Monthly Archives: June 2010

Saddle up for the state’s Forklift Rodeo

Denice Strawn of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. maneuvers a basketball in the Forklift Rodeo’s obstacle course.

Photo by Brandi Watson/Volpentest HAMMER

Yee-haw, it’s time to saddle up your iron bulls – that’s forklifts for you city-folk – and take a shot at the cash prizes at the state’s 13th Annual Forklift Rodeo.

The first of three regional contests was held last weekend in Richland, but there’s still time to sign up for the other two, which will be held July 17 in Spokane and Aug. 21 in Auburn.

Cash is awarded for the top seven finishers in each regional, with the top qualifier getting $300. The final competition will be held Sept. 29 in Spokane, with more money to be won: $500 for first place, $400 for second, $300 for third, $200 for fourth and $100 for fifth.

The finals will be part of the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference, which will be held Sept. 29-30 at the Spokane Convention Center.

Competitors first have to pass a written exam and forklift inspection before showing off their skills in an obstacle course. There is a $40 entry fee and only the first 30 drivers who register in each region will be allowed to compete. For more information, visit

Nathan Locati of Henningsen was last week’s top finisher in Richland. Phil Anderson and Elton Gould of Columbia Crest took second and third, respectively. Rounding out the top finishers were: Cal Torres of ConAgra-Lamb Weston; Steve Jimenez of Columbia Crest; Ronald Smith of WCH; and Denice Strawn of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. A team competition was also held, with Columbia Crest coming in first and Columbia Colstore second. The Columbia Crest team is made up of Anderson, Gould and Jimenez. The Columbia Colstore team includes Jesus Barajes, Eduardo Garcia and Thomas Norman.

Last year’s individual winners were: Andrew Ibbotson of Versacold, first place; Randy Langwell of Versacold, second place; and Doug Graham of Boeing, third place. A team competition was also held last year, with Boeing coming in first and Versacold second. Boeing’s team included Graham, Joe Henry and Mike Weinman.

High school girls go to camp, learn construction

It’s not your typical summer camp. This one’s girls only and, oh yeah, it involves welding, carpentry and electrical work. The girls are in the midst of a three-day event called MAGIC Summer Camp, with MAGIC standing for “Mentoring a Girl in Construction.”

This year’s inaugural camp is hosted by the Puget Sound Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction at the Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC training facility in Everett. Journey level tradeswomen are teaming up with JATC instructors to hone the girls’ skills. When the free program ends on Friday, the girls will be taking home a copper rose, toolbox, solar car and other projects they made.

“This program is unique because it brings together an unusual blend of sponsors,” said camp director Nicole Martin of MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions in a statement. “Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC, as our generous host and gold sponsor, joined NAWIC, and silver sponsors Master Builders Career Connection and Brightwater, along with many local construction businesses, universities and industry associations with one goal … to introduce high school girls to the opportunities available to them in the construction industry.”

You go girls!

Alaska Brightening Up Around Solstice Time?

With an economy largely dependent on oil production, and with the BP disaster in the Gulf leading off every news show these days, I thought I might see some long faces last week among the Alaska construction community. But, instead I heard a steady stream of “getting betters” to my questions about how things were going.

At last Thursday night’s pairing party before the AGC of Alaska Golf Tournament, the talk about work greatly trended toward the optimistic, although almost all work to be had is public, and most of that is federally funded. As we looked for one of my most wayward shots the next morning at Moose Run Golf Club, my cart partner, a rebar supplier, told me, “We had a pretty slow May, but we’re getting busy now. We’ll probably have to put a Saturday shift on soon.” A Saturday shift sounds like a great thing. We can all use a little overtime right now.

Most everyone agreed that the “big” work up North is “on the [military] bases” right now, and I didn’t see too much going on in downtown Anchorage. But, apparently the natural gas pipeline is really coming to Alaska, and the “base” work is beginning to stack up, making for what everyone’s hoping is a bit of a brighter horizon in the Land of the Midnight Sun. And, with the historic construction-industry connections between Washington and Alaska, good news from “Up North” can’t help but have some effect here.

UW sets sail for California

Last year's UW concrete canoe team placed 16th at the nationals.

University of Washington civil engineering students are on their way to California to compete in “The America’s Cup of Civil Engineering” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Are they hauling a sleek yacht to the event? Nope, it’s a 240-pound canoe made of concrete.

After taking first place in the regional competition sponsored by American Society of Civil Engineers, the UW team qualified for the national competition in San Luis Obispo.

The team’s goal is to get into the top 10. Last year it placed 16th out of 22 teams.

Go Dawgs!

Lifesavers wanted

I stopped by my daughter’s middle school this morning to drop off her lunch she had forgotten. While waiting in line at the main office, a couple of students rushed in and said that a 12-year-old had fallen and hit his head. What took place next was impressive. Several office workers sprang into action and within seconds the nurse and principal zoomed out the door to the student, who had reportedly passed out. Then word came the student might be having a seizure and the principal shouted “Call 911” to an office worker, who quickly got on the phone.  I left before the ambulance arrived, but was impressed with how smoothly and calmly the emergency was handled. I heard the kid was going to be OK, but the scene brought to mind how a life-saving event might play out.

The governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board is looking for heroes that have saved someone’s life over the past year. If you know a lifesaver, I encourage you to nominate them for the governor’s lifesaving award. Hurry, though, because the deadline is June 30. Nomination forms can be found by clicking here.

The award is open to all state residents, regardless if the life they saved was in Washington or somewhere else. There is one stipulation: the lifesaver must be covered by industrial insurance, whether through the state’s workers’ comp system or by a self-insured company. And, the nominees must have made a hands-on effort to save a life.

Award winners will be honored at the 59th Annual Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference, which will be held Sept. 29-30 at the Spokane Convention Center. Last year, 29 people were recognized with lifesaving and humanitarian awards. Humanitarian awards were given to those who tried to save someone, but were unable to.
Stay safe, life is too precious.

UW Construction Students Host Fundraiser

Last night I attended the 1st Annual Associated Students in Construction Beer Tasting benefit event at the UW Construction Management Pacific NW Center for Construction Education & Research at Sand Point. The attendance for a first-time event was excellent, and the students did a great job of organizing the event. Attendees ranged from some “gray beards” who have been in the industry many years to an excellent representation of students, the leaders of tomorrow. There were several beer choices from local breweries, a fundraising opportunity centered on wine (but no wine to drink), and award-winning catering. There were students in the collaboration and methods and materials labs to help explain how they are used to advance the education of tomorrow’s leaders in our industry. The proceeds of this event will help fund their annual UW Construction Management Golf Tournament in late September at Washington National. For many years the CM grads had their pick of jobs, but in these “changed conditions” they are making an extra effort to reach out to the industry, network and maybe find an internship or actual job. I enjoyed having another opportunity to spend time with these smart and motivated students. As the economy improves, don’t forget about the talent bank at the UW Construction Management program. We don’t want to lose them. While work is slim now, when it picks up we will have another skilled worker shortage — from laborers and superintendents to project managers.

L&I looking to ‘Nail’ a few contractors

The state’s Department of Labor & Industries has stepped up its pursuit of bad contractors and workers’ comp scofflaws with a new blog called “Nailed.”

Nailed has information on major fraud convictions, surveillance video from investigations and links to fraud-related news coverage. One of the entries covers an investigation that found a drywall contractor operating with 155 unreported workers, according to L&I. That case resulted in an assessment of $672,326 for workers’ comp premiums owed plus penalties.

In case you didn’t know, you shouldn’t do the following:

  • Not paying L&I premiums.
  • Overcharging L&I for medical services.
  • Working while collecting time-loss from L&I.
  • Filing a false L&I claim or falsifying a condition.
  • Not registering as a contractor.

I know several people in the workers’ comp field that could tell a few stories. Perhaps we need to reward whistleblowers with anonymity and cash to encourage them to step forward. I bet the state would come out on the plus side of that idea.

Carl Hammersburg of L&I is the author of Nailed.

Clark Family: A Century of Leadership

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a birthday party for a 100-year old.  If you don’t think a centenarian can’t have a great time, think again!  This party at the Museum of Flight was to celebrate W.G. Clark Construction Co.’s 100 years of service.

Bill Clark started the company in 1910, when steam shovels and horse drawn carriages were still part of a contractor’s fleet of machinery.  In 1923, Bill moved the company to the building it still occupies in the South Lake Union area.

On its company website, W.G. Clark Construction has posted a history of the firm, with some great old photos.  I encourage people to take a look (go to  A review of the history of this venerable and modern firm is to take a trip back into the history of the Northwest – think about Clark’s work on the Joshua Green Building in the 1910s, the old Kress store in Seattle in the 1940s, Pike Place Market rehabs in the 1970s, the Bailey-Boushay House and (my personal favorite) Issaquah’s Village Theater in the 1990s.

Plus, the history of W.G. Clark Construction reflects the history of the Associated General Contractors, as three generations of Clarks have served as chapter president (Bill in 1941, Don in 1956, and Chris in 1988).  From my review of the “wall of presidents” in AGC offices, I can see that three generations of leadership is unique.  We’ve had a few father-and-son sets of presidents (Axel and Allan Osberg, Charles and Vince Wilder, to name two), but the Clarks have been the only three-generation family of AGC leaders.

Here’s to W.G. Clark’s first hundred years of great service and industry leadership!

Time to Say “Thanks” to Hall of Famers

I just read that the greatest ballplayer I ever saw retired today. Nobody who saw Ken Griffey, Jr. in his prime Kingdome years will ever forget his huge talent and the fact that he saved the Ms from becoming the Tampa Bay Ms in the early ‘90s. The baseball fans in this town can’t say “thank you” enough to Junior, and in five summers he will receive the recognition he richly deserves, and will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thinking about Ken Griffey Jr.’s influence on our town also made me reflect on the fact that this Friday, the UW Construction Industry Hall of Fame inducts its 12th set of honorees. Growing up with parents who were a mechanical contractor and a commercial real estate broker meant that dinner table discussions often included the names of many of the members of the Construction Hall. And as I’ve spent time in the Seattle construction industry, I was lucky enough to know many of those now inducted. Some I had known a long time because of my dad’s business (Pete Botting), two were my much-admired bosses at Sellen Construction in the ‘80s (Bill Scott and Bob Barrett), some were outstanding general contractors for whom I was a subcontractor in the ‘90s (Jeff Foushee, Bob Bayley, Chris Clark and Jack Rafn), and one is now my learned law partner (Sam Baker). Just like watching anybody who’s great at his/her craft, it has been pleasure to have seen each of them honored by our industry for all they have meant to it over the years.

I was excited to learn that Jon Runstand, Gene Colin and Ed Kommers are going into the Construction Hall this year. Jon’s leadership of Wright Runstad allowed it to develop some truly landmark projects in our region (think: 1201 Third Avenue, which was a gem among a great group of late ‘80s downtown office projects, including the City Centre Building, Two Union Square and Gateway Tower). Gene’s legacy as a contractor is about far more than being successful as the boss at Ferguson Construction, it includes a long history of giving back to the industry and community (think: the Gene J. Colin Education building at South Seattle Community College’s Duwamish Center, named in honor of his long service to the college) . And Ed’s storied career as a mechanical contractor might even be outweighed now by his service to that industry, in a way that reaches well beyond his current role as Executive Director of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington (think: membership on the Washington Department of General Administration Capital Projects Advisory Review Board).

Many of us who started our construction careers in the ‘80s have had a chance to work with, for or around each of the 2010 inductees. And more than that, just as we did from those past inductees who influenced our younger careers, those of my era have also learned a lot from Hall of Famers Jon, Ed and Gene about leadership, community and giving back. And so, just like those of us who love baseball say thanks today to Junior for all he has meant to Seattle, those of us who owe our livelihoods to the Seattle construction industry will say thanks to our own Hall of Famers on Friday, and will enthusiastically welcome the influential and deserving Jon, Gene and Ed into that great group.

AGC members due for awards

Tonight, the Associated General Contractors of Washington is honoring its members’ outstanding projects and safety records at its Build Washington Awards event at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall.

This year, there are eight construction awards, including ones for technology and green building. Nine awards are going to companies with great safety records. Then there’s a Superintendent of the Year award and Grand Awards for construction, safety and community service.

Congrats to all!

The DJC is celebrating the winners with a special section that publishes on Thursday. In it, section editor Jon Silver also interviews a handful of local industry players to see where they came from and what they think about today’s construction market. The roster includes Elaine Ervin of Moss Adams, Gary Van Loo of Andgar Corp., Jim Karambelas of GLY Construction and Dan Absher of Absher Construction.