Mitch Neeley and Pat Oda

ABC helps business take advantage of retro program

MITCH NEELEY AND PAT ODA - Neeley Construction

Mitch and Pat_2 (1)

Mitch Neeley is the third-generation owner and president of Neeley Construction. Mitch’s Grandfather started the company in the late 1950s. When he turned 16, Mitch started working at Neeley as a laborer – his father handed him the keys to a beat-up truck and gave him direction to a worksite. “That's about all the hand holding my Dad gave me to get out into the working world and earn my own respect,” Mitch recalled. He later attended Washington State University and graduated with a degree in construction management. Mitch spent 10 years at Lydig Construction before returning to Puyallup in 2009 to rejoin Neeley Construction. In 2015, Mitch took over as president.

Pat Oda is Business Development Manager at Neeley Construction, joining the company as Project Manager in 2012 and “semi-retiring” this year. Pat discovered drafting in junior high school and excelled at it, going onto vocational school and a decade long career in drafting. After first being offered an earlier position as project manager, Pat jumped into construction management. Pat has been involved with ABC of Western Washington (ABCWW) for 37 years, bringing a wide-range of experience to both Neeley Construction and ABCWW.

We recently caught up with Mitch and Pat to see how they’ve been doing, to hear how Neeley Construction has grown over the years and ABCWW’s support for the industry.

Mitch, how has Neeley Construction expanded over the years?

When my Dad operated the business, he kept it generally small. Neeley was doing one to two projects at a time. He was mostly focused on public work, specifically on K-12 construction, so the company built a lot of schools over that time. When I moved back over here, it was a goal of mine to grow the business to where I felt that it was more sustainable. I let the business grow organically as time went by, when I’d find good people or they’d come to me – Pat is a good example. So, we’ve grown over time to where we do about five to six projects at a time. We’ve been able to increase revenues over five times what they were in 2009 and we are comfortable with where we’re at now.

About five years ago, we also started working up in Port Angeles and expanded our operations there. We set up an office, opened a storefront in town and have a full team there. We thought it was a great opportunity to move into that area and bring our resources to that market. I think that’s been a unique part of our business in recent years.  

How did you first get involved with ABCWW?

Mitch: When we (Neeley Construction) first got in touch with Pat, we were not involved with any trade association. I had been looking for something and wanted to be involved, but was also trying to find an organization that had a good Retro program. Pat had been very involved in ABCWW in his prior roles at different general contractors, so when he came on board he highly encouraged me to consider ABCWW. So, we signed up as members.

Three or four years ago we put one of our young project managers through the ABCWW Rising Stars program. That eventually morphed into me getting more involved, and I’ve been serving on the board since early this year. At ABCWW, we also started the Legal Action Committee last year, which is mostly attorneys with a few contractor representatives, and I have been involved with that.

Pat: The very first general contractor I worked for introduced me to ABCWW and I’ve been involved since 1983. I started taking the classes they offered and began to get involved with the Membership Committee. Over the years, I’ve sat on the board, served as chapter president in 1997 and have been involved with the Diversity Committee since its inception, among other roles.

What impact has ABCWW membership had on your career?

Pat: ABCWW has probably been the single biggest impact on my career. They really helped me grow over the years. I was fairly young when I first got involved and the leadership training and all of their educational resources were huge for me. Anytime you step up for a leadership role at ABCWW you would receive leadership training and that has helped me in my career. I know that I would not have been as successful if not for my participation and involvement with ABCWW.  

Another area where ABCWW has had a big impact has been through networking and everyone I’ve met through the organization. If I ever had a question there was always someone I could reach out to. At one point, I was working for a family-owned company and the father wanted to step down and he asked me take the reins in the interim period, before his son could take over. I hadn’t done a lot of the work related to that role before and I was able to seek advice from fellow ABCWW members. That gave me important insights. Having reliable connections in the industry is a great benefit of ABCWW membership.

How has ABCWW supported Neeley and other contractors in the industry? 

Mitch: There are a couple different things to highlight here. ABCWW provides some really great support and resources to contractors, whether it’s through their great safety program or their Retro program and those benefits. We’ve used many of their resources to help create our safety program at Neeley Construction. There are all the educational resources as well, which provide support for many aspects of the business. We’ve had a few of our people involved with leadership training and ABCWW’s Rising Stars program. It’s also nice to just have a group of contractors that you can meet, connect with and bounce ideas off. Being around people dealing with similar issues and problems together is really helpful.

Also, there’s definitely a strong financial standpoint to membership. ABCWW has one of the best Retro programs in the state. That can be a very significant benefit to a business. If we weren’t in a Retro program then we would get nothing back from the state (L&I), but by being involved with ABCWW we get very significant dollars back that help us continue to support and operate the business.

Tell us how it feels to finish a project and see the tangible impact you’ve made.

Mitch: What’s awesome about our business is that we create a product that is very meaningful, specifically in our K-12 work. We always keep in the back of our minds that we’re building something for our community, for kids – it’s super rewarding to get a school opened on time and see kids that are enjoying it, really appreciating it. To see the excitement of the staff and the kids is definitely rewarding.

Pat: At the end of the day, you're building something that's physical. You can stand back and look and admire it, see that you have had a small part in that whole project. Mitch said it well, the thing about the construction industry is that we work with different people and build long-lasting relationships. These projects are massive undertakings with so many different moving pieces. When it all comes together it is very rewarding.

What about the multi-generational impact?

Mitch: In our region, Neeley Construction has probably built 40 to 50 schools. It’s pretty cool for me to drive around with my Dad and him just pointing out the schools that he did over the years. You recognize the impact you’ve had on the community and on the region.

When I first moved my family back here, to western Washington, we weren’t looking for specific areas. The neighborhood we moved to was part of a little school district that only has two elementary schools and a middle school. If you walk into either of the elementary schools, there are dedication plaques on the front of each school that say who the architect was, who the school board was and who the general contractor was. So, my kids got to go to an elementary school built by Grandpa. That’s a cool source of pride, both for them and for my Dad.

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