Wall company expands to Tumwater

Oregon’s Pacific Wall Systems sees industry change with labor shortage and need for prebuilt pieces

rboone@theolympian.comApril 6, 2014 

  • PACIFIC WALL SYSTEMS

    Owners: Family-owned business headed up by President and CEO Alex Knecht.

    Location: Business has opened new assembly plant in Tumwater; headquarters is in Central Point, Ore., near Medford.

    Years in business: Seven.

    Type of business: Pacific Wall Systems makes prebuilt exterior and interior walls.

    Employees: About 30 in Tumwater.

    Online: pacificwallsystems.com.

    Advice to business owners: Underpromise and overdeliver, co-owner Nancy Mansfield said. Don’t get distracted by the little stuff, but focus on the big picture for your business, she added.

    Did you know? Pacific Wall Systems supplied walls for a 3,900-square-foot home that was built in Medford for the ABC show “Extreme Makeover” in 2011.

A 7-year-old Oregon company called Pacific Wall Systems has brought its brand of business to Tumwater, leasing a 20,000-square-foot warehouse space southwest of Interstate 5 at 93rd Avenue to make prebuilt interior and exterior walls.

In some ways, you could say the business has brought a little East Coast to rural Thurston County, co-owner Nancy Mansfield said.

Pacific Wall Systems President and CEO Alex Knecht — Mansfield’s brother — is a longtime builder in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, someone who is passionate about building and creating, she said.

But after two back surgeries he couldn’t frame walls and pound nails like he used to, so Knecht learned of and brought a building process common to the East Coast to Medford, Ore., in 2007, eventually expanding to nearby Central Point, Ore.

The process is manufacturing walls beforehand, then shipping them to construction sites. The contractor no longer has to build them on site, which takes up extra space during construction, or have to deal with excess wood on the site, Mansfield said.

It also reduces labor costs because not as many workers are needed if the walls are built off site, she added.

After the business opened in 2007, it landed some key projects, and then had to weather the recession. Many workers went without work for so long that they finally moved on with their lives and found work elsewhere. When the construction market finally improved, contractors couldn’t find the labor they needed and turned to Pacific Wall Systems for prebuilt walls, Mansfield said.

“I have projects but no one to build them,” she recalled the contractors saying at the time.

More business has brought them to Tumwater, where they are building walls for multifamily construction projects in the Seattle area.

An assembly line process is used to transform Douglas fir lumber into prebuilt walls, Tumwater plant manager Steve Frkovich said, and the plant produces about 1,200 lineal feet per day — or about four times the length of the warehouse they currently occupy, he said.

Frkovich said he is pleased with the location because it is so close to Interstate 5.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

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