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December 18, 2018

Jeff Richards, 39, taking over as president at Absher Construction

Journal Construction Editor

Photo by Joe Mabel [enlarge]
Integrus Architecture and Absher Construction recently won a $14.6 million progressive design-build contract for interior renovation at the UW’s Parrington Hall.

Absher Construction has been operating in Puyallup since 1940 with a member of the Absher family at the helm.

That all changes next month, when longtime employee and COO Jeff Richards becomes the company's fourth president. He takes over for Dan Absher, who will continue as CEO and co-owner with his brother, Tom Absher Jr.

Dan Absher, age 60, said the move will keep growth on track and better serve clients.

“I feel very comfortable we found the right person for the job,” he said.

Richards, who has been at the company for 15 years, will continue as COO.

The 39-year-old Richards said his first taste of construction came as a laborer during college for a residential remodeling company. He found he enjoyed working with his hands and ended up earning a bachelor's degree in construction management from the University of Washington.


Richards takes over during a strong cycle for the general contractor: revenues will be about $330 million this year and are expected to hit $450 million next year. About 300 employees work in the office and field.

“It's an amazing market right now,” Richards said. “We're taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Dan Absher said the anticipated jump in revenue is due to several big projects starting.

Here are some of the firm's larger local projects:

• Partnering with Kitchell on the Emerald Queen Casino and parking garage in Tacoma for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians; finishing November 2019.

• First phase of the $150 million Tacoma Town Center, a two-block project that will eventually have over 600 housing units, retail and office space; the first phase — 228 housing units — finishes in early 2020.

• $125 million, 304-room Marriott hotel with 390-stall parking garage next to Greater Tacoma Convention Center; finishing spring 2020.

• $174 million Northgate Link light rail station with elevated guideway and 455-stall parking garage; station opens in February 2020 and the garage recently opened.

• $45 million Chambers Bay resort; Pierce County Council will soon go over the final ground lease agreement, which would allow construction to start.

• $60 million East Link Bellevue Transit Center subcontract; finishing in stages starting in early 2020.

• Multi-phase Northgate Mall redevelopment; first phase preps the pad for an NHL practice facility, starting in January and finishing in six months; rest of project includes four or five blocks of housing, hotels and office towers dependent upon market conditions.

• Oak and Parrington halls at the University of Washington; both starting in early 2019 and taking 14 months to build.

• $60 million Wesley Homes senior housing project in Puyallup; opening early next year with 198 units.

Richards said he isn't planning any major changes.

Outside of the Puget Sound area, the company will continue with projects in Eastern Washington. Hawaii is another market for Absher, with one Department of Defense project underway and two or three others being considered.

Richards said he has heard the warnings that construction will slow down, but project volume at Absher won't drop anytime soon. He said the firm has been selective about jobs, partly due to the tight labor market.

Dan Absher said pricing and budgeting are a “wild card” due to the shortage of subcontractors.

This transition plan has been years in the making. In 2013, four top executives retired early to pave the way for others to advance. Tom Absher Jr. was one of those early retirees.

Dan Absher said the plan is to keep the company closely held in his family, but work toward some ownership by key employees over the next five years.

Moving Richards to president will allow Absher to focus on corporate strategy and business development.

Absher doesn't plan to retire, at least not immediately. He said he will probably “slow down over the next five years” as part of the transition plan.

“Jeff's promotion to president is the culmination of a long and deliberate transition process to ensure our and our clients' continued success well into the future,” he said.


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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