Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.
Our subject this week is David Garofalo who, alongside his role on the GVBOT Board of Directors, serves as Chairman & CEO of Gold Royalty Corp. In our wide-ranging discussion, we spoke to David about the challenges facing the mining industry, his love of road cycling and why Greater Vancouver is such a hot bed for entrepreneurialism.
What inspires you?
Building mines. The whole life cycle of a mine fascinates me. Geologists explore for minerals in the ground and create tremendous potential wealth, where none existed before and generally in remote areas, where economic activity is desperately needed. In successful cases, mining engineers, capital providers and local stakeholders collaborate to create an enduring positive economic and social legacy.
How do you relax?
I road cycle frequently, both on my own and with a small cycling club from the North Shore. My annual objective is to ride 5,000 km but with Covid-19 travel restrictions, I have had more time to spend on the roads here and I have exceeded 7,000 km this year.
What was your first job?
As a 13-year-old, I was a food and beverage vendor at the old Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, the summer the Jays came into existence. I also got to work my share of CFL games and rock concerts. I made next to no money, but the perk of working those events left me with amazing memories. My slightly older cousin, Frank Vettese, led me into that job and we worked all those events together. Frank went on to become CEO of Deloitte Canada, until his recent retirement.
What keeps you awake at night?
I generally sleep well but if it's anything, it would be the health and safety of our employees. Mining happens in a heavy industrial setting with fairly high labour intensity. The companies I have worked for and led have had exemplary safety records but when bad things happen, the calls almost always come in the middle of the night.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a game changer in that, but I am proud of the protocols we put in place at our operations at Great Panther, a company for which I Chair the Board of Directors. In spite of nearly 75% of our employees contracting the virus from their local communities in Latin America, we were able to identify those infected, at the company gates, quarantine and treat them at home, resulting in a 100% recovery rate to date.
What is the biggest challenge facing Greater Vancouver?
I have experienced the traffic gridlock that urban sprawl has created in my hometown of Toronto and I worry that fate awaits Vancouver. Underdevelopment at the urban core because of senseless bureaucracy and political myopia around the subjects of densification and transit investment afflict this beautiful city. But it's not too late for Vancouver to turn things around. Another consequence of these same issues is the appalling level of homelessness in what is one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
What do you like most about doing business in Greater Vancouver?
The entrepreneurial spirit in this city is, in my view, the greatest in Canada. So many nationally and internationally successful businesses have started here and continue to launch in B.C. It's fun to be exposed to and work with trailblazers.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
Careers are a process, rather than an event typically. I am pleased to have worked in four organizations in 30 years that built over a dozen mines around the world. I still see those operations spinning out benefits to generations of stakeholders within the communities they operate, very often where no such opportunities existed before.
What is the most important lesson, business or otherwise, life has taught you?
Pay it forward. My wife Christie taught me that. She continually volunteers her time and resources to a variety of non-profits with no expectation other than satisfaction derived from doing so. She's a dynamo and I'm often her "plus one" at a variety of charity events.
What do you think Greater Vancouver needs more of?
Housing development across a broad pricing spectrum in Vancouver proper. We have so much poorly and underutilized real estate in the heart of our city as people, with serious health issues, senselessly live in squalor.
What do you think Greater Vancouver needs less of?
Excuses for not tackling this issue with practical solutions, that are readily at hand.
What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
Christie and I have eight kids and all of them are pursuing seemingly different paths in their lives. Thus far that includes an RCAF pilot, a CPA, a political science undergrad, a communications undergrad and four more at home, ready to launch over the course of the next few years in multiple different directions, I'm sure.
If you could leave one professional legacy behind, what would it be?
More than a few people currently in C-suite positions in the mining business worked for me throughout my career.I have always taken great pleasure in cheering them on and watching them succeed.I imagine that is much the same feeling that some of my mentors have felt for me.