Even though the construction industry is in the midst of a national slowdown, longtime Spokane general contractor Jim Elmer knows he's going to be busy next year.
Elmer, president of James W. Elmer Construction Co., is chairman-elect of the Associated Builders & Contractors Inc. (ABC), a national open-shop construction trade organization. His one-year term will start in January, but he's already made some appearances when scheduling conflicts arose for the current chairman, Gerry Gorski, of Collegeville, Pa.
"My schedule is starting to fill up," Elmer says of his 2010 commitments with ABC.
His main duties as chairman will be to promote free enterprise and competition in the construction industry, regardless of a contractor's labor affiliation, Elmer says.
He says he also will work to increase membership in the association, which currently includes about 25,000 construction-related companies.
Elmer founded Elmer Construction in 1991. The company specializes in commercial, light-industrial, multifamily, and tenant-improvement projects, and the scope of its projects ranges from installing an ordinary doorjamb to erecting a $10 million church building, he says.
The company's offices are in a 2,600-square-foot building it erected two years ago at 3022 E. Boone, where it also has a separate 4,500-square-foot shop and equipment-storage building.
Elmer Construction employs about 14 people, including Elmer's son, Rob, who has risen to vice president and project manager since he joined the company five years ago. Seven of the company's employees work in its offices and seven work in the field as project foremen or supervisors.
Elmer says he hopes to hire four more field employees this summer, if the company's work load increases as he anticipates. Most of the workers on Elmer Construction's projects are hired by subcontractors, he says, adding, "We subcontract out 75 percent to 80 percent of our work."
Some larger projects Elmer Construction has completed in the last few years include the $3 million, eight-unit Riverside Elms Condominiums, at 1828 W. Riverside; a $600,000 remodel of the Recreational Equipment Inc. store, at 1125 N. Monroe; and a $600,000 production facility for Colmac Coil Manufacturing Inc., in Colville, Wash., that includes 14,000 square feet of floor space.
While the company's work pace has slowed so far this year, it currently is working on several projects, each of which is valued at less than $200,000, Elmer says. Developers have put some larger projects on hold pending financing, he says.
"The financing outlook changes every day," he says, adding that he's optimistic the credit market will loosen as the economy rebounds.
While Elmer says he's wary of growing government involvement in private business, he hopes that the federal stimulus package will help states and local governments proceed with road and sewer projects they otherwise couldn't fund on their own. The package also will create construction jobs, and one of ABC's priorities will be to ensure that stimulus-funded projects are open to all qualified contractors, he says.
"I think some parts of the stimulus package will be good for the whole country and will help the entire construction industry," he says. "It's designed to deal with infrastructure problems that we've let go for so many years."
Elmer was born and raised in Spokane. He has 38 years of construction experience, starting in the Kansas City, Mo.-based power and process division of Owens Corning after he graduated from Washington State University with a degree in construction management. With Owens Corning, he worked on power-plant projects and other heavy construction, including a stint on the Trans Alaska Pipeline in the 1970s.
For five years prior to starting James W. Elmer Construction, he was a partner in BoPear Inc., a Spokane commercial contracting concern.
Elmer has been involved with ABC since 1984, and has volunteered to represent the association on several legislative committees. He was chairman of ABC's Inland Pacific chapter in 1991 and was ABC's Region 1 vice chairman last year. Region 1 includes chapters in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and seven other western states.
"I raised my hand to volunteer too many times," he jests of his rise in the association.
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