Kleo Landucci started in business at the age of eight, selling doll clothing. Mentored by her father, Robert, she quickly learned about inventory control, bookkeeping and cash flow. “I knew early on I would be in business in some capacity. I’ve always had drive, and a drive for financial independence,” she says.
After a stint in the financial markets, she joined the family business, CrescentView Investments, in 2004 to work alongside her father. Although it was operating several businesses, by 2012 it became clear that its Ashcroft Terminal should be the priority and Landucci has been working at Ashcroft since then.
She began as vice-president, projects and development, and worked her way up as chief commercial and corporate affairs officer in August 2021. Landucci accepts the FMA accolade on the heels of finishing her role as chief commercial and corporate affairs officer in the day-to-day operations of the terminal when Canadian Tire took a 20 percent stake in the business this past summer. She now sits on the board of Ashcroft as the representative of CrescentView Investments, which still holds 15 percent of the business.
“I am just absolutely honoured that FMA would even consider me,” she says. “I was shocked when they suggested that I had won this very prestigious acknowledgement and I really feel humbled.”
The achievements of Landucci and the formerly family-owned business are particularly interesting in this time of extreme supply chain disruption, as it plays a pivotal role in facilitating the movement of goods through Canada’s key West Coast port.
An accident of geography set the stage for the terminal’s success. The story starts back in 1915 when engineers building the CN rail line along the Thompson River found unstable ground that they could not go through or around. As a result, they ended up building a bridge to the other side, the domain of Canadian Pacific. That brief detour across the river left the two main rail lines just metres apart on a parcel of land that Robert Landucci, Kleo’s father, picked up in 1999 for his lumber business.
The 320 acres that Landucci acquired, 340 kilometres east of Vancouver in the Thompson Okanagan region, has since been developed into the only inland port in Canada that has both Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway mainlines running through it. The terminal now acts as a transload facility, facilitating off-dock operations for both major railroads and numerous shipper clients.
When the Landucci family acquired the land in 1999, there were just 2,000 feet of track, a CP spur line, serving it. Since they started the business in 2001, they have bought another 350 acres of buffer land and have built the complex up to more than 60,000 feet of rail, with warehouse space, numerous types of container and material handling equipment. Now it handles 6,000 railcars and 7,000 trucks a year.
After years of investing and attracting government support for the development of the terminal, the family “decided that we really needed to focus on trying to attract a partner who could bring operational excellence and experience to the vision that we had laid the foundation for in our infrastructure,” Kleo says.
In 2017, with the terminal operating on only about 20 percent of the available land, the family-owned business decided to take on a partner. And in 2018 a deal was completed in which Singapore-based PSA, the world’s largest terminal operator, took a 60 percent stake in the business. It was PSA’s first investment in North America.
And now, with Canadian Tire’s investment, the terminal has been endorsed by two major players. “It’s the absolute professional thrill of a lifetime to have the world’s largest container port operator partner with Canada’s largest container importer and watch the vision come and be built out. It couldn’t be more exciting,” Kleo says.
Understanding the customer
Getting to this point was not easy, she notes. “We have always taken the approach with our small team to sit down and say, ‘for an agricultural exporter, what are their biggest problems?’ We need to understand what those problems are. We need to turn over every rock of their issues in their industry and come up with opportunities.
“We need to do the same in mining, in forestry and oil and gas. We need to do it in import in containers. We need to understand everything we can about how shipping lines generate revenue and the problems that they face globally.”
But there’s the other side as well, Kleo points out. “Because we’re a rail terminal, we need to really understand rail. How do we make the railroads more efficient? How do we add revenue to the railroads, as opposed to trying to get in their way? How do we work together with the railroads?”
Meshing the needs of both sets of clients is the key to the terminal’s success, she asserts: “The challenges that we have forced ourselves to roll up our sleeves and understand are where you find your opportunities. And that’s always been our approach as entrepreneurs in this business. Takes a lot of passion, takes a lot of grit, and it takes a lot of determination.”
Kleo says operating the terminal is endlessly interesting because of the exposure to so many different industries. “The real thrill of this industry and of this specific business is getting to be exposed to all of it. It’s impossible to get bored because there’s so much to learn. And just when you think you have something figured out, you’re wrong, you’ve got more to figure out. And that’s really been our motto: keep looking harder, think more strategically, work hard and longer, and keep going.
“And it’s been a very exciting ride and we’re far from being done, but we’re thrilled now to be able to do it with our two big partners and still be involved in the business in a smaller way, but still there.”
Reflecting on the larger supply chain afflictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Kleo says the terminal’s inland location is proving to be even more of a benefit. “When you see disruptions in a supply chain, especially here on the west coast of British Columbia, you need to have resilient strategic locations that can be a relief valve. Whether it’s excess product on the container side or bulk, exports or imports, it’s critical to have those strategic locations. It’s especially important when you have the geographic and topographic challenges that come with the way our infrastructure in Western Canada has been built. At Ashcroft, we’ve always aimed to be that relief valve.”
Although Kleo has left her role in the day-to-day management of Ashcroft Terminal, she remains closely involved in the terminal’s board. “If you cut me, I will bleed Ashcroft Terminal until the day I die. I have a lot of passion for the railroad industry. I have a lot of passion for supporting opportunities for Canadian exporters and importers,” she says. “That is what makes my blood flow: what more can we do for finding supply chain efficiency and reducing costs and making sure that Canada stays as competitive as possible?”