John Noble

Signage and stadium logos

JOHN NOBLE - Washington Commercial Painters

John (1)

John Noble is the founder and vice president of Washington Commercial Painters. John grew up in the industry, working summers and learning the trade from his father. John’s grandfather and his three brothers, immigrants from Scotland, were also painters. The industry runs deep for John, who has found his niche in commercial painting.  

John started WCP in his garage in 1996. Today, the commercial painting company has grown locally and nationally – licensed in all 50 states – under his leadership. Through determination and partnerships, WCP has weathered downturns and expanded over two decades.

We recently caught up with John to see how he’s been doing, to hear how WCP has expanded over the years and ABC of Western Washington’s (ABCWW) help along the way.

How did growing up in the industry lead you to commercial painting?

My dad was a small painting contractor in the San Francisco Bay Area. I worked with him growing up. These guys were real craftsmen back then. They would mix their own colors, do a lot of stain work and a lot of craftsmanship work that we just don’t do a lot of now. I learned a lot through those experiences. Having a family history in the industry and growing up around it helped me find my passion in it.

In between, I spent 15 years commercially fishing. But in 1996 I sold out and came to Seattle. I started WCP in my garage and just worked up from there.

How has WCP evolved and expanded over the years?

We’re all commercial and have dabbled in some light industrial work. We do everything from wall coverings to specialty coating, everything in the commercial world of paintings. In 2001, we partnered with Turman Commercial Painters and that partnership has helped us grow ever since. The Great Recession was a time when we were able to find new opportunity. We had a huge backlog of work when the recession hit, so we were safe in the immediate aftermath. But we went beyond that and we found more work, not by chance but more by determination.

We got into the sign industry. We did a lot of bank remodels – many were rebranding at that time, of course. A friend put me in contact with a sign company in Philadelphia. That helped us get into exterior rebranding and we expanded nationwide. That was a huge opportunity for us and we continue to grow in that area to this day. We acquired a sign company in Houston and got into the graphics and digital wall coverings business, we also have printers up in Vancouver that produce stencils for wall coverings, for example.

You’ve also moved into painting stadium logos now?

Yes, that’s another niche we got into – roof logos and painting signs on the roofs of major stadiums around the nation. Oracle was the first one we did, CenturyLink Field was another. Others include the Denver Broncos practice facilities, Oregon Ducks stadium, the Predators in Tennessee and Ford Stadium in Detroit. Currently, we’ve been putting the T-Mobile on the old Safeco Field.

We’ve expanded nationally on different aspects of our business but have a big presence in this region: downtown Seattle; Vancouver, WA; Portland; and Spokane.

Has ABCWW helped you expand WCP into what it is today?

We’ve been a member locally since 2001. My partner – who is originally from the Bay Area – was heavily involved with ABC in San Francisco for 30-some years. So, when we came up together here in the Northwest, he said we’re joining ABCWW.

That was for good reason. ABCWW has been a big part of helping us grow over the years. We've always leaned on ABCWW for a number of things. All their safety training and business development resources have been a huge benefit for us. Their connection to apprenticeship has been key, too. The educational programs and events they offer, ranging from safety to policy or legal issues, have been very helpful as we have expanded. I’ve participated in a number of ABCWW’s educational programs and that has helped me make connections with some great people – it’s had a big impact on our growth.

Safety is a huge thing in our industry and ABCWW really helped us in terms of safety, especially when we first launched. Additionally, one of the biggest reasons we joined is ABCWW’s support for merit shops like ours. ABCWW has been incredibly supportive on that front. They have guided us through any issues we have faced over the years relating to union issues. What ABCWW has really been is a guide to us on how to do business right, how to do it safely – helping us grow into the respectable place we are today.

Do you have a project that sticks out as among your favorite in the region?

We had a big job with the Coast Guard in 2011. It was almost an industrial-type job. We put together a great team and did a bang-up job on an old 1938, 90,000 square foot building. We redid the whole interior and dealt with a lot of things, from lead to asbestos. There was also the Inn at Suncadia Lodge ­­– that was a good project, too. We did everything there: interior wall coverings, exteriors, you name it.

Our purpose statement is “creating environments where people want to be,” so there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with completing great projects. I’ve been here for quite a while, 25 years, and we’ve done a good number of projects since the start. Driving around town and seeing our work, that still gives me a little buzz. We have a number of projects in the area that we’re really proud to have our name on.