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Profile Article...Norcoast Mechanical, Inc.

Read the article about us.The following is a profile article on Norcoast Mechanical  that was published in the fall of 1995 in the magazine “The Alaska Contractor.”

Norcoast Mechanical Engineering and Contracting is about as busy as it can be right now, but the three owners, David Bathke, Bob Traeger, and Dennis Gregoire, aren’t complaining. The trio bought the mechanical contracting company, located in Anchorage at 6136 MacKay St., in 1986 and they haven’t looked back since.

“We started small and we’ve been growing,” said Bathke. “We’re working on steady growth – not trying to bid on too big of jobs – but we’re always looking forward.

Bathke attributes the company’s success to the dedication of the three owners. “It’s kind of like a tripod,” he said. They all support each other. Bathke said the clients always know an owner is on the job site, the employees know it, and the other partners know it too. If a question comes up on any side, it can be answered  quickly and accurately. While Traeger and Gregoire spend most of their time in the field, Bathke works from the office – coordination bidding and projects in-progress.

Despite being in the midst of their busy season, the atmosphere of the office is laid-back. The yard of the approximately 16,000 square foot lot is nearly empty this time of year, as are Traeger and Gregoire’s offices. They’re both on job sites with most of the equipment.

Bathke’s office is full of plans and drawings and the walls are covered with wind surfing and sailing memorabilia. A local rock ‘n roll station plays over the office stereo system and Bathke sends clients out the door with teal green baseball caps and gray coffee mugs emblazoned with the Norcoast logo.

The company was started in 1970 and originally called Sandstrom Mechanical. Jack Van Alstine bought it in 1974, the same year Traeger was hired. Gregoire joined in 1976, and Bathke, a University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate, spent the summers of 1981 and 1982 with the company before coming aboard full time in 1983.  Bathke said Van Alstine still stops by every now and then to check on things.

Traeger and Gregoire, both journeyman plumbers, have several years experience dealing with unique Alaska conditions, and Bathke is a registered mechanical engineer and has a professional engineer stamp. “I can either put on my engineer hat or my contractor hat,” he says.

This summer, Norcoast won bids on a good portion of the renovation and construction work from the Anchorage School District. “The school bond created a good influx of money,” Bathke said. “The school district is pretty much driving everyone in town right now.”

Norcoast works as a prime contractor where HVAC is the primary feature of the job, such as at Service and Bartlett high schools. But at Romig Jr. High and the new Southeast Anchorage Middle Schools, they fill the role of subcontractor and are involved in plumbing, boiler rooms, pumps, and such.

“Part of the trick is getting a mix of jobs so you get a steady work flow,” he said. “We don’t have all our eggs in one basket.”

Bathke said Norcoast will be working on the new Computer City store at Old Seward and Dimond through the winter as well as the new Southeast Anchorage School, the Campbell Creek Environmental Education Center and the new imaging center at Providence Hospital.

They use Plumbers & Pipefitter’s Union employees and Bathke said they try to juggle work enough to keep a stable base of about 20 employees. While most of their work remains in Anchorage, they do venture toward the valley and the peninsula for some jobs.

Bathke said private sector work is beginning to come up again after a long slump. When the three bought the company, he said , people thought they were crazy, because everyone else was just struggling to survive. “But it’s amazing how consistent the numbers have been if you look at them over time,” he said. “There’s always something. It’s just a matter of being sharp enough on the estimates and getting the work.”

The base for their continued growth, however, remains the tripod. Bathke said he is often perceived as “David Norcoast,” because he stays in the office, but it’s the combined strength of the owners that makes everything possible. They’re equal partners in every sense, he said. “The key this is having the three owners – we all make in happen.”

~ Courtesy “The Alaska Contractor”


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