Think “engineering” and “land-use planning” and you probably don’t think “sexy.” But one engineering firm has accomplished some amazing projects that honor the environment and reflect the indigenous values of its owners and clients.
And that firm is taking those values to one of the fastest-growing regions of the United States.
WHPacific, owned by NANA Development Corporation, the business arm of Alaska’s NANA Regional Corporation, is now headquartered in Portland, Oregon. It was previously headquartered in Colorado Springs and, prior to 2012, in Anchorage, Alaska.
WHPacific has more than 250 employees and offices in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. Its services include construction management, environmental restoration, land development, landscape architecture, power engineering, surveying and mapping, and transportation engineering.
Its portfolio includes a chapel, recreation center and an administration building on the Southern Ute reservation in Colorado; a visitor center that honors the art and culture of the ancient Hohokam people of Mesa Grande, Arizona, ancestors of the O’odham people; an energy efficient administration center for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority; a community center for the Pueblo of Acoma; and a bridge to alleviate flooding on the Chehalis reservation in Washington.
“WHPacific was great to work with,” Southern Ute Tribe April Toledo said in a video narrated by actor/artist Michael Horse, Yaqui/Apache. “They were very understanding of what the tribe wanted out of their facilities. We actually had a Tribal Member Design Committee that met with the design team and worked with everything from the layout to the floorplan to some of the tile borders on the building ... They incorporated tribal thoughts and concerns and beliefs into every aspect they could of the project.”
Rubianne Dugi, district manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, said WHPacific designed and built an administration center that is not only energy efficient – it uses solar power, and the building’s windows deflect the sun’s rays so the interior stays cool – it also incorporated the natural beauty of Navajo country into the building design.
“Canyon De Chelly is very beautiful. Nature itself created that beautiful canyon,” Dugi said in the video. “WHPacific put the colors [of the canyon] into our beautiful building. Our colors blend in with nature.”
The company’s relocation of its headquarters to Portland is well timed. According to Metro, the seven-county Portland metropolitan area’s regional government:
The population of the Portland metro area – Clackamas, Clark, Columbia, Multnomah, Skamania, Washington, and Yamhill counties – is 2.4 million, putting it 23rd on the list of largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The region’s population grew by 40,621 in 2015, a 19 percent increase over the previous year.
Multnomah County added the most new residents – 12,414 – in 2015, an increase of 1.59 percent. Its population is approximately 736,000.
Four of the region's counties now have more than 400,000 residents.
The city of Portland, population 620,000, is the 28th largest city in the United States.
According to several online lists, there are an estimated 53 engineering firms in the region, and 16 in Portland.
The company has history in the region.
WHPacific is an offshoot of Wilsey Ham, a California-based engineering, surveying and planning firm founded in 1942. Wilsey Ham expanded to Lake Oswego, Oregon and Renton, Washington in 1969; those offices became WHPacific in the 1980s. WHPacific was acquired by NANA in 2002 and became a subsidiary of NANA’s engineering and architecture firm, ASCG Incorporated. NANA merged both companies into one, named WHPacific, in 2007. (Wilsey Ham in California is not owned by NANA, and has offices in San Mateo and Chico, California.)
WHPacific president Hal Keever has been with WHPacific in Oregon for 30 years, according to Portland Business Journal.
WHPacific’s notable Oregon projects include Cascade Station, Kaiser Permanente Westside Hospital Campus, Nike World Campus Expansion, and renovation and expansion of Portland International Airport and airports in Aurora, Bend, Grant County and Lake County.
WHPacific is currently designing a road improvement project for the City of Lake Oswego that will, according to the website, “define the character of Lake Grove [Village] through its design and … greatly enhance the safety and overall aesthetics of the corridor.”
WHPacific’s clients in Indian country include Grand Ronde, Puyallup, Siletz, Tulalip Tribes, and Warm Springs.
NANA is owned by the Iñupiat people. It is one of 13 Alaska Native corporations created as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. NANA has more than 13,500 Iñupiat shareholders.