Fisher & Sons Inc.
- Written by: Camila Osorno
- Produced by: Chuck McKenna
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Fisher & Sons Inc. (FSI) is a leading general contracting firm in the Northwest with a history dating back more than 50 years. The company is unique in that it was among the first to offer design-build construction services with an in-house team of architects, designers and construction managers. The Burlington, Wash.-based company – a subsidiary of privately held Fisher Companies Inc. – was recently named among the Top 10 contractors by volume in the state of Washington. The company provides design-build services to customers in commercial, retail and industrial sectors throughout the United States, completing projects for clients as far east as Michigan, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.
In addition to design services and construction management, the firm’s LEED Accredited Professionals offer pre-construction services, process design, equipment coordination and installation services, making it a popular choice among firms looking to build food processing, manufacturing and cold storage/distribution facilities.
Though the company has a wide range of clients in the retail, medical, manufacturing and industrial markets, the firm has seen considerable growth in the highly specialized markets of food processing and cold storage construction. During the recent economic downturn, these markets have provided a particularly strong base. “Most of what we’re working on at the moment is in the food processing, cold storage/distribution markets,” affirms company President Dan Powers, “Though we do have several smaller retail projects that have broken ground recently.”
The company’s team has designed and built over 100 food processing, cold storage and distribution projects in North America, reinforcing the value of the company’s single-source project approach and ability to meet tight timelines and budgets without compromising quality.
“We first got into building for the food industry in the early ’90s when nearby Twin City Foods’ facility burnt to the ground. We were fortunate enough to be invited to help rebuild it,” says Powers. “It was a design-build project that took us 11 months to produce, which is much, much faster than the conventional design-bid-build approach. On top of that, it was a very specialized market niche that is fairly recession-proof.”
Powers has been in a management position at FSI since 2006. Having earned a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Portland, he combines a background in engineering with a natural business savvy. Powers understands the importance of working with good people. “We employ some of the most talented and experienced professionals in the industry and we work especially hard to make sure that training is prioritized,” asserts Powers.
As clients seek solutions to challenging projects, FSI continues to sharpen its competitive edge through developing new technologies such as BIM (Building Information Modeling). With BIM software, FSI’s design team creates a virtual 3-D building that can be virtually walked-through, all before a shovel of real dirt has been turned. FSI uses BIM to visually represent the building from different angles with different design elements, and test the building’s energy efficiencies and constructability before it is built. To continue to stay ahead of the pack, the company maintains professional affiliations with the AIA, the Associated General Contractors, the US Green Building Council, the International Association of Cold Storage Contractors, the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses, and the Northwest Food Processors Association.
A High-profile Portfolio
The firm’s extensive expertise in the processing field has garnered the company considerable notice from some of the food industries’ giants. Currently, FSI is working on a project for one of its newest clients, Amway’s Nutrilife division. “We are working with them to build a new facility that will process spinach, dehydrating and converting it into powder form for supplements,” says Powers.
In 2010, the firm completed the construction of a new state-of-the-art processing facility in Delhi, La., for Lamb Weston, a brand of ConAgra Foods. The new facility, which processes sweet potatoes, is the first frozen food processing plant to obtain LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council. The project represents a commitment by all involved to create a facility that reduces waste. It was a successful balancing of state-of-the-art technology with sustainable building options.
To qualify for the LEED Platinum distinction, the building incorporates a wide range of eco-friendly features, including low VOC materials, energy-saving thermal insulation, energy-efficient equipment and no-irrigation landscaping. An amazing 80 percent of the construction waste was recycled in one way or another. To add to the plant’s continued commitment to reduce energy use, FSI built an anaerobic digester that captures bio-gasses from the processing waste and returns the gas to the plant as operating energy.
In fact, ConAgra was so impressed by the company’s performance that it recently contracted with FSI to build a supporting facility at the same location. “We’re in the middle of building a sweet potato storage facility adjacent to the Lamb Weston facility, so we’re happy to be working in Louisiana again,” says Powers. “Over the years we have been among ConAgra’s biggest builders. It’s always a good sign when you’re invited back.”
The Expertise that Makes a Difference
In the past 12 months, FSI has celebrated the grand openings of two new cold storage facilities, Americold in Delhi, Louisiana and Versacold in Tacoma, Wash., both are now owned by Americold Reality Trust, managing 182 facilities around the world.
Located within a mile of the Port of Tacoma’s ocean carrier terminals, the 197,000-square foot VersaCold facility will help bridge the company’s West Coast operations. The $30 million facility provides cooler, freezer and ice cream storage space, complete with refrigerated dock space and USDA, FDA, USDC and FSIS inspection services, intended to serve seafood, agriculture and food processing clients.
VersaCold took extra measures to extend the life-cycle of the building and its energy efficiency. Designed by FSI Architects, FSI’s design group, the building’s advanced refrigeration system, state-of-the-art control system and specialized roofing and wall insulation make it require less energy to operate. Versacold also invested in specialized freezer doors, truck doors and dock boards to minimize thermal losses – earning the company over three-fourths million in energy credits. The Versacold project ultimately won a regional award for Best Industrial Project 2010.
Rolling off of FSI’s recent successes, Powers expects to find even more growth in the coming years. “These were game-changing projects for us and it was a great opportunity to be able to prove ourselves in a market as east as Louisiana,” says Powers. “We have a very strong presence on the West Coast, but we are always looking for new projects. We have been working with some of the biggest food processing and distribution companies in the nation and expect to grow our presence nationally.”
It’s through FSI’s concept-to-completion expertise that the company has established itself firmly as a single-point of accountability delivering superior teamwork and comprehensive communication to clients. FSI’s consolidated team continues to deliver buildings that meet all objectives through a process that promotes integrity, quality, innovation, safety, sustainability and profitability. Fifty years of dedication to the customer and a team of well-seasoned employees are sure to carry Fisher & Sons Inc. through the next 50 as it continues to deliver fast-track, value-engineered projects throughout the food processing, cold storage and warehousing sectors and beyond.
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