Larry Wieber, Robin Halliday, Dave Christensen
lead the way
Many Whatcom County and Bellingham businesses made the news in 2007, but it’s the people behind the news who are making things happen. This year, our list of Movers and Shakers includes the owner of a successful and rapidly growing boat manufacturing company, the president of a local technology group, and an architect who has designed several notable local projects.
It just seems natural that a boat company should make waves. And with Larry Wieber at the helm, Aluminum Chambered Boats has made huge waves this year.
In June, ACB was awarded a $9.88 million contract to provide the United States Coast Guard with 47 Cutter Boat-Large boats, a 24-foot rigid hull inflatable designed as a support craft for Coast Guard Cutters. Previously, Zodiac Marine held this contract.
“That is a huge personal milestone in my life,” Wieber said. “When I started the company I told everybody I wanted to take on Boston Whaler and Zodiac worldwide. We didn’t start this to be a mom-and-pop boat company.”
ACB delivered its first Cutter Boat-Large in October and is now busy building the remaining 46 boats, which keeps the 72,000-square-foot production floor astir. In fact, things are too busy.
“We doubled [business] last year. We’ve already got double the orders for next year. We’ve got to get a bigger facility.”
In June, the company announced that it was searching for a larger facility to house its production and they were looking outside of Bellingham city limits. “We thought we had a place up north and that didn’t work,” Wieber said.
Another alternative quickly arose: the 250,000-square-foot Georgia-Pacific tissue warehouse. ACB is currently drawing plans to see if the site is suitable for their needs.
“If the G-P site works out, it’ll be better for us anyway. Time will tell what happens now,” Wieber said.
Alongside all of that, ACB joined with Northrup Grumman to design and launch the Joint Multimission Expeditionary Craft, or JMEC, which is currently being tested by the military as a river and shoreline patrol boat.
Approximately half of the boats ACB builds are for military or government purposes. With this in mind, the company began researching a new bullet-stopping ballistics material that is light enough to use on their boats without significantly altering the weight or handling of the craft.
“We will be able to offer ballistics protection not only in marine craft but [in] wheeled vehicles, track vehicles, everything,” Wieber said. “And we’ll make it available to everyone, even our competitors, because our goal is to save lives.”
That’s how you make waves in the boat building industry.
Bio: Larry Wieber
Owner and CEO of Aluminum Chambered Boats
Business: Owner and CEO of Aluminum Chambered Boats
Family: Wife, Rose, six grown kids, six grandchildren
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
Words that best describe you: Persistent visionary
What did you want to be when you grew up? Salesman
Most influential person in your life: Bob Funk
What are you currently reading? “Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction,” by Bob Boylan. “Good to Great in God’s Eyes,” by Chip Ingram. “Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Republicans Don’t Have the Corner on Christ,” by Linda Seger.
Favorite movie: Patton
What are you currently listening to? Rascal Flatts
Person you would like to be for a day: I’m very happy being me.
You could say that even though Robin Halliday is now semi-retired from her 25-year career as a vice president for DIS, a local information technology company, she is now busier than ever.
She still sits on the board for DIS, is the president of the Technology Alliance Group, is chairman of the board for the Washington Technology Association, and serves as a board member for the Bellingham Whatcom Public Facilities District. Somewhere amidst all that, she finds time to teach a project management certification course through Western Washington University’s extended education program.
“I’m having a delightful time teaching,” said Halliday, who taught a statistics class at Western while getting her master’s degree in psychology 30 years ago. “It’s fun to come full circle after 30 years.”
Halliday first entered the technology industry back in 1980 looking for part-time work. After finishing her master’s, she decided that psychology wasn’t for her; she really just enjoyed teaching and doing research.
“That’s when I said ‘I’ll go find a part-time job in computers.’ Many years later as my career evolved, I realized that I’ve been doing research and teaching for many years.”
As the president of the Technology Alliance Group, Halliday works constantly to promote, educate and advocate for more than 500 Whatcom County businesses in the technology sector. She also volunteers her time through a TAG program called Math Masters, an after-school math tutoring program for local middle school students.
“Our industry has been saying for so long ‘We need qualified workers with math and science skills,’” Halliday said. “So this is our way of stepping up to the plate.”
In recent news, TAG partnered with the Port of Bellingham and Western to pursue the Innovation Partnership Zone designation, through which the port was awarded a $1 million grant to promote innovation in the marine trades.
Though several colleagues have encouraged Halliday to enter politics because she is a natural leader, she tends to shy away from entering the world of politics due in part to the level of scrutiny public office brings.
“It’s not that I have any regrets about the life I’ve lived or that I don’t want to share that. It’s just that you really do open yourself up to a level of scrutiny that’s not necessarily rational or reasonable,” she said.
Bio: Robin Halliday
Retired vice president of DIS, Technology Alliance Group president, Washington Technology Association chairman of the board
Business: Retired vice president of DIS, TAG president, WTC chairman of the board
Family: Husband of 33 years, Dan, and daughter, Andrea (recently married)
Word that best describes you: Energetic
What did you want to be when you grew up? Psychiatrist
Most influential person in your life: Bob Brimm, CEO of DIS
What are you currently reading? “A Rose for the Crown,” by Anne Easter Smith. “There Will Never Be Another You: A Novel,” by Carolyn See.
Favorite movie: Anything uplifting with a happy ending
What are you currently listening to? The latest Josh Groban Christmas album
Person you would like to be for a day: Governor Gregoire
Even when Dave Christensen goes on vacation, he ends up doing a little business research on the side.
“Everytime I vacation somewhere I end up looking around and saying, ‘Wow, these are cool buildings,’ ” Christensen said. He eventually ends up talking with a local developer or with someone in the city planning department. Sometimes he even comes home with a new client.
As an architect and a planner, Christensen is always on the hunt for the newest and best designs. He reads approximately 40 trade journals each month, from all sectors of the economy, from commercial to residential to industrial. The list of projects that he has been involved in is just as diverse, from RV parks to airplane hangars to condominiums. And if you go to the Port of Bellingham and request a drawing of the proposed Waterfront District, they will hand you one of Christensen’s renderings.
Christensen likes to joke about his involvement in numerous projects by comparing himself to an engineer.
“An engineer knows a great deal of information about a very specialized area of information. And they keep knowing more and more about less and less until finally they know everything about nothing. As an architect, though, I know a little bit about a lot of different things. I keep knowing less and less about more and more until finally I know nothing about everything!”
For knowing nothing, Christensen sure keeps busy. Each month, he works on 30 to 40 projects, some of which have come to fruition this year.
In November, the City of Blaine passed the Wharf District Master Plan, which Christensen designed. He also recently helped the City of Bellingham set new design standards for Old Town.
The Gaston Bay building, a $1.5 million renovation of the former Sonny Foods at 2925 Roeder Ave., is almost finished and should be open for leases by the end of the year, Christensen said.
“I kind of touch a little bit on a lot of projects around town that a lot of people don’t realize I’m involved in,” Christensen said.
Christensen is also in the process of writing a book about building design, tentatively called “Preforma.”
“It’s kind of the rules of thumb for over 100 different building types,” Christensen said. “It will help cities and counties and attorneys know how to quickly get to a preliminary financial pro forma and about the building size and scope.”
Christensen said he hopes to finish the book next year, but with his current work load, he’s not making any promises.
Bio: Dave Christensen
Owner of Christensen Design Management and co-owner of Charrette Studio
Business: Owner of Christensen Design Management and co-owner of Charrette Studio.
Family: Wife, Jean, and daughter, Hannah
Word that best describes you: Optimistic
What did you want to be when you grew up? An architect
Most influential person in your life: Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect
What are you currently reading? “1421: The Year China Discovered America,” by Gavin Menzies. “The Philosophy of Sustainable Design,” by Jason F. McLennan. “How to Measure Anything,” by Douglas W. Hubbard.
Favorite movie: Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet”
What are you currently listening to? Diana Krall
Person you would like to be for a day: Richard Gere