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Lease Crutcher Lewis Announces New Leaders – and Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Lease Crutcher Lewis yesterday announced that Bart Ricketts current general manager of Lewis’ Oregon operations will become the next chief executive officer effective May of next year (2012).Bill Lewis current president and CEO will remain active in the business as chairman of the Board of Directors.

The transition marks the fifth generation of leadership since the company’s founding in 1886 by N.T. Lease in Great Falls Montana. Ricketts like previous CEOs comes from within the company ranks. Since joining the firm in 1995 he has held the positions of project manager senior project manager and director of preconstruction and has guided the company’s emergence as a leader in sustainable construction.

“Bart represents the best of the best talent in the industry. He has successfully grown our Oregon operations threefold during his tenure as general manager and most importantly lives the values of our company every day” says Lewis.

As part of this transition and effective immediately Seattle General Manager Gary Smith will be recognized as president Seattle operations and Ricketts as president Oregon operations. Jim Crutcher will assume the title of chairman emeritus.

“I am thrilled and honored to become the next CEO for Lease Crutcher Lewis” says Ricketts. “The company is extremely well positioned for the future with many strong leaders and its relentless focus on continuous improvement and innovation.”

Meanwhile Lease Crutcher Lewis is celebrating its 125th Birthday this year. Here’s some history of this active and long-standing AGC member:

In 1886 Bill Lewis’s great grandfather N.T. Lease founded a general contracting business that started the Lease Crutcher Lewis legacy. 125 years later Lewis says “It’s good to be here. We are coming out of the worst recession ever and celebrating the fact that we have weathered yet another storm. I believe it is because we have always had a strong commitment to doing the right thing…for both our core business and the community. Sometimes it’s powerful to just do what you say you’re going to do…pretty simple.”

Lease founded the company in Montana building residential and small commercial projects. In 1901 the company took on its first landmark project the Cascade County Courthouse in Great Falls MT. The three-story English Renaissance Revival building which was completed in 1903 for $250000 is still in use today and is now on the National Historic Register.

The company moved to Seattle in 1939 and the legacy of historically significant projects continued. The main terminal at Sea-Tac Airport was completed in 1949 Lincoln High School in 1959 and McMahon Hall at the University of Washington in 1966. During the 1950s the company found opportunity in Alaska and built several JC Penney stores. In the 1970s Lewis built Eaglepoint High School in Eaglepoint Oregon and a sewage treatment plant in North Bend. Lewis opened its Portland office in 1993 and has built more than 50 university facilities as well as numerous other projects there.

More recently significant Seattle area projects have included 16 continuous years at the Starbucks headquarters four buildings for Amazon’s headquarters numerous industrial and office projects for Boeing the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences the Garfield High School renovation and 11 years of continuous tenant improvement projects at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. A forte for Lewis has been downtown high rise office and residential buildings and the first of these was the 2nd & Seneca building built in 1991 better known as “The Green Dome”.

The company has always been innovative: utilizing techniques and technology that add value for clients. In the 1980s the company integrated computers into design and construction projects before most other contractors. In the 1990s Lewis built some of the regions first sustainable construction projects and has nearly 30 LEED projects built to date including the Platinum certified East Portland Community Center Natatorium. In 1997 Lewis built the first class M1 clean room for Matsushita. More recently through its extensive use of Virtual Design and Construction and lean construction principles Lewis has been setting records. The West 8th office tower completed in 2008 used Just-in-Time delivery and other lean practices to set new records for cycle times on concrete forms for the core.

Company leadership over the years has remained strong because of deliberate succession planning and the development of talented employees. Company presidents N.T. Lease Howard Lease Jim Crutcher and Bill Lewis all started in the rank and file. Jim’s first job was as an estimator on Seattles Lincoln High School in 1958. Bill began as a project manager on the Bay Vista Tower Condominiums completed in 1982. General Managers Gary Smith (Seattle) and Bart Ricketts (Portland) both started as project managers.

The sense of employees being part of the Lease Crutcher Lewis family is longstanding. “In 2008 we launched an employee stock ownership plan” said President Bill Lewis. “It supports our philosophy that everyone is empowered to work in the best interest of every client the company and each other.” Today 100 percent of salaried employees are owners through the ESOP.

Lewis personnel have always had a strong commitment to the communities in which they do business. N. T. Lease was the mayor of Great Falls MT in 1913. Since then many company leaders have held key roles in community and industry organizations. The Howard Lease and James P. Crutcher educational endowments were established as part of the AGC Education Foundation to provide scholarships for young people in the industry. The company also supports a generous charitable contributions matching program for employees.

When asked the question “What’s next?” Bill Lewis responds “We will continue to serve clients in a diverse set of markets and play to our core strength which is being entrepreneurial and innovative. Initiatives like Lewis Lean will benefit our clients as it streamlines the construction process and adds value to each project we build. I am looking forward to the next cycle.”

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