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Rock Creek construction work helps build local demoltion firm

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Bond-funded construction at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus is helping Michael Martin position his firm, Northwest Infrastructure, as a major player in excavation and demolition.

December 1, 2014

For Michael Martin, founding Northwest Infrastructure was a leap of faith. He began the Portland-based demolition company in 1997 with little experience and no equipment. But his determination led to one job after another, and today the firm is one of the city’s thriving Minority, Women and Emerging Small Businesses.

When Portland Community College sought bids for improvements funded by the 2008 Bond Program, Martin, 43, was ready for the challenge. NWI won the contract to partner with Portland’s Fortis Construction on the demolition work for Buildings 5 at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus. This summer, the firm demolished and removed 1,763 tons of materials, 98 percent of which was then recycled.

Martin employs at least 15 workers in the off-season, and up to 25 at busier times of the year. He began his career as a roofer, then learned the construction trade, became an apprentice and eventually earned his contractor’s license. Because he didn’t have the budget required to buy equipment, he initially rented equipment and with his earnings slowly purchased his own.

Getting enough captial was the biggest challenge to growing his business, Martin says. Then it was “finding experienced people you can trust.”

Along the way, his family grew to seven children, who today range in age from 9 to 19.

NWI’s partnership with Fortis is a direct result of the PCC’s goal to reinvest bond dollars into the local economy, mentor smaller construction companies and spread work and opportunity to minority- and women-owned businesses and local vendors…

As with most construction projects, the work at PCC Rock Creek was not without challenges. Because of permit delays, the demolition work was accelerated, but NWI’s crew was able to meet the new deadline.

In addition, the gymnasium in Building 5 was left intact – and in active use – while NWI demolished the surrounding L-shaped structure and hauled the material away.

Kennedy Morgan, office manager at NWI, called it “a delicate operation” to protect the gym while performing the work – made even trickier by the discovery of wasps in the roof.

NWI also did some demolition for Rock Creek’s Building 7, built a lay down area for construction trailers, and helped with improvements on the school’s storm retention pond. Ninety-five percent of storm water for the property goes to the pond, and as it makes its way to the outlet the pond filters out sediment before it gets into the tributaries and streams outside campus.

Martin says NWI will also manage the utility work for the road that leads to the west side of campus from 185th Avenue. His firm plans to bid to perform the actual work of grading, laying electrical equipment and pouring concrete.

“As we continue to do projects out there we continue to get more familiar with the lay of PCC and working with them in the hopes that next year we’ll be a part of the infrastructure package,” says Martin.

For the long-term, Martin has set his sights higher. “We want to be a major player in excavation and demolition,” he says. “I want to be a civil general contractor.”

NWI’s partnership with Fortis is a direct result of the PCC’s goal to reinvest bond dollars into the local economy, mentor smaller construction companies and spread work and opportunity to minority- and women-owned businesses and local vendors.

Thanks to the passage of the 2008 voter-approved capital construction program, PCC is investing more than $63 million to build, renovate and upgrade the Rock Creek Campus. Open since 1976, the 256-acre campus is located in the rapidly growing Beaverton- Hillsboro area and accommodates almost 26,000 students annually.

The campus is home to the college’s highly coveted welding, veterinary, landscape and building construction programs. These programs have had the unique advantage of the bond construction work as a living laboratory, giving students an opportunity to learn first-hand construction trades such as pouring concrete slabs and framing buildings.

PCC’s 2008 voter-approved $374 million bond program is increasing opportunities for residents to access quality, affordable higher education close to where they live and work. Additional classrooms, updated equipment and technology, and advanced workforce training programs are helping to pave the way for future employment options. For more information, visit www.pcc.edu/about/bond/about.