Spokane Journal of Business

Deer Park’s loyal Knights

Family business anchors new industrial park

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-—Kevin Blocker
Doug Knight, president of Knight Construction, says the company built a new facility in Deer Park for two of its subsidiaries, Knight EZ Dock and Knight Wall Systems. The family has decided to keep its companies in Deer Park to help the economy there.

The Deer Park business community has high financial hopes for its new business park and industrial center, which now has as its first tenants, two subsidiaries of the 49-year-old Knight Construction & Supply Inc.

Knight EZ Dock Inc. and Knight Wall Systems Inc. now make their homes in the Deer Park Business & Industrial Center and are colocated in a $3 million building at 2401 E. Sixth that Knight Construction built.

The 144-acre B & I Center is a privately owned development along Crawford Road, 2 1/2 miles east of U.S. 395 and just west of the Deer Park Airport.

Knight Construction built a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing and office building for its subsidiaries, which celebrated with a grand opening last month. Knight EZ Dock was founded in 2005, and Knight Wall Systems was established in 2007, says Knight Construction President Doug Knight. 

The two subsidiaries employ a total of 30 people. Knight EZ Dock is a supplier of custom and portable boat docks and accessories, while Knight Wall Systems manufactures and installs exterior wall panel systems for new buildings and renovation projects.

Knight Construction, which specializes in heavy industrial and government construction projects—including work on dams, fish hatcheries, and bridges—is located near the industrial park at 28308 N. Cedar Road.

Established by Knight’s 79-year-old father, James Knight, in 1968, Knight Construction operates in 45,000 square feet of space, has 40 employees who live in Deer Park, and another 60 construction workers at several active construction projects across the Pacific Northwest, Doug Knight says.

Knight Construction currently is doing drainage and lock repair work at dams along the Columbia River and Snake River systems, he says.

The construction company is also currently under a federal contract to rebuild the spillway gates and make electrical upgrades at Wanapum Dam, in Oregon. It’s also doing construction and repair work in Oregon at Hills Creek Dam and Blue Lake Dam, Knight says.

“I’m not going to lie. This was a really big step for us,” says Knight of moving the two subsidiaries away from the parent company.

“Hey, this is where I grew up, too. Doing something like this makes you nervous being in your hometown,” he says.

Joe Tortorelli, who serves as an economic development consultant for the city of Deer Park, says business owners like the Knight family are vital to a community’s growth. The family’s business helped lay the ground work for the industrial park.

Half the funding for the $3.6 million B & I Center came from an Economic Development Administration grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Tortorelli says. 

 Another $1.2 million came from the five different parcel owners where the B & I Center is located, and the remainder came from the city of Deer Park. The city was able to offset its cost with a $500,000 Transportation Improvement Board grant from the state of Washington, Tortorelli says.

Knight, 56, is company president, while his younger brothers, Ken Knight, 55, and 49-year-old David Knight, also have their hands in running the family business. Ken Knight is the on-site supervisor for Knight Construction, and David Knight works as a manager at Knight Construction, Doug Knight says. 

“With private sector investment, we can now recruit industry and retailers,” says Tortorelli, who previously has helped execute similar business development projects in Cheney, Colville, and Okanogan.

Knight, a Riverside High School graduate, says the Deer Park-Riverside area never has had an industrial park.

“The closest thing I can ever remember to big industry here was a sawmill called Deer Park Pine back in the early ’70s,” Knight says. “I don’t remember if it made it to the ’80s.

“We had to ask, do we want industry, or do we want to be the bedroom community we’ve been for the last 30 to 40 years,” Knight says.

With a population of just more than 4,000 residents, Deer Park doesn’t have enough jobs for everyone.

“People who live here love this community but have to travel someplace else, primarily to Spokane, for work. Our employee pool is so strong; the labor pool is exceptional,” Knight says.

Tortorelli says Spokane-based Avista Corp. has committed to develop another project at the B & I Center. The Avista project would be a 30,000-square-foot service center that would replace Avista’s facilities in Deer Park’s city center. Avista is scheduled to start construction in August, Tortorelli says.

He says the business park has drawn interest from other businesses, though he declines to name them.

Doug Knight says all three Knight companies are growing and may be adding workers before the year ends.

Knight Construction expects to generate $24 million in revenue in 2017; Knight Wall Systems, between $8 million and $9 million; and Knight EZ Dock, $4 million, he says. In June 2008, Knight told the Journal that Knight Construction generated $12 million in revenue in 2007.

Knight says the family is in the process of restructuring ownership of the businesses because the parent company expects to generate $38 million in revenue this year, which will exceed the $36.5 million required by the federal government to remain classified as a small business.

“When you get over that amount, now you’re competing for contracts with big companies like GE, which is something we just can’t do,” Knight says.

The final business configuration hasn’t been determined, he says.

Knight says the creation of Knight EZ Dock in 2005 was an attempt to diversify the business and generate additional income. 

“It was just a really easy thing to get running,” Knight says.

EZ Dock Inc., based in Monett, Mo., was recruiting potential distributors and approached Knight Construction about the opportunity as it sought a foothold in the Inland Northwest.

“There’s probably about 15 dealers we sell EZ Dock to in northeast Washington. But along the way, we got really good at developing our own ramps and gangways and have the ability customize to whatever a customer needs,” he says.

But developing Knight Wall Systems proved to be a considerably more daunting task. The company had partnered with Woodinville, Wash.-based Stonel Inc., a subsidiary of a Finnish company called Stonel Oy, to manufacture an exterior wall panel system for covering aging and worn building exteriors.

“The plan was to have another cookie-cutter business. Let’s just say, that didn’t happen,” Knight says.

He declines to discuss specifics, saying only the business relationship between the two companies ended after a couple of years.

“We were into it for two years and didn’t sell a thing,” Knight says.

Knight Wall Systems eventually partnered with JRS Engineering Inc., in Vancouver, B.C., a few years ago to develop building wall panels that are energy efficient.

“It took a toll on my health, but Wall Systems is finally up and running,” Knight says.

 Kevin Blocker
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Reporter Kevin Blocker, a University of Colorado alum, is a rec league basketball addict. At age 47, he still sports a 32-inch vertical leap. He has three children, all of whom are hooked on hoops.

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