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May 5, 2017

Survey: Rafn Co.

Photo by Michael Walmsley [enlarge]
Rafn finished AMLI Wallingford, a 236-unit apartment in Seattle.

Specialty: General contractor specializing in commercial and multifamily projects

Management: Shawn Rhode, CEO; Marc Victor, CFO; Heather Bunn, vice president

Founded: 1978

Headquarters: Bellevue

2016 revenue: $52 million

Projected 2017 revenue: $70 million

Projects: The Eddy at Green Lake Village, Seattle; HomeStreet Bank headquarters tenant improvement at Two Union Square, Seattle; Broadacres office building seismic retrofit, Seattle

Heather Bunn, vice president of Rafn Co., shared her thoughts about the company’s top challenges and trends she sees affecting the construction industry.

Q: What are Rafn’s top challenges these days?

A: We worry most about the impact of overstretched subcontractor resources and labor on jobsite safety. An increased emphasis on safety is the top priority of leadership.

Our second big concern is recruiting without poaching. We need to add a few good people but are trying hard not to rob our competitors of experienced resources.

The third concern is the degree to which construction costs are escalating. Increasing pressure on labor and the demands on resources are impacting costs beyond a sustainable level.

Q: How do you see local economic conditions shaping up over the next few years?

A: The “experts” seem to be telling us that there are enough new jobs in our region to fuel the growth we are seeing, but I have to believe there is a point where rising costs, a little inflation and tighter lending requirements will slow things down to a more manageable level.

Q: Which area of your business would you like to bring more focus on?

A: That’s a tough question. We have a very balanced portfolio of projects right now — private and public, new and renovation, large and small.

If there was one area, I guess it would be in sustainability — the deep green variety. Everything we do has some element of sustainability to it but we haven’t done an IslandWood or Terry Thomas office-type project in several years.

Q: What’s your staffing trend? Any changes coming?

A: We are in active recruitment mode, which is unusual for us. We are hiring at all levels including craft and labor.

We are known for our tenured staff and so recruiting for us is a serious and intensive process. We spend our time finding the right candidates, people we want to have on board for the long haul.

We are also seeing plenty of opportunity for internal promotions both as a result of the market and a result of seeing some folks retire.

Q: What’s something about the construction industry that’s gotten better (or worse) in recent years?

A: Reliably predicting project start dates has definitely gotten worse. It seems that every project has trouble closing, and banks are taking construction loans much more seriously.

That said, the professionalism that is built into construction management these days should be making the industry a more desirable career path for young people.

We certainly also see a more diverse workforce emerging from the younger generations. We are also finally seeing technology finding its highest and best use on projects, and as a result some best practices are becoming the norm.

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