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May 11, 2018

Survey: The Walsh Group

Image by HOK
Concourse D Annex at Sea-Tac Airport will have a holdroom building for passengers.

Specialty: General contractor in healthcare, multifamily/senior living, higher education, hospitality, aviation, correctional facilities, office, retail and federal work

Management: Warren Johnson, director of business development (Seattle)

Founded: 1898

Headquarters: Chicago

2017 revenues: $5 billion

Projected 2018 revenues: $5.5 billion

Projects: $24 million Concourse D Annex at Sea-Tac Airport; $90 million Denny Substation in South Lake Union; $100 million seismic upgrade at the naval shipyard in Bremerton

Warren Johnson, director of business development in Walsh’s Seattle office, answered questions about the industry, his company and where retail development is headed.

Q: Are any sectors outperforming others, and if so why?

A: Nationally we are seeing a lot of work in healthcare, mid- to high-rise multifamily, student housing in college campuses and aviation — a lot of it having to do with baby boomers and their kids.

Q: What are some core philosophies of your green initiatives?

A: We definitely see a trend in building smart, net zero and green initiative. There is a good example in a project we are doing for the California Military Department. It is a $135 million design-build project (Walsh Group and Stantec) where our team will deliver a 285,000-square-foot consolidated headquarters complex near Sacramento.

The CHQC is one of the first large scale new zero net energy projects that will be implemented by the state of California after Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-18-12 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency in California. The project is targeting LEED gold certification and will be constructed to achieve a variety of sustainable goals to reduce environmental impact, optimize performance, lower energy and operating costs, conserve resources, and increase occupant satisfaction and productivity. On-site renewable energy is generated by a photovoltaic array that will serve a dual purpose as parking shade structures.

Q: Are there any signs of economic weakening, and if so how is Walsh preparing?

A: Yes, we track all those economic and political signs, along with foreign capital flow. We feel we are well positioned with a balanced mix of building and heavy-civil sectors in private, public and federal work in our portfolio of projects and clients — usually when the private sector slows down the public and federal sectors are strong. We also see a strong need for public- private partnerships in the coming years to help us fix our aging infrastructure across the U.S. and Canada.

Q: Since Walsh was founded in Chicago, do you have a different business development strategy here?

A: Yes, being headquartered in Chicago and a four-generation family-owned company, we are well connected to the building industry and the community in Chicago. Walsh is everywhere! In Seattle we are fairly new, been here since 2007, so we need to work harder for name recognition and gaining trust in the local community.

Q: With the continued expansion of Amazon, are you seeing any slowdown in retail?

A: Retail is changing so fast, and the development and building process takes so long. Retailers are right-sizing and closing/selling a lot of their national stores and there are very few retail replacements to backfill, so they are looking for other sectors to backfill, like medical, entertainment, multifamily, hotels, office, farming (rural malls turn back into farms) etc. — bigger emphasis on mixed-use. The retail developers and large REITs like Kimco, Simon, GGP are turning into mixed-use developers. Also the large mall adjacent to transit hubs will survive, but will be totally different in the next three to five years.

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