Tactics: Hoffman Construction's work in progress

| Print |  Email
Sunday, February 01, 2009

HOFFMAN CONSTRUCTION

Founded: 1922

Employees: 500

Headquarters: Portland

Annual revenue: $1.2 billion

WayneDrinkward.jpg
Wayne Drinkward above the Park Avenue Tower West site in Portland.

PHOTO BY ADAM BACHER

“If anyone in business is under 40, they haven’t been through this stuff. When you’re an old guy, you have a model of how to get through it.”

That “stuff” would be one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, led by the utter implosion of the housing market. And the old guy? At 57, Wayne Drinkward isn’t really that old, although his company is 87, but he makes the point. Hoffman Construction has been through bad times before and survived, and this down cycle, which counts the construction industry among its biggest victims, will be no different.

On a rainy early winter day, as the freefall began in earnest, Drinkward seems nonplussed by the question of how the region’s biggest construction firm and one of Oregon’s largest private companies (around $1.2 billion in revenue for 2008) would weather the storm.

“In good times or bad, the way is about the same,” he says. “We develop from within; we take on only what we can do; in good times, we don’t add a lot of people at the top; and when there is less construction, we are loyal to the people we have.”

Drinkward says there hasn’t been a large layoff since the 1980s when the company had to cut itself in half to survive. Hoffman came back from that brink in the early 1990s, when it grew in three years from $150 million to $1 billion in revenue, spurred by the company’s relationship with a large microprocessor manufacturer (they won’t say who) that hired Hoffman to build semiconductor manufacturing facilities around the country.

Stability also comes from Hoffman’s depth and breadth. It builds a wide range of projects nationally and internationally, including schools, condos, prisons and hospitals. Some of its signature buildings include the Fox Tower in Portland (also home to Hoffman’s headquarters), the Portland Building, the Seattle Library, and that city’s Experience Music Project. Drinkward says there are large projects in the pipeline that are fully funded and will carry them through the near future. They include the University of Oregon’s stadium, ZGF headquarters in downtown Portland, two large airport projects, Legacy Pediatric Tower, and Oregon State Hospital.

What gets built inside the employee-owned company is just as important to Drinkward. The average tenure of its 500 employees is 15 years and many have 30 years in. It’s also a company with great personal history: He has two sons and a brother working for Hoffman and he took over the top spot from his father, Cecil, in 1992. His father, now 80, still has an office next to his.

“When my father ran the company, it was CEO to CEO. Now it’s done between the teams,” says Drinkward. “That’s very powerful. They own it.”

By design, there is no mission statement, no posters on the wall, no huge HR operation. “We don’t have a book on anything here. We just say, ‘You’re smart. Figure it out.’”

Despite the downturn, he says the company is expected to still post more than $1 billion in revenue for this year, even though he knows “we’re going into a period with more challenges.” Drinkward predicts there is at least a five-year slowdown ahead.

“There’s a gap [in work] coming regardless of whether they fix the credit issue. It’s hit the architecture community first. Projects are stalling. Both private and public works are stuck. It’s like a glacier has slid across the river and the money has stopped flowing,” says Drinkward. “But we’re still fishing.”

ROBIN DOUSSARD



Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

 

More Articles

The Health Guru

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Mohan Nair channels a visionary.


Read more...

Editor’s Note: It’s a Man’s World

Linda Baker
Thursday, April 30, 2015
lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Earlier this week we posted an article from our May issue:  It’s a Man's Man’s Man’s World. The story covered the gender divide in tech from the perspective of male workers. Twitter didn’t like it.


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


Read more...

Picture This

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

As a general rule, the more people with autism can be provided with visual cues, the better they will be able to understand and manage their environment. It’s a lesson Tom Keating learned well. The 61-year-old Eugene grant writer spent 31 years taking care of his autistic brother James, and in the late 1980s developed a spreadsheet that created a series of nonsense characters that grew or shrank depending on how much money James had in his account. 


Read more...

Change at the pump?

The Latest
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
001thumbBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.


Read more...

5 highlights from the Angel Oregon Showcase

The Latest
Thursday, April 23, 2015
IMG 5069BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.


Read more...

Man for All Seasons

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

A longtime technologist and entrepreneur, Dwayne Johnson, 53, is managing partner of PDXO/GlobeThree Ventures, a strategy and business consultancy in Portland.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS