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June 3, 2010

Construction Q&A: Dan Absher


Company: Absher Construction Co.

Position: President

Dan Absher is a third-generation leader of Absher Construction Co., a family company started in 1940 by his grandfather, R.L. “Barney” Absher.

The elder Absher left Chehalis to settle near Puyallup, where he worked as a farmer and handyman, building for friends and acquaintances, and spawning the business. Today the company, still based in Puyallup, builds everything from public schools to office buildings, industrial parks and army barracks.

Two siblings and a brother-in-law are also part owners, Absher said, and four other family members work there.

Joining the family business wasn’t a given for Absher. He earned a law degree and practiced law for a couple of years before returning to the fold.

“I went back and forth on the decision for quite a while before I decided to do it,” he said. “And I’m very happy I did.”

Absher won two AGC honors this year: a public building award for its enlisted quarters and parking garage at Naval Base Kitsap, and a green building award for turning Pacific Plaza in Tacoma from a parking garage to an office building.

Were you expected to work at Absher?

Whether my dad expected me to or not, I don’t know, but I felt a little pressure to join the company just because of the family legacy.

What do you like best about your job?

The variety. Everything changes frequently. We do a project, and a year or two later it’s done and we’re onto another project.

And the least?

Working on personnel-type issues. I prefer to be out there developing strategic planning, business development and all that.

Does anything keep you awake at night?

I’m a pretty good sleeper, so I don’t lay awake at night fretting about stuff.

So, any concerns?

Market trends, the economy, what happens if we don’t recover for five or 10 years, because there are a lot of great competitors out there, and not all of us will survive if this continues.

Do you see construction picking up soon?

I see the stimulus keeping people afloat, and I hope that generates private sector spending and construction. My concern is that financial institutions are still reluctant to loan money. I think developers and the private sector are ready to start building again, but until we get lenders willing to loan at reasonable terms we’re going to be stagnant.

What project are you most proud of?

I’d say probably the most notable one was the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Seattle. It was particularly challenging because it started as a joint venture, and halfway through the project J.A. Jones, our joint venture partner — a much larger company — went out of business, so we had to take over the project. It was by far the largest project we’d ever done and it went very well.

Any advice for recent grads?

This is definitely a tougher time to enter the market than it has been in the last decade, but I believe there are still opportunities out there for young people to get involved in the industry. Just might have to work a little harder to get those jobs than you did three or four years ago.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?

I was the assistant coach on the Mercer Island basketball team in 1985, and we won the state championship.

That’s a good one.

I was trying to think of one I could print.

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