Northwest Partitions Inc. (NWP) is one of the most reputable interior and exterior wall and ceiling union contractors in the Northwest. The Washington-based company has built a respected reputation for quality metal stud framing, drywall, fire-stopping, thermal and acoustical insulation service.
“We have established ourselves through repeat business,” explains James Kahler, vice president of NWP. “Relationships are what give us the edge when prices are close on bids; it’s often the difference in landing the job or not. We are always striving to perform better and to keep our clients happy.”
As the second-generation of leadership, James has had a hand in the family company since his father, Rick Kahler, started NWP in 1982. “My father was originally working for a competitor,” reveals James. “He worked his way up from truck driver and stocker to estimator and project manager before moving on to launch his own business.”
James has always been his father’s right-hand man. “I have been involved in the business since I was young,” he recalls. “I worked through the summers while I was in high school before attending the University of Washington where I received my degree in construction management.”
Based in Kent, Wash., NWP serves the western part of Washington State through a union workforce. “Right now, we are at about 100 employees, but that number varies,” shares James. “Since we are a union contractor, we have the ability to scale up and scale down based on our workload.”
NWP is a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish counties. The MBA is the nation’s largest local homebuilders association, serving the greater Seattle area. The company teamed up with the MBA to provide its employees outstanding health insurance while being part of a trusted source for industry professionals.
On Time and On Budget
James says NWP has worked hard to earn its reputation over the years. “Although we keep our prices competitive, we truly focus more on our professional quality work and delivering projects on time and on budget,” he remarks. “We are a very proactive and responsive company to work with. Our goal is to make it easy for the general contractors to get the job done. We have had a lot of positive feedback regarding our level of quality over the years.”
NWP’s jobs range in size and scope, including both public and private work, as well as a significant amount of education-related construction. “The majority of our work is in the commercial sector,” reveals James. “Occasionally we are involved in a high-end residential job; you’ll find these clients on a Forbes richest people list. We also self-perform 99 percent of what we do, ensuring quality construction.”
The company has recently been on the University of Washington (UW) campus, performing several multimillion dollar jobs. “This past fall we wrapped up an 18-month project for UW’s Husky Union Building,” details James. “Out of the $87 million in renovation costs, our contract was about $4 million. It was a complete gut and rebuild while maintaining architecturally significant elements, which made the renovation very challenging, but well worth it at the end of the day.”
NWP’s work on the Husky Union Building won the company an award from the Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau. “We found there was a substantial amount of additional work than anticipated, but the start and finish dates were set with little room to budge,” explains James. “We really had to step it up to reach completion.”
Also on the UW campus is the Mercer Court Apartments, which NWP recently completed in June 2013. “This project consisted of five new, eight-story wood and metal framed apartment buildings,” shares James. “Again, we were on a tight schedule, with little time to turn each floor on this $6.5 million contract. The project will allow for 552,000 square feet and 900 beds. At the peak of this job, we had about 100 crew members working simultaneously.”
Relying on Relationships
James reveals NWP has felt the pinch of the economic downturn, but it is the company’s longstanding customer relations that have kept the business a float. “There’s no doubt we have felt the effects of the downturn,” he says. “It’s a highly competitive market in the Seattle area, but we have trimmed our overhead and tried to be more efficient in the office and the field. Our well trained staff and tight project management guidelines have helped, as well, and there’s always a bit of luck.”
As far as NWP is concerned, James is optimistic. “I think we still have a few more years ahead to get back to a more normalized market,” he admits. “It’s hard to compete when your competitors are bidding so far under; I don’t see how they are even making their margins. At the moment we are in hunker down mode and capitalizing on past relationships to get us through.”
James also reveals that NWP is capable of jobs its competitors are not. “There are always projects we know we can land because we will tackle the difficult ones that other companies won’t,” he says. “We continue to focus on becoming a better company; progress is important.” Nonetheless, Northwest Partitions Inc. continues to thrive in Washington by building upon a solid foundation of deep rooted customer relationships.
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