At Williamsen & Bleid, Inc., one of the oldest companies in Oregon, business is all about keeping what works. Although the commercial and industrial painting contractor has changed hands four times in its 130 years, its foundational philosophies and business practices have remained a permanent fixture. The company is dedicated to fair pricing, consistency, communication, safety, and hard work, and this has brought the firm an enviable amount of repeat business .
The history of Williamsen & Bleid stretches back to 1881, when Reinholt Williamsen, an immigrant from Norway, established the business. He began by painting small projects around Portland, and by the turn of the century he was the largest painting contractor in the city. In 1921, he took on a partner, Frank Bleid, but after Bleid died unexpectedly eight years later, Reinholt turned the business over to his son, William, in the 1930s. William ran the business until 1974, when he sold it to Richard Nyland, a dedicated employee, and Mike Nyland bought the business from his father in 1984. By 1990 Mike, who is still company president today, had almost entirely phased out Williamsen & Bleid’s work in the residential sector, focusing the business instead on the commercial and industrial markets, where it continues to thrive today.
At a Glance
Commercial and industrial painting
“I attribute our success to three key factors: one, we are consistent in pricing and communication; two, we deliver projects on time; and three, we care about the end result, both financially and from a quality standpoint,” Mike says. Williamsen & Bleid places bids on numerous projects each year, and Mike estimates that good pricing is responsible for about 90 percent of the projects his firm is eventually awarded. “The remaining 10 percent is past history with our clients,” he says. Whether because of pricing or strong history, 99 percent of the company’s projects come from repeat business, which Mike attributes to his firm’s honesty and hard work as well.
The company also cares a great deal about its safety record. “We believe in providing our employees and the other trades—as well as the public—a safe and green environment in which to work,” Mike says. “Safety is essential to the profitability of any company.”
Williamsen & Bleid completes several hundred projects a year, with approximately 30 happening at any one time. The jobs range from $10,000 to $2 million, and because it occupies a niche market, the firm prefers to work on large projects with contractors it respects.
Two recent notable projects include the Mirabella Portland Retirement Community and Intel D1X. Williamsen & Bleid applied the paint, wall coverings, and exterior sealer on the 31-story retirement complex in early 2012. And 10 painters have spent more than six months painting the buildings that support Intel’s new facility; the project, which is nearly complete, entails more than 120,000 square feet of surface area.
Over its many years, Williamsen & Blied has acquired the skills necessary—including sand blasting, finishing installation, wallpapering, lead removal, and gold leafing—to tackle diverse challenges in its niche, and this too has been a part of its success. “I think what makes us unique is that we can handle any project we take on,” Mike says. “It might sound boring, but the people that taught me the industry had a very hard work ethic. They were honest people, and they cared. This is very much a nuts-and-bolts industry. So, if you do your job, and you do it correctly, you’ll succeed.” ABQ