Sponsored by Oregon Business

Tactics: Hoffman Construction's work in progress

| Print |  Email
Archives - February 2009
Sunday, February 01, 2009


Founded: 1922

Employees: 500

Headquarters: Portland

Annual revenue: $1.2 billion

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


“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.”


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




More Articles

Business School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Training, from the mundane to the sublime, bolsters companies and workers in an uncertain world.


Counterpoint: CLT not as green as people think

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
photo-flickr-glasseyes viewthymbBY GREGG LEWIS | OP-ED

The issue of green-washing remains a significant challenge to those of us who would like to see the building sector in this country do more than make unverifiable claims of sustainability. Transparency about the impacts of a given material is the only way to allow designers to make intelligent choices when selecting building products.


Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Video: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon 2015

The Latest
Monday, October 05, 2015
100-best-NP-logo-2015-video-thumbVIDEO BY JESSE LARSON

Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.


100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?


Straight shooter

Linda Baker
Thursday, October 08, 2015
100815-bradleyBY LINDA BAKER

In an era dominated by self-promotion and marketing speak, John Bradley, CEO of R&H Construction, is a breath of fresh air.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02