Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane Oldcastle Unit Acquired by Knife River

Valley facility now operates as Knife River Prestressed

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-Virginia Thomas
Crews work on a precast concrete component at what now is the Knife River Prestressed facility, in Spokane Valley. The operations there employ about 80 people.

Knife River Corp.’s parent company, North Dakota-based MDU Resources Group Inc., has acquired the Spokane Valley operations of Oldcastle Infrastructure Inc.

The acquisition gives Knife River a foothold in the Inland Northwest and provides the Spokane Valley facility with more opportunities to be involved in projects throughout Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. 

Tony Spilde, Knife River director of communications, marketing, and training, declines to disclose the terms of the transaction, which was completed Feb. 14.

The former Oldcastle precast and prestressed concrete manufacturing facility, which occupies 80 acres at 922 N. Carnahan, now is operating as Knife River Prestressed.

Spilde says about 80 former Oldcastle employees now work for Knife River at the Spokane Valley site.

“By combining, we’ve effectively doubled the size of our prestress operations (companywide),” Spilde says. “Because of that, we’re able to serve our customers better by sharing resources between both of our operations. We can meet tighter schedules, and we can get to places within our territory that we weren’t able to reach before.”

Prestressed precast concrete products are used as components in constructing wall panels, bridges, and parking garages. Precast products are growing in popularity due to the fact that components are created off site, then transported to the project site, where the structure is put together piece by precast piece. 

Precast concrete products are made by casting concrete in a reusable mold; once cured, the concrete component is transported to a construction site. Prestressed concrete typically is embedded with tensioned steel strands to provide the concrete component with added strength; it’s often used in construction of bridges.

Peter Gay, general manager of the Spokane Valley Knife River Prestress facility, says the transaction was spurred partially by Knife River’s growth in construction jobs in Washington and a rising demand for modular construction components.

Elsewhere, Knife River sells construction materials, such as rock for making concrete, as well as asphalt, prestressed and precast concrete, and rebar. The company’s additional services include concrete construction and asphalt paving.

Spilde says the Spokane Valley site operates in three main categories: commercial structures, bridge components, and architectural finishes.

Knife River was founded in Harrisburg, Oregon, in the 1950s before it was acquired by MDU. Its operations currently employ about 6,000 people in 15 states. MDU Resources reported 2019 earnings of $335 million, up from $272 million the previous year. Spilde says Knife River’s portion of the company saw 2019 earnings of $120.4 million, a 30% increase from the previous year. 

According to Knife River’s website, the company has acquired more than 80 companies since 1992.

Gay says Knife River intends to “invest in a new, modern facility in Spokane,” though he declines to discuss further details regarding a new facility.

“There are a lot of details that need to be figured out in terms of when and where and how much,” Gay says. “For the next six months to a year, it’s business as usual.”

Gay says that all employees were offered salaries at or above the level they received prior to the acquisition.

Knife River Prestress also is hiring an additional five to 10 employees, Gay says.

Prior to becoming an Oldcastle facility, the Spokane Valley site had been owned for decades by CPM Development Corp., then known as Central Pre-Mix Concrete Co. In 2012, Oldcastle Materials Inc. bought Central Pre-Mix Concrete.

The Spokane Valley facility has been involved in many Spokane-area construction projects, including in recent years the Davenport Grand Hotel, the Amazon.com Inc. distribution facility on the West Plains, and the Looff Carrousel remodel in Riverfront Park.

Outside of the Spokane area, Knife River Prestressed currently is involved in casting concrete components for the Seattle Center Area redevelopment project. Sales manager Blake Johnson says components are shipped to Seattle using an Airway Heights-based transportation company and are erected by a Post Falls company. 

“We’re bringing a lot of business to Spokane that would otherwise be done in other markets such as Portland or Seattle,” Johnson says.

Knife River Corp. had a presence in the area prior to acquiring the Spokane Valley site.

In 2015, Knife River bought a 165-acre rock quarry, at 9404 S. Cheney-Spokane Road, from Cheney-based Key Rock Sand & Gravel.

Two years later, Rathdrum, Idaho-based Interstate Concrete & Asphalt Co. acquired a new location in Colville as part of “an exchange of assets” with Knife River.

While Knife River’s recent acquisition means Oldcastle is no longer in the precast production market here, Oldcastle’s parent company, Dublin, Ireland-based CRH PLC, owns Central Pre-Mix Concrete Co. and Spokane Rock Products, both of which operate in Spokane Valley.

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the banking and finance industries. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys travelling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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