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May 11, 2018

Survey: Absher Construction Co.

Image from Sound Transit
Absher is building an elevated light rail station, guideway and parking garage at Northgate under a $174 million contract with Sound Transit.

Specialty: General contractor/construction manager and design-build

Management: Dan Absher, CEO; Lane Tanabe, CFO; Jeff Richards, COO

Founded: 1940

Headquarters: Puyallup

2017 revenues: $240 million

Projected 2018 revenues: $330 million

Projects: Sound Transit Link Northgate station, elevated guideway and parking garage; Marriott hotel at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center; Olympic Middle School, Auburn

Absher COO Jeff Richards explains why he’s proud of WSU’s Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, and warns of the industry’s coming retirement cliff. He also talks about cool new technology his company is using.

Q: Which market sectors have you been most active in?

A: What market haven’t we been active in is a better question. We’ve seen great opportunities across many markets, but have been busiest in transit, education, hospitality and federal.

Q: What new opportunities will Absher pursue in the next few years?

A: We’ve really been focused on technology, and our staff is pushing the envelope in VDC — virtual reality and drone use. We are applying these technologies in communication, constructability, scheduling and documentation, to name a few. New ways to use these tools for better project delivery are happening every day.

Another area that we are excited to see gaining speed over the next few years is design-build in the public market. We’ve had great, collaborative experiences using design-build delivery at the federal and higher-education level, and are starting to see the K-12 market explore design-build, too.

Q: What’s an important trend we should be paying more attention to?

A: As an industry, we need to keep addressing the aging workforce. I recently read an article that called it “the retirement cliff.”

We need skilled workers ready to fill positions as our current workforce starts retiring. Attracting a more diverse range of young people to careers in construction is another key industry issue that goes right along with this.

Q: What’s a recent project you’re particularly proud of?

A: I’m really proud of our (Washington State University) Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center project. To start with, it’s a really cool building with a curved roof and no right angles.

On a deeper level, it is making a significant statement about the university’s commitment to inclusion and diversity. And, from a contracting perspective, it was a textbook case of how effective design-build can be.

Q: How much of your work involves federal contracts? What’s the trend?

A: Federal contracting is one of our core markets and continues to be a steady market for us. It has accounted for roughly 10 percent of our revenue in recent years.

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