Two divers, Konrad Schweiger and Kent Cochran, believed they could make it on their own. They founded a commercial diving business in Oregon City, Oregon, called Advanced American Diving Services, Inc. [AADS], in 1983. The two began investing in equipment and employees. Eventually they decided to branch out, exploring business opportunities to accompany the diving services. The thought was: if AADS could perform work under water, they could do it above water, too.
In 1999, AADS bought M. Cutter Company, which provided the equipment for use with industrial and marine clients. The companies worked collaboratively—doing a mixture of industrial, heavy-civil, and underwater construction—until they merged in 2003. At that time they changed the name to Advanced American Construction, Inc. [AAC] to better represent our business services.
We’ve found our different offerings have given us a great advantage. There aren’t a lot of companies that offer the combination of services we do, so our diversity has allowed us to grow as a company. When we come across a water bridge that has mechanical or lifting components, we are confident we can self-perform the entire project because we have the knowledge and equipment to construct it.
The John Day Navigational Gate and Dam is one example of a project we were awarded based on our expertise. The downstream navigational gate, located on the Columbia River, 109 miles east of Portland [in Oregon], was in need of replacement. We were chosen to complete the project because of our comfort on the water. Other contractors wanted to approach the project from land with an especially large crane. By accessing the gate from the water, we were able to use a smaller crane and ultimately be more competitive. In December 2010 we began working around the clock to remove and replace the existing gate one section at a time. This $18 million project required all on-site work to be completed in just 14 weeks.
Another notable project was the $5 million bearing replacement on the Ballard Bridge. The nearly five-million-pound bascule lift span on the Ballard waterway just north of Seattle needed to be lifted up to replace the main lift-span bearings. What made the project especially challenging is [that, while] the bridge remained [in a] closed position, trains still ran across the elevated bridge during construction. Only three six-hour train-free windows were allowed to replace the bearing. Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA, Inc. was our bonding agent on both of these projects.
Because of our niche and the customer relationships we’ve developed, we’ve been able to concentrate on projects in the western part of the United States. With the amount of work available and the elaborate infrastructure of the Corps of Engineers in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been able to support our business and stay fairly local.
Our outreaches are an 8–10 hour drive. We do work in northern California, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. We have a strong relationship with Burlington Northern; they’ve asked us to work on projects outside [what] we typically would, and we’re always glad to do so. Our diving operations reach into Colorado, Utah, Arizona, but those are typically short-term jobs.
As we continue to branch out, we’ll eventually expand beyond our region. I suspect our business will grow outward primarily through existing relationships. We are trying to have a scaled succession plan. We have different tiers of owners involved in keeping the company moving forward. We are interested in controlled growth, not to expand too quickly. We’ve been successful the past few years—nearly doubling in the last 10 years—and will continue to look for exceptional opportunities to expand. ABQ