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January 11, 2013

JE Dunn Construction closing Seattle office

  • Greg Nook of the Kansas City-based firm says: ‘We're fortunate that we're growing, but it just wasn't up in Seattle.'
    Journal Construction Editor

    Officials from JE Dunn Construction say the fragile construction economy is forcing them to close the Seattle regional office in Bellevue after a dozen years of operation.

    “We really like that market up there, but where do you apply your resources so you can best obtain your short- and long-term goals as a company?” said Greg Nook, executive vice president of JE Dunn Construction in Kansas City, Mo. “There's a lot of factors that flow into that. A lot of factors.

    “Everything in today's market is tough to come by,” he said. “We're fortunate that we're growing, but it just wasn't up in Seattle.”

    JE Dunn operates in 20 markets and had $2.3 billion in revenues last year, up slightly from 2011. Nook said 2013 will be in the $2.4 billion-$2.5 billion range. He didn't have numbers for the Seattle office.

    In 2012, the company was ranked the nation's 26th largest contractor by Engineering News-Record.

    Dunn's Seattle office has built a few marque projects, such as the 275-unit Escala condo tower in downtown Seattle and the $107 million Peace Arch Boarding Crossing in Blaine.

    It also recently built a $16 million replacement for the Tacoma Recovery and Transfer Station, and a $12.4 million emergency department for Valley Medical Center.

    The company is listed as a planholder for a $1 million operating room project at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Bids are expected to be opened Jan. 16 for that work.

    In a DJC interview last year, Dunn vice president/director of operations Trent Wachsnicht said his firm was hoping the health care market rebounds after a shakeout brought on by national mergers and acquisitions.

    “We're hoping it settles down so that the hospital groups feel confident and have the capital available to continue pursuing their capital programs here,” he said.

    He also said developers generally were not starting projects in this area and lenders weren't financing them due to a lack of confidence in the economy, except for apartments.

    Wachsnicht didn't return a phone call seeking comment on the office closing.

    Nook said it will likely take several months to wrap up work here on a few projects that he wouldn't identify and transition some of the employees to the company's Portland office and other Dunn locations.

    “A significant number (of employees) will be retained in JE Dunn in some fashion,” he said, however some will lose their jobs.

    Dunn will continue to seek work in this area through the Portland office after the Bellevue office closes. The company has operated in Portland since the 1920s.

    Nook said the Portland office is doing well and Dunn has no plans to close it or any other offices. About 75 people work in Portland.

    Dunn's Portland office is doing a $210 million project that includes a 420,000-square-foot life sciences building on Portland's South Waterfront. That project is for a group made up of Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University.

    Nook said Dunn could reopen the Seattle office if the economy picked up.

    “We still view it (Seattle) as a very viable market,” he said.


    Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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