Hanging in the hallways of Bradshaw and Associates Inc. are as many photos of employees displaying freshly caught fish as there are of the contractor’s award-winning plastering, fireproofing and commercial carpentry projects.
As company president Ken Bradshaw settles behind his desk for an interview, he invites every available employee — manager of operations Pat Brashler, bookkeeper Lori Novak and project manager Cynthia Izon (who happens to be Ken’s daughter) — to join him.
That’s the kind of place Bradshaw and Associates is: a family place. Bradshaw’s son also works for him, as well as two grandkids. At least three of Brashler’s kids have worked for the company.
“Having that family-run type business, I think, is important,” Brashler said. “We all look out for each other.”
Improving things behind the scenes
He’s speaking literally: Bradshaw is one of Alaska’s leading subcontractors, offering fireproofing, commercial carpentry and exterior insulation finishing systems (EIFS). Employees often find themselves working in remote parts of Alaska where, if something goes wrong, help isn’t just a simple phone call away.
But he’s also speaking about the work he and Bradshaw do behind the scenes — on AGC and union committees — to improve wages, working conditions, training and retirement for workers.
With an average workforce of 20 to 25 employees, Bradshaw and Brashler have found creative ways to keep their workers employed throughout winter months when construction in Alaska slows: Their market recovery program allows employees to invest a small amount to help Bradshaw secure private work, which in turn keeps workers employed through leaner months — and provides a significant return on investment.
“These guys, they deserve pensions, they deserve insurance,” Brashler explained. “As trustees, we try to protect their retirement. And we don’t want them to work 10-hour days, seven days a week, all summer then lay them off all winter long. It’s important our guys are taken care of.”
Adapting to demand
When Bradshaw observes, “I’ve got a pretty good history in construction,” it’s an understatement. The 76-year-old started in the industry at age 14 and established a plastering and commercial carpentry business in Oklahoma in 1984. When he came to Alaska, it was to help build the Nesbett Courthouse; eventually, he took his plastering and fireproofing expertise and struck out on his own, forming Bradshaw and Associates Inc.
Later, he hired Brashler, who brought with him 40 years of plastering expertise, to be his manager of operations. Today, as one of the only companies in Alaska bonded for EIFS and stucco applications, Bradshaw and Associates has both the expertise and a willingness to adapt to industry changes, often actively seeking ways to stay ahead of its competition.
“There was a real need to do swimming pools up here, so we got into pool plastering,” Brashler said. “Now we’re the expert on pool plastering. When the Glenn Massay Theater in the Valley wanted Venetian plastering, we brought a trainer up from California to train all our guys. Now that’s another feather in Ken’s hat — diversifying to do other things.”
“It was a type of plaster you don’t usually see up here,” said Mike Shaw, president of Roger Hickel Contracting, with whom Bradshaw worked on the theater. “Bradshaw’s work was very good, and they were easy to work with.”
That project — blue polished Vero decorative plaster walls that look like suede — demonstrates the versatility of EIFS, which offers both the insulation Alaska buildings require while offering virtually unlimited color and texture options. Bradshaw has been able to apply up to 13 inches of insulating foam to bring up the R value on its clients’ buildings, finishing with exteriors that mimic brick, marble, limestone, metal and more.
An uncommon specialty
Bradshaw is also the only UL-certified fireproofing company in the state. Cynthia Izon, who manages the company’s fireproofing projects, is practically a part-time detective, checking and rechecking codes, helping architects determine which products can and should be used on a project — even hunting down the origin of certain materials.
“A client will want us to do a patch-and-repair, and I’ll have to pull pieces of it off and send it to the source,” she explained. “It’s 30 years old — ‘Here’s this material, is it yours?’ ”
“Fireproofing is a life safety issue, so it’s really specific,” Izon added. “It’s something nobody really wants to do because it’s itchy and dirty and the products are temperature-sensitive.”
That doesn’t stop her from personally visiting job sites, from the Dena’ina Civic Center (a $625,000 fireproofing project), to hospitals in Fairbanks and Nome, to the high school and a missile launch pad blast tunnel in Kodiak, where materials had to be flown in or delivered via barge.
Bradshaw rounds out its services with specializations in metal studs, drywall and acoustical ceilings — work that, along with EIFS, stucco and fireproofing, has earned the company several industry awards including Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau awards for the Glenn Massay Theater, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Machetanz Elementary School and Stanton Optical.
But the company is never too busy to give back. Bradshaw joined forces with Habitat for Humanity, furnishing material and labor for the exterior finish EIFS energy saving system, with a full 6 inches of insulating foam, on a house for a family who’d lost their previous home to a fire. Bradshaw’s employees have also completed projects for Heartreach Center in the Valley.
“I think giving back to the community is important,” Brashler said. “Sometimes when you give, you receive 10 times more.
Jamey Bradbury is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.