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Construction and Rigging.

Construction & Rigging

Riding tail of a comet wasn't necessarily what Brad West had in mind when he joined his father, Robert (Bob) West, in the construction business in 1982. Even more surprising to Brad West was the fact that the company's fortunes soared during a time when other firms in the trade were sinking in alaska's recent recession.

Despite the downswings in other businesses, Anchorage-based Construction and Rigging Inc., a general contractor specializing in heavy industrial and marine work, has grown nearly 2,500 percent over the past five years, according to West, now senior vice president of the firm. Last year Construction and Rigging ranked 50th in Alaska Business Monthly's research for the New Forty Niner list of the top Alaskan-owned, Alaska-based businesses and was labeled "the one to watch."

Construction and Rigging's revenues climbed from $6.1 million in 1987 to $13.3 million in 1988, a 117 percent increase. In 1989, the firm's revenues rose another 40 percent - to $18.5 million, and 1990 is expected to be yet another year of rapid growth.

"We're in final negotiations right now for another surimi plant job," West says. "And this job should put our 1990 revenues in the $40 million to $50 million range. We may more than double 1989's revenues."

West doesn't expect the meteoric climb in revenues to continue. "We might have one more year at the most," he says. "Of course, a lot depends on oil prices and whether some things that are looming on the horizon actually go through. If projects like ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), the gas pipeline or the exploration of Cook Inlet actually happen, we could continue to have a lot of work. They would certainly offer some interesting opportunities."

Founded in 1970 as Western Associates, Construction and Rigging has undergone three major changes in its 20-year history. About five years after founding the company, Bob West joined with two partners, Bill Taylor and Paul Reynolds. In 1975, the three changed the company name to Taylor Rigging. In 1980, the company name was changed again; Construction and Rigging was adopted to reflect a more general identification.

The most dramatic change came in 1984 when Bob West, who had been the majority stockholder since the startup of the firm, bought out his partners and took over sole ownership of the company. "There had been some operational problems before Bob took control," says Gerald Caley, Construction and Rigging's controller. From a low point in 1985, the firm's net worth had increased 1,000 percent through 1989. According to Bob West, president, mid-year 1990 figures indicate the book value of Construction and Rigging's stock could double this year.

Responsibility for current management of the company still rests primarily with Bob West. Brad West is in charge of the construction projects and estimating, and Bob's brother, Jerry West, manages the Washington branch office in Bothell.

Hot Spots. Brad West says the company's work has come primarily from the fishing and timber industries in the past few years. "The market has been strong in these fields, so that's where we've put our efforts," he says. West explains that some formerly strong markets such as public works have been declining, while the competition for what few projects there were was on the rise.

"Our marketing efforts are simple," he says. "We just try to seek the market that will give us the best return."

Some of Construction and Rigging's more notable projects in the recent past include:

* Constructing five deep-water dolphins, a shiploading tower and conveyer system in Seward for Chugach Alaska Corp. Begun in February, this $2.4 million project was expected to be completed in September.

* Building a 10,000 deadweight-ton floating dry dock, mooring system and electrical and mechanical tie-ins in Ketchikan for the state of Alaska. The dock, designed to facilitate repairs to the state ferries, was approximately an $8 million project.

* Repairing the fuel pier in Kodiak in 1989 under a $4.5 million contract with the U.S. Coast Guard. Construction and Rigging structurally upgraded the dock and installed a new mooring dolphin, fender system and cathodic protection. "This project involved more than two miles of welding," Brad West says.

* Repairing Anchorage's Sullivan Arena floor, a $1.25 million job that began in early August with an estimated completion date of early October. This job involved demolition of existing slab and piling and construction of a new structural slab and freezer slab.

The jobs West considers Construction and Rigging's crown jewels are docks and a seafood plant at the port of Dutch Harbor in Unalaska for clients Unisea Inc. and Westward Seafoods. This small community, with a permanent population of less than 2,500 people, ranks at the top of America's fishing ports in terms of volume. In 1989, Dutch Harbor brought in 504 million pounds of fish with a product value of $107.4 million. To meet the demand created by such a high volume of fishing-related business, Westward and Unisea Inc., both fish processors, contracted with Construction and Rigging for new facilities.

For Unisea, Construction and Rigging began constructing what Brad West calls the biggest dock in Alaska. "It's over a third of a mile long," Brad says. "The final design called for an open-cell dock, which saved the owners about half the cost of the original concept."

To construct the dock, Construction and Rigging had to remove tons of rock and dirt from the face of the mountain that juts down into the new harbor site to create more room for the new structure. The firm had to clear the previous dock and surrounding area before it could begin construction. According to West, work began in June of 1989 and was completed in February for a contract amount of approximately $6.5 million.

Westward's dock and processing plant, begun in August of 1989, is expected to be computed in January of 1991 at a cost of approximately $30 million. This job includes the construction of four industrial buildings complete with all the mechanical and electrical systems required for a fully operable seafood processing facility. "This is our biggest job to date," West says.

Although growth has come rapidly to Construction and Rigging, West points out it hasn't come easily. Particularly difficult has been finding an adequate number of skilled construction workers, a situation exacerbated by people leaving the state during the economic downturn. Another challenge has been bringing supervisory staff such as engineers and managers aboard.

West adds, "We've been fortunate in one way, though. We have a few larger projects rather than several small ones, so it's easier to shift our forces around to meet the demand."

Because of the high volume of work Construction and Rigging is doing in Dutch Harbor, the firm has expanded to include a satellite office there. West expects future construction to take Construction and Rigging farther out along the Aleutian chain, building port facilities for outlying islands. He says he expects smaller plants will be built to process the fish before it's sent to Dutch Harbor for containerization and shipping.

Regarding future expansion, West says, "We'll have to look at where the work takes us. Foreign investment work has been very good to us, so we're going to seek that work out whenever we can. If that takes us farther down the West Coast, then we'll follow it. It's hard to predict what will happen in the next few years."
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Title Annotation:The New Forty-Niners; Construction and Rigging Inc.
Author:West, Gail
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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