December 10, 2009

Dean C. Allen

By Barbara Travers


Firm: McKinstry Co.

Position: CEO

Dean Allen has more than 30 years of experience in the design, construction and real estate industries in the Pacific Northwest. He has helped build McKinstry from a mechanical contractor into a comprehensive design, build, operate and maintain enterprise with more than $350 million per year in revenues and 1,500-plus employees. A leader in the energy and sustainability aspects of the industry, McKinstry serves energy service clients from 14 offices in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Texas and Wisconsin.

Allen serves on the boards of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Global Partnerships. He also serves on the Washington Roundtable and the Partnership for Learning. He holds bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and psychology from the University of Washington, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Give us a brief background on Dean Allen.

I was born and raised in the Seattle area. My wife, Vicki, and I have and two children: Teryn, a recent graduate of Georgetown University; and Matthew, a senior at Swarthmore College. And two chocolate labs. I’m a biochemist at heart with a passion for helping advance impactful efforts that nurture children, support education and provide global health equity.

The Dean Allen 411
1. If you could own any property in the universe, what would it be?

Swauk Creek Ranch, our nature preserve outside Cle Elum on the Yakima River.

2. What would you be doing if you hadn’t taken this career path?

Working on global health solutions for the developing world.

3. What do you do to decompress?

Spend time at my ranch, spend time with my wife and kids, and travel the world.

4. What’s on your iPod?

Songs my daughter loaded for me.

5. What one thing about you would surprise people?

I love to plan and prepare meals for friends and family.

In 2010, McKinstry will celebrate 50 years of business. What would your father, McKinstry co-founder George Allen, think about President Obama calling McKinstry “a model for the nation” and recognizing your company as a leader in the charge to a sustainable, energy-efficient America?

George would be very proud of our accomplishments and he would also be quick to remind us that our success stems from our focus on people. Our success is the natural consequence of our innovation — how we support our employees, the unique way we deliver our services, and through the long-term relationships we create with our clients. And of course our commitment to creating buildings that are good to their owners, occupants and the environment.

Speaking of President Obama, you’re a hoops man. Have you thought about inviting him back to Seattle for a game on your office’s basketball court — one of the many employee benefits that keeps McKinstry up there on “best places to work” lists?

It just so happens that President Obama’s already played a little basketball when he visited McKinstry back in February 2008. During the tour of our home office here in Seattle as soon as the group reached our wellness center, then-Senator Obama slipped off his jacket and shoes and shot a few hoops.

Had he preferred golfing, he might have opted for hitting a bucket of balls at our rooftop driving range.

Earlier this year, addressing the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on energy, labor, education, and green jobs, you talked about sustainable job creation. Your emphasis was on workforce development and education, an area in which McKinstry invests heavily. What’s ahead?

We have created hundreds of new jobs in the energy-efficiency area where we retrofit buildings, lower their energy use and costs, and use the cost savings to finance the improvements. We continue to stress both the importance of reducing energy use and its value in sustainable job creation to the administration.

We also are delivering renewable energy projects across our network of offices and we think this is also the right path to a sustainable future. Additionally, we are working on improving K-12 math and science education so that kids can be challenged to achieve the knowledge levels and skill development needed to compete for sustainable careers, not just short-term green jobs.

Your first car was a 1965 VW Bug. Not bad gas mileage. What are driving now?

A 2007 Audi. I like the all-wheel-drive for unpredictable Seattle weather. Last year we began our GEORGE (Giving Employees Opportunities to Reduce Global Emissions) program at McKinstry, which is a car-sharing program. We use GEORGE, our fleet of Toyota Priuses, for appointments and meetings during the workday.

At McKinstry’s original office on Main Street in Bellevue, you were a night custodian, working for your father and his partner Merrill McKinstry. If you ran into him, what advice would you give to Dean Allen, the teen-age janitor?

I might suggest a favorite African proverb: “If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.” Find something you can be passionate about, nurture your interests in many diverse areas and don’t be afraid to take risks. But mostly remember that success in life or business is ultimately about the people you travel with.

You recently announced plans to create the McKinstry Innovation Center. Is this a green energy think tank facility?

We are creating a green energy commercialization acceleration center. We’ve been helping start-up green energy companies for years with temporary offices, and business and engineering advice relevant to the renewable energy industry.

We like win-win propositions and so we realized we should create an official program, a place to bring interested companies together to work on solving the challenge of eliminating energy waste in our built environment. With the wealth of business, engineering and market knowledge McKinstry has here on staff, we can pour that experience into helping companies accelerate the market entry process.

You’re a collaboration fanatic. What’s a typical meeting like at McKinstry?

I am, unfortunately, often late and they tend to run over. But it is definitely a safe place for big or outside-the-box ideas.

Looking back, what deal makes you smile?

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute moving first to build labs in South Lake Union in partnership with Vulcan. A big win for everyone, including the community and poor folks in developing countries around the world.

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