May 22, 2008

Jim Crutcher


Jim Crutcher

Company: Lease Crutcher Lewis

Position: chairman

Jim Crutcher is celebrating 50 years at Lease Crutcher Lewis, which specializes in commercial work, smaller specialty projects and construction management. The $500 million company, with 550 employees, was founded in 1886. It won two awards at this year’s Build Washington event.

Crutcher became president in 1983, and today is chairman. Asked about his current role, he said, “It gives me an opportunity to continue to participate without any rigorous activity.”

‘I don’t know anyone in my family who has retired. They died in the trenches.’

Crutcher has served in many community organizations throughout his career, including the board of directors at Virginia Mason Medical Center and the Washington Athletic Club. He’s a past president of the University Club, Seattle Golf Club, AGC of Seattle and the AGC of Washington Education Foundation, and has also served several national AGC committees.

Crutcher was inducted into the University of Washington’s inaugural Construction Hall of Fame in 1995.

What sparked your interest in community service?

I come from a history of that sort of encouragement. My family was always active in those roles in the community where I grew up in Los Angeles, and the Lease family in Seattle has been very active that way.

How did you end up in the construction industry?

I married my wife more than 51 years ago and her father was Howard Lewis, and he gave me an opportunity to work for him.

What’s been the best part about your work?

Having a good job. Working with very interesting people in our organization, and the relationships we’ve had with our clients.

And the most challenging?

Our business is cyclical. So you have periods of growth and periods of reduction. ... During a period of reduction, you lose all the people that you worked with for a number of years. About the worst part of any manager’s job is having good people go away.

What was the high point of your career?

There’ve been a lot of them. On one occasion I was spending a day in Anchorage, Alaska, when we negotiated two projects, (an office building) for Sisters of Providence and an office building for British Petroleum. ... We don’t usually have the opportunity to win two construction projects 1,200 miles away from home in one day.

What’s your legacy at Lewis?

It’s really a continuation of the stamp that was put on the company by the founder, N.T. Lease, and by his son, Howard Lease: honesty, integrity, assuming responsibility for your own activities and recognition of the importance of all the people who work with you.

What’s a misconception people have about the industry?

I know that there have been listings of jobs that are favorable to young people, and the construction industry — for some reason unknown to me — comes up on the lower part of that list. I’ve got to think it’s one of the most fascinating and opportunistic industries that I know of. It’s also nice to look at things that you’ve completed when the work is finished.

What projects are you looking forward to?

The work that we’re doing on the Four Season Hotel, which is going to be a wonderful structure, and all the buildings we’re building here in town now. None will be as complex as the Four Seasons, but the fact they are moving along well and safely, that’s a great joy.

What do you like to read?

Currently I’m reading a biography of James Madison, who’s the fourth president of the United States. (A recent favorite) was “Birdsong” by Sebastian Faulks. It has love, war and mystery all combined.

What about you would surprise people?

Maybe that I have a sense of humor.

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