Bringing User-Friendly Excellence to Fireproofing

Written by William Young

Norkote is a service provider based out of Everett, Washington specializing in the application of special coatings for insulation, fire protection, and acoustics for building projects. The company’s unique brand of “User-Friendly Excellence” has proved invaluable in protecting people and property.

In 1985, thirty-three years after its inception, Norkote was acquired by its current President, Dana Gillet. He moved the company into certified application of fire protective and thermal/acoustic coatings, aided by his wide-ranging contacts with the commercial/industrial construction industry in the Northwest. These relationships, plus good business growth ever since, have made Norkote the leading union fireproofing contractor in its sector.

Norkote was founded as “The Burleigh Company” in 1952 by Gill Burleigh, beginning as a manufacturer representative company in the fire protective coating (or fireproofing) industry; to date, it has the longest continuous presence in the Pacific Northwest fireproofing market in the United States.

Norkote operates primarily as a regional provider of fire protective coatings to commercial and industrial contractors in the Pacific Northwest (including Alaska, Oregon, and Washington), and over the last few years has taken the lead in volume of projects in the region.

The company’s core services include the certified interior and exterior application of Spray-on Fire Resistive Materials (SFRMs), thin-film intumescent mastics and epoxies (IFRMs), spray-on insulation for thermal/acoustic coatings, and rigid fire-board protection systems.

Growth and experience
Recently, Norkote has deployed new field-technology tools that have provided the company with real-time work procurement, job costing, and operational data that have hugely benefited operations. This implementation has streamlined the goal-setting, tracking, and analytic capabilities of the company and has helped drive revenue growth in 2019 of over 30 percent.

This more recent growth is far from a flash in the pan. Norkote’s revenue has doubled over the past three operating years, reflecting both increased construction activity in the Pacific Northwest, and the company’s investment in capital and human resources infrastructure. Average annual revenue growth from 2015 to the present is over 39 percent and is a sign of the potential for growth in the company in the future.

Among myriad projects in the past few decades, Norkote has a wealth of experience working highly difficult projects with tight time constraints and has demonstrated its considerable expertise in both retrofit fireproofing and all major fireproofing products. This breadth of product knowledge allows it to design and implement creative, comprehensive, and cost-effective solutions for its customers.

The company works closely with project architects, managers, and engineers to identify the correct product for the situation and apply it with precision and efficiency. Gillet observes that the company is often called upon only at the last minute – “tyrannized by the urgent” – but Norkote is prepared for these high-pressure situations that are the nature of the business, and pride themselves on excelling when a client is in a dire situation.

The power of people
President Dana Gillet succinctly describes Norkote as “a fireproofing company run by fireproofers.” As usually happens, employees appreciate management’s intrinsic understanding of the trade and union dynamics of such a business, which in turn has created loyalty to the company and lengthened the tenure of many valued workers. Gillet remarks that it’s not easy to find employees of the quality that the company holds itself to, but notes that once new employees make it through the in-house training on offer, there is a terrific retention rate.

For example, the senior managers have an average of 11 years of tenure and over 195 years of collective experience. Gillet feels that tight labor market conditions underscore the value of building strong labor relations, and the company’s reputation for taking care of its people enhances its appeal to potential employees.

The company has also made significant investments in its future growth, bringing in a new project manager, project engineer, project administrator, assistant superintendent, and three shop hands. These roster additions have added great depth of experience to the company’s operations personnel and have marked a successful addition to an already top-notch workforce.

Norkote boasts a tight-knit relationship between management and workforce, a must for an outfit dealing with services as complex as it does.

The proof is in the fireproofing
In business for nearly 70 years, Norkote has established many productive and profitable relationships with the industry’s foremost product vendors, leading to its recognition in the industry as a manufacturer-certified applicator for all major manufacturers of fireproofing products. There’s no doubt that this accounts, at least partly, for the fact that from June 2016 to June 2019 approximately 88 percent of its sales were to repeat customers, several of whom have been clients of Norkote for over 20 years.

The company has many long-standing relationships specifically with the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent general and interior contractor, and has worked on some of the area’s most iconic construction projects.

An early milestone after its change in ownership came in 1987 when it was awarded the Washington State Convention Center contract in a joint venture with Pierce Enterprises. Other notable projects it has been a part of include Mt. Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington (2018), Husky Stadium in Seattle (2013), City Center Plaza in Bellevue (2009), and the Allen Institute in Seattle (2015) among many others. In its familiar Pacific Northwest territory, Norkote has become as much of a staple of development as cranes and scaffolding.

A specialist’s job
The company’s comprehensive understanding of its industry ensures that it works in a multitude of diverse project settings. Gillet adds that the uniqueness of Norkote is that it is independently owned. It is not associated with a drywall or painting company; it is strictly a fireproofing and spray-on insulation company. This sets it apart from its competitors – generally large interior companies that fill many different roles in the industry – in that Norkote is not owned by a national company and acts as a specialist in the field of fireproofing.

Gillet notes that the company is looking forward to more diverse and exciting projects in the next year: A high-rise office tower in Bellevue, Washington for Turner Construction (as well as another tower high-rise in Bellevue currently in final negotiations); a large high-school project in Bend, Oregon; another high school project for Highline district in Seattle; and, a large project in North Seattle for Sound Transit, among others.

Pursuing excellence
Gillet says of the Norkote team that it is committed to “pursuing excellence while being user friendly.” He adds, though, that the company remains a work in progress in some ways. Mistakes are inevitable, Gillet admits, but “overcoming and knowing we are a ‘work in progress’ provides our staff with the opportunity to focus on a remedy, rather than dwell on the negative.”

Norkote’s goal is to give the customer the best option for their wallet and site conditions and provide a level of customer service that keeps the company foremost in their minds for the next project.

The company’s motto is “User-Friendly Excellence,” and following that to the letter has fixed Norkote’s reputation firmly in place as a leading light of the fireproofing industry over three decades.



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