his two goals, Sherman flies to as many job sites across the province as he can.
“It’s not a good idea to fly by yourself for work, so usually I’ll fly, but bring another
pilot along with me in the passenger seat,” he said.
“Over the past year, I’ve flown to and from Powell River, Williams Lake, Terrace, Prince George and Chilliwack.”
Sherman owns a one-fifth share in a four-seater Grumman Traveller plane based at Kelowna Airport.
“The other four owners are retired guys, so I can usually get it for work whenever I need it,” he said.
Born in Terrace and raised in Williams Lake, Sherman took forestry at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George and graduated in 1997.
He started to work right away as a professional forester in the Prince George office of forestry consulting company Timberline.
He and his wife moved to Victoria so he could work out of the Timberline office there, and it was in Victoria where the couple’s two sons were born.
In 2004, Timberline asked Sherman to moved to Kelowna and open an office here.
In 2009, Timberline was hiring a new CEO and Sherman applied for the job, but didn’t get it. He sensed trouble when a new CEO was hired, so Sherman and Timberline biologist Dan Bernier left Timberline to start Ecora.
Eighteen months later, Timberline was bankrupt.
Today, Ecora has four offices.
The company headquarters with 30 staff is on Lawrence Avenue in downtown Kelowna. A Penticton branch has 20 workers, a Prince George office has 10 workers and there’s four staff in a Vancouver office.
The engineering side of the business offers a one-stop shop for developers for civil and structural engineering, geotechnical and environmental services.
In Kelowna, Ecora has done work for the master-planned Kettle Valley and Lakestone neighbourhoods and has helped almost every developer in Penticton.
The resource division is mostly forestry strategic planning for clients such as Canfor, Tolko and Island Timberlands.
“We also have a strong First Nations clientele,” said Sherman. “We helped Westbank First Nation set up its forestry program.”
Ecora has also spun off a management services arm.
It plans to own a series of 10 Tim Hortons cafes throughout the province, starting with the two it is setting up on Osoyoos Indian Band lands. It also has two log home companies, Footprint to serve the domestic market and AAA Log Homes to serve the Chinese and Indonesian markets.
Ecora’s own development division is developing the 57-lot Kettle Ridge subdivison in Naramata.
Besides work and flying, Sherman’s other passions are his family and soccer, which he has also managed to combine. He used to coach his older son’s soccer team, but is now coaching his younger son’s U13 Junior Heat team.
He plays soccer himself on the Tree Brewing team in the men’s over-35 league and plays with his wife, Tracy, on a co-ed team.
Sherman also sits on two soccer boards, Kelowna United and Central Okanagan Youth Soccer Association.
Editor’s note: Every week in this space with Top Forty Over 40 we profile a businessperson over the age of 40 who is having a great career and giving back through mentoring and volunteering. The series is presented by BDO Accountants and Consultants, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. If you know of a deserving over 40 you'd like to nominate, send an email to TopForty@KelownaChamber.org.