Jay Frawner, owner and president of Frawner Corp., never expected his company to reach such a high level of diversity when he started it 17 years ago, but his small road-bore operation expanded quickly after 2002 when he received funding through a Native American Aid program.
Shortly after its inception, Frawner Corp. picked up an array of general contracts for civil, mechanical and carpentry projects around Alaska. Frawner attributes his company’s development of full-service management to three main factors.
“I’ve surrounded myself with good, intelligent people,” Frawner said. “And we’ve taken a couple of risks here and there. Our diverse skill set keeps the ball rolling. It allows us to stay competitive.”
Frawner Corp. specializes in general and utility construction in addition to commercial and industrial mechanical, civil and trenchless technologies. Frawner has augmented his company’s capabilities by adding a fleet of heavy equipment, allowing it to complete much of its work in-house while keeping subcontracts at a minimum.
“When people ask what we do, it’s kind of hard to answer,” Frawner said. “We do a lot of things. We are not just a general contractor.”
Nick Hebnes, project manager for Frawner Corp., said the company’s unique talents are most apparent when it comes to trenchless technologies. Horizontal directional drilling is a steerable, trenchless method of installing underground pipes, conduits and cables with minimal impact on the adjacent area.
Depending on the environmental conditions, Frawner Corp. can bore up to 2,000 feet in length, with hole diameters ranging from 2 to 36 inches. Another method known as auger boring is ideal for areas that require specific grades and elevations of the bore in areas accessible only from one end of the bore.
The auger removes excavated material out the back of the bore pipe to create a clean bore for underground pipes and utilities. Trenchless technologies have a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to completing work with little disruption at a high-traffic job site.
“We were working on Northern Lights and Benson, west of Minnesota, on a water main,” Hebnes said. “And from ground level it looked like there was just this pit. No one really knew the complexity of the project.”
As with any kind of specialized technology, Hebnes admits there are challenges. While the impact to the environment is minimal, often Frawner is dealing with unknown elements. If workers hit an obstruction, they won’t know exactly how it could potentially affect the project until it has been dug up.
“There are often reasons for using trenchless technologies versus other methods,” Hebnes said. “So problems can be magnified anytime you go underground this way. However, the benefits often outweigh the risks in terms of less disruption to the environment and activities in the surrounding area.”
Innovative skills coupled with efficient equipment has resulted in a long list of successfully completed projects. Among the most notable, Hebnes said, have been the renovation and design-build projects for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and utility and sewer projects for Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility.
From expanding living and working facilities at JBER to improving AWWU water infrastructure, Frawner Corp. has added to its solid reputation. Hazin Yunis, chief of project management for the JBER 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron, has worked with Frawner Corp. since the beginning; he said he is always willing to recommend its services, given its high-quality work.
“Frawner is easy to work with, very conscientious, pays attention to detail, insists on good workmanship and provides courtesy and respect for personnel and property, which contributed to successful projects on base,” Yunis said. “They know what the base wants.”
Frawner Corp. is slated to work on a vehicle barrier system for the JBER 673rd Civil Engineer Squadron this summer in addition to several projects with other JBER project managers.
Frawner has 20 to 30 employees who work year-round, a number that rises to 45 at peak season.
Frawner Corp. has been a member of AGC since 2005. Frawner said AGC membership provides important networking and educational opportunities that keep his company relevant, and his firm frequently takes advantage of services such as AGC’s online plans and participates in organizational events throughout the year.
As for the future, Hebnes is positive that Frawner Corp. can navigate the state’s economic changes.
“We aren’t cornered into a single type of work,” Hebnes said. “We have a lot of different irons in the fire between military and city contracts. We will be able to handle the ups and downs of our industry.”
Frawner said a successful business is as much about mental perspective as it is actual operations: “In order to run a successful business, you can’t run a business on fear.”
Rachael Kvapil is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Fairbanks.