Seattle construction firm scores UW’s 2007 Distinguished Business Achievement Award

by Brad Broberg
Contributing Writer, Puget Sound Business Journal

Recalling the birth of Marpac Construction takes Don Mar back to some dark days.

Mar was working for his father’s general contracting business, Pacific Components, when the company won a contract to re-roof the Kingdome in Seattle. The work included pressure-washing the roof. After leaks caused ceiling tiles to come loose, Pacific Components was awarded a second contract to repair the tiles.

During the repairs, a crane belonging to a subcontractor collapsed, killing two workers. The legal fallout “pretty much put an end to my father’s company,” said Mar. “There is no way to explain how bad it was.”

With their father’s company ruined, Don and his brother, Doug, started their own general contracting business, Marpac Construction LLC, in 1994.

The Mar brothers were not an overnight success. In fact, when Don offered a University of Washington classmate, Herman Setijono, a job with the company, he told him he didn’t know when he’d be able to pay him.

“It was pretty rough the first year or two,” Mar said.

While the early years were rough, they also were exhilarating.

“Whatever our idealistic minds could think of, we tried,” Mar said.

Still, as a new company owned by minorities, they fought to get their foot in the door.

“The only people who wanted to work with us in the beginning were people who felt sorry for us,” Mar said. “They tended to be other minority-owned businesses or nonprofit housing groups.”

After struggling to survive, Marpac gradually began to thrive.

Today, the Seattle company employs 81 people and expects revenues to climb to $40 million in 2007, earning it the University of Washington Foster Business School’s Distinguished Business Achievement Award.