I’ve decided that I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions this year. Besides, no one likes a skinnier, more sober version of me anyway.
I kid. In all reality, as the Times Square ball drops and champagne corks erupt like fireworks, I welcome each new year with open arms. There’s something empowering and humbling as we reflect, and reload the proverbial shotgun of life for the next 365 days. We try our best to think deeply on the items we want to do differently and how best to make them happen.
While strategic planning and goal setting is paramount to achieving a successful year in any realm of one’s life, there are items we just can’t foresee and/or plan for. That’s the beauty and tragedy all wrapped up in one that life spits out.
As an 80s kid, I was blessed with parents that let me watch old Saturday Night Live skits. That’s where I feasted my millennial eyes on the legendary and incomparable Gilda Radner. While Gilda was most well known for her comedy and ability to make the nation laugh, it was her grace and humble words she left behind when she passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989 that many remember her for: “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
The unknown is exciting and paralyzing all at once. As I share my thoughts on where I see my company, my industry, and my community heading in the next five to 10 years, I’m all the while well aware of the fact that life’s ambiguity will be pitching fastballs and curveballs as well as the best of them.
At 21 years of age, my Dad came to work for his dad in 1977. That year, our company finished with $750,000 in sales. Nearly 40 years later, 2016 brought us nearly $60 million in sales. Now I wasn’t a math major, but that’s roughly 80 times what we did in the late ’70s. Our company, Baker Construction & Development, was founded on doing business with honesty, integrity, and a healthy sense of humor.
I’m confident that those core values have allowed us to get where we are today. With nearly 80 percent of our construction work being negotiated privately with repeat clients, I can forecast with confidence we will maintain the mantra of working with people who value superior construction services.
I’ve recently missed out on a few projects to potential clients who said they didn’t consider choosing us as their builder because they thought we were “too big.” While I’m crushed to not get a sniff at their work, it’s also a compliment to think our company’s being viewed in this light.
My team and I will continue my grandfather’s business with a handshake mentality as we strive to win higher volume projects in the hospitality, multifamily, assisted living, and health care arenas. While we grow our company to $100 million, our ability to treat our employees and clients and family won’t be compromised. Our company has morphed to stay nimble and competitive the last 65 years, and we will continue to push forward in the same fashion.
The construction industry as a whole is something I obviously forecast to continue to grow and evolve. Buildings don’t last forever, needs change, and the economy will naturally dictate what comes down and what goes up.
A concern I have with the industry as a whole is the need to replenish and replace the amazing workforce and manpower it possesses today. Kids today just aren’t as interested in working with their hands and engaging in physically demanding professions.
The construction industry as a whole needs help promoting trade schools and vocational programs to middle schoolers and high schoolers so they know that working in the construction world can be a fulfilling and honorable profession.
They just aren’t aware that without a four-year degree, our industry affords individuals a quality income and professional career. We need to wrap our arms around this issue collectively, as an industry and community.
My crystal ball gleams brightly as I speculate what Spokane will look like in five to 10 years. We are sick and tired with being called “Seattle’s little sister.” While Seattle is amazing, and we’re thankful our West Side neighbor is so close, we are our own city.
I mention this because there’s a growing sense of pride and honor as we Spokanites continue to grow the legacy and history of our great city. We’re in the midst of creating a vibrant downtown Spokane that young emerging professionals and leaders want to call home.
We’ve got a higher education offering that is a force to be reckoned with. With the WSU/UW medical schools, our children and children’s children will experience a Spokane like none other. I’m confident ancillary programs and institutions will come to us from this growth.
As we continue to incentivize tier-one and tier-two suppliers to Boeing and other aerospace players, I see that industry staking a much bigger claim in Eastern Washington as well. My crystal ball is also showing signs of Amazon, Google, and Apple having some type of representation in our backyard.
Once people visit Spokane and understand the quality of life and cost of living we wrap into one, they are sold. The “ask” of our city as a whole is to continue to greet newbies with a smile and cheerful heart so we can continue to attract valuable talent and quality citizens who will appreciate the beauty our city possesses.
As a Spokane-born, 30-year-old WSU grad having no way to predict what the future holds, here’s what I pray for. If God sees to it, my husband and I will have kids and be proud to raise them here. Baker Construction will continue to grow and learn from economic opportunities and challenges. The construction industry will work together to get kids excited about working their hands. Lastly, Spokane will no longer have to be called “Seattle’s little sister.”
As Gilda said so well, we have to take the moment and make the best of it without knowing what’s coming next. Cheers to what 2017 and the future has in store.
Brooke Baker Spink is the director of business development at Baker Construction & Development Inc., of Spokane.
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