Sponsored by Oregon Business

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

Help Wanted: Poached Jobs aids restaurateurs

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

“We thought there was room for something new.”


Read more...

10 quotes explaining crisis at Port of Portland

The Latest
Friday, February 20, 2015
022015 port portland OBM-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The ongoing labor disputes at the Port of Portland came to a head two weeks ago when Hanjin, the container port's largest client, notified its customers it would be ending its direct route to Oregon.


Read more...

Light Moves

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Fittingly, Light at Play — a business whose sole purpose is to create mesmerizing ambience — was conceived at Burning Man.


Read more...

Money Talks

March 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Will community banks survive the digital age? Three CEOs peer into banking's crystal ball.


Read more...

Uncertainty about convention center hotel could cost Portland an NBA All-Star Game

The Latest
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
463545460BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

NBA commissioner: "I would love to end up having an All-Star Game in Portland. It's really just a function of ensuring that we can fit in town."


Read more...

Which Way to Chinatown?

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

The Jade International District, already Portland's center of Asian life, is poised for rejuvenation. Where does that leave the westside's historic Chinatown?


Read more...

LEED for weed

Linda Baker
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
012815-potcarbon-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions?


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