Paving the way
By Craig Howard
If you have walked, cycled or jogged along a sidewalk in Spokane County, chances are you've traversed a surface installed by the Wm. Winkler Co.
Nestled in a bucolic section of Newman Lake known more for horse pastures and rustic farms, the concrete contractor has been a mainstay in the local construction scene since 1919. The company's founder and namesake, William Vincent Winkler, got his start by replacing the wooden planks in Spokane with concrete sidewalks at a time when the city was transitioning from mining boomtown to industrial hub and challenging Seattle as the urban epicenter of the Northwest.
"He really saw an opportunity," said Brian Winkler, company president and third generation Winkler to lead the business.
Sidewalks, gutters and curbs served as staples for Wm. Winkler up until about 2000 when the company's portfolio began to include paving for more commercial, public works, government and industrial projects. From data centers to bridges to airfield pavements, if a job requires concrete, chances are there is a red and white Winkler truck on the scene.
"We think we deliver quality and value and keep a lot of people working," Brian Winkler said. "If it wasn't for our people, we wouldn't have success."
During the seasonal peak, Winkler employs around 150 people. The 14-acre home base on Starr Road in Newman Lake became the company's headquarters two years ago after the consolidation of sites in Spokane and in Coeur d'Alene. Prior to Winkler, the Newman Lake property was home to the S.A. Gonzales construction company. Winkler also maintains a small office in the Tri-Cities.
Beyond traditional work like pouring the foundation for the new Central Valley High School over a decade ago, Winkler tackles unique challenges like the ground floor of an ice rink and an original grout for a roller coaster track. Outside of Washington, Winkler has been the concrete catalyst for projects in states including Alaska, North Dakota, Illinois, Montana and Oregon.
Chris Winkler, Brian's brother, works as project engineer for Wm. Winkler and brings a wealth of experience from the Washington State Department of Transportation, where he worked for 15 years. Since mid-August, Chris has overseen the company's work on the Harvard Road roundabout project in Liberty Lake, an effort coordinated by his previous employer.
"The great thing about working here is the commitment to integrity," said Chris, who has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Idaho. "We're not afraid to put our name on our work."
Winkler began work on the Harvard Road roundabout on Aug. 16. The project - which included the rigors of dealing with 18,000 vehicles a day through the intersection - was wrapped up by Oct. 11.
Liberty Lake City Administrator Katy Allen said Winkler "brought the resources and experience to the project."
"They work very efficiently," Allen said. "It was good to see a Newman Lake company get awarded the project here in town. They are a company that hit the ground running. They put a great deal of resources into the project and that made a difference. The project moved quickly."
When representatives from surrounding businesses stopped by Liberty Lake City Hall to discuss access to commercial sites during the roundabout's construction, Allen said Winkler handled the inquiries promptly.
"Winkler was very responsive and approachable. Business owners had some logistical questions, some schedule questions and wanted some information about detours," Allen said. "Chris was able to answer all their questions. Then he gave them his card and so if they had any other issues, they could call him directly."
Coping with the continuous flow of traffic descending on a construction site is nothing new to Winkler. Last year, the company was awarded the "Concrete Community Award" by the Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association for its work in removing and replacing an antiquated street in Asotin situated in the heart of the city's commercial district. Winkler's award portfolio includes recognition from WACA for "Pavement Project of the Year" and the Associated General Contractors of America for "Project of the Year" and "Special Project of the Year."
The roundabout in Liberty Lake now joins a list of signature Winkler projects in the Greater Spokane area including intersections on Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley, pedestrian upgrades along Argonne Road in Millwood and smaller roundabouts at intersections like Flora and Broadway and Flora and Mission.
While the company now handles complex projects in fields like transportation, energy production, wastewater treatment and industrial manufacturing, the curb and sidewalk work still encompasses around half of the company's workload.
"Concrete has changed a lot over the years," Chris Winkler said. "But it's still a job for a skilled craftsman. We still do a lot of hand-forming and hand-setting. You look at a cement mason or a laborer and it's a great skillset."