Member Profile - Dawson Construction LLC

Primary market is Southeast Alaska, but specialty is stellar customer service

By Kevin Klott

AGC Summer Member Profile Dawson Construction LLC

Afraction of a second is all it takes to form a first impression about a person. The same could be true in the world of construction, especially while working with a contractor for the first time.

Tracy Vanairsdale of Bettisworth North Architects and Planners learned this quickly after working with Dawson Construction LLC on the Haines K-12 addition and remodel project in 2007. The $13.7 million project not only consolidated all grades into one building but also generated a mutual respect between Bettisworth North and Dawson Construction.

“That school was our first project together, and it was the beginning of a great relationship between our firms,” Vanairsdale said. “We have since done the Ketchikan Fire Station, the Ketchikan library, the Valdez middle school and the Skagway Public Safety Facility.”

Projects along Alaska’s coastal and outlying regions are Dawson Construction’s specialty. The company excels at the planning and logistics needed to coordinate transportation, materials, resources and subcontractors in these markets, said Pete Dawson of Dawson Construction LLC.

With 45-plus years of experience in Alaska and Washington, Dawson Construction has grown into one of the leading general contractors in the region.

The Dawson family legacy began in 1943 and spans three generations. Since it began, Dawson has grown to about 130 employees. With its primary market in Southeast Alaska, Dawson is managed and staffed out of Juneau with construction yards in Juneau and Ketchikan. The company has worked in other areas of Alaska and Northwest Washington. It even hopped across the Bering Strait to complete a project in Russia.

Current projects include a marine exchange in Juneau and a Water Street rehabilitation project in Ketchikan.

In Juneau, Dawson is also constructing the new vessel tracking facility, which is being built on a pile deck foundation. In Ketchikan, Dawson Construction crews began work in June 2016 on the removal and replacement of a trestle bridge for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

“This project has come full circle,” Dawson said, “as Dawson rebuilt this same bridge back in 1974.”

When asked what past projects the company is most proud of, Dawson highlighted these five:

  • Denali National Park Eielson Visitor Center: The first LEED Platinum project in Alaska features various renewable energy strategies, making its remote location more sustainable (accessible by vehicles only from mid-May to mid-September).
  • Walter Soboleff Center (Sealaska Heritage Institute): This beautiful cultural heritage center was constructed on a constricted site in busy downtown Juneau.
  • Gilson Middle School in Valdez: Value engineering yielded $500,000 in savings, and the project was delivered four months ahead of schedule so students could begin the year in the new school.
  • Ketchikan Shipyard Improvements: Multiple contracts were fast-tracked to deliver a modern ship production facility a full season early. The shipyard space can accommodate 95 percent of the marine vessels operating in the Southeast region.
  • Haines Schools Replacement: Construction took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which caused an escalation of construction prices nationwide. Dawson worked with the owner to ensure the project could be built within its budget, regardless of the construction price escalations.

Karl Reiche, a project manager for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, worked closely with Dawson Construction on the $45 million Ketchikan Shipyard improvement project in 2010. He couldn’t give enough praise for Dawson Construction’s professionalism.

“DCI (Dawson Construction Inc.) worked well as a team member, along with the owner (AIDEA), the shipyard operator (Vigor Industrial) and the engineer (URS) to make the best use of project funds,” Reiche said. “DCI was able to deliver all phases while working in an active and congested shipyard.”

As the project manager, Reiche said he worked closely with Dawson Construction and would recommend the company to any business owner or public agency looking for a top-notch general contractor.

“DCI’s organization has many experienced and capable staff,” he said. “In particular, I extend thanks to Gary Hovde (DCI project manager) and Bob Dunbar (DCI superintendent) for making the project a success.

“Both Gary and Bob are experienced senior staff. The project benefited from their ability to run an efficient organization, pick capable subcontractors and suppliers, resolve issues, negotiate fairly and to commission a complex project.”

Dawson Construction Inc. recently restructured to become Dawson Construction LLC and is now under the joint ownership of several employees.

Working construction runs deep in the Dawson family.

It began with J.C. “Clint” Dawson, who was selected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help build a 90-mile stretch of the Alaska Highway near Skagway during World War II.

When Clint’s son, Jack Dawson, graduated high school, he joined his father as a jobsite laborer. In 1950, Jack worked his first project in King Salmon. Nine years later, he and Larry Strengholt founded a construction company in Alaska and Washington, but they eventually parted ways. After the split, Jack started Dawson Construction Co.

Pete Dawson, son of Jack Dawson, followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by working in the construction industry. Pete worked for companies outside the family business, but in 1997 he eventually transitioned into ownership of Dawson, which then became Dawson Construction Inc.

Dawson Construction takes prides in family, but it’s not the only thing.

“Dawson prides itself on being a customer service-oriented contractor, and we always strive to do the right thing on behalf of our clients,” Pete Dawson said.

This philosophy has resulted in never having a project end in litigation while under Pete Dawson’s leadership.

Dawson Construction has been an AGC member since 2014. Pete Dawson listed several benefits for members: excellent training and certification opportunities; lobbying on behalf of the industry and keeping members apprised of regulatory changes; helping create a common bond with peers to facilitate industry innovation and improvement; and offering resources and education to improve construction safety.

Not only is there strength in being AGC members but also strength within a company that takes pride in delivering an excellent project.

“We are a group of problem-solvers who push each other to constantly learn and improve,” Dawson said. “Our people are experts at planning, logistics and problem-solving as a result of working primarily in remote and semi-remote regions.”

Kevin Klott is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.