Long Painting Company has been a presence in the Pacific Northwest since it was founded in 1967. Headquartered in Kent, Washington and with an office in Vancouver, Washington, it works across the Northwest and as far afield as Hawaii. The company is laying the groundwork to transition to a new ownership team that will sustain its reputation for stellar work and customer-first focus.
Services the company provides include decorative finishes, elastomeric roof coating, floor coatings, wall coverings, intumescent fireproofing, lead abatement, on-call maintenance, surface preparation, and special coatings. The list is vast—on purpose.
“One of the things we decided a long time ago as a company was not to focus on any one thing. If it comes in a bucket and gets put on a wall, floor, or ceiling, we can do it,” states President Bill Newcomb.
Long Painting Company’s workload is largely split between the commercial and industrial sectors; it does not do single-family residences. Commercial work centers on high-rise office buildings, high-rise apartments, hospitals, schools, and sports arenas.
For most projects, Long works with a handful of “core customers,” consisting of 10 to 12 general contractors and private owners, Newcomb explains. Private owners hail from firms such as Facebook and Boeing, for which the company does “a lot of maintenance work for their facilities.”
Long Painting Company typically gets involved in projects “at a very early stage. We’ll get inquiries from our core customers sometimes a couple of years in advance to help with budgeting,” Newcomb explains. “Once we get an inquiry, it gets assigned to an estimator who will then put together the pricing and work through the process up until it’s awarded to us. Then we turn it over to a project management team [which includes] a project manager, superintendent, and a foreman. They will then execute the work on the project. That’s kind of the lifecycle of it,” he says.
Long does both interior and exterior painting, although exterior work is obviously affected by weather conditions as paint and coatings will not properly adhere if it is too cold, too hot, or too wet. The company primarily operates in the Pacific Northwest, although it will venture further at the request of a core customer. “We’ve done projects throughout the western United States. We also did a lot of resorts in Hawaii about 30 years ago. We’re not afraid to go anywhere. We’re also licensed up in Alaska as well,” states Todd Fauchald, Vice President, Operations Manager for the Kent office.
In recent years, however, demand for the company’s services has been so strong in the Northwest that the company has been content to serve its home base, adds Newcomb.
The Long Painting Company was launched by Ty Long and his wife Anne Long. When Ty passed from cancer in November 1996, Anne sold the business to long-term employees who “carried on his vision and then molded [the company] into their vision as well,” shares Newcomb.
Newcomb and Fauchald were part of a group that eventually purchased the company from these long-term employees. The company is currently undergoing another leadership change; Newcomb will be retiring at the end of 2023, and Fauchald will be taking over as President. There are a number of current employees in the ownership group who will be taking over at some point that will keep the company moving forward.
Having hands-on owners as opposed to absentee owners has been key to Long Painting Company’s success, according to Newcomb. “We’re not just business people who own a company and are never in the office; we’re here every day. Todd and I still manage projects individually at this point,” he says. This in-house leadership helps the company “continue on with the same ideas and values that it started with.”
As with all North American companies, the COVID-19 virus proved to be a major challenge. Some of Long Painting Company’s work was deemed essential, so the firm did not have to close down, and when possible, office staff worked remotely. Health and safety measures were implemented and essential fieldwork was done.
“Until vaccines came along and things changed, [we had] a handful of these essential projects that kept revenue flowing and kept employees working,” Newcomb recalls.
Long Painting Company currently has a team of 40 office staff and roughly 100 painters—a number that fluctuates throughout the year, rising as high as 150 in summer. The company works with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which supplies its painters.
New hires are encouraged to be ambitious; a painter can move into an office, production, or sales job if they wish. Apprenticeships are available, as well as mentoring and training programs. To show how much the company appreciates its workforce, Newcomb refers to a decades-old brochure written by the company founder.
“The ‘secret’ ingredient that sets any company apart from others in its field has nothing to do with tools or materials facilities or equipment. It has to do with people!” reads the brochure, continuing, “People who are motivated because they enjoy what they are doing, do it well, and know they will be rewarded for doing a superior job. We like to think that our ability to pick such people and to keep them motivated helps to explain why Long Painting Company has grown to be a leader in our market since we opened our business.”
These sentiments still hold today. “Our people mean everything,” states Fauchald. “We have core values at Long Painting, and our number one value is our employees. The second value is our customers, then our reputation, then our future. That’s kind of how we live. Our employees are number one because, without them, we’re nothing.”
As one sign of its commitment to employees, the company places a strong emphasis on safety. “I think the ownership of safety starts with the employees in the field, but the direction and guidance, if you will, comes from the leadership in the company. I’m not just talking about the owners, I’m talking about the management throughout the company,” says Newcomb.
In the early 2000s, Long Painting hired a safety expert to bolster the company’s safety record and procedures. Today, the company boasts a strong safety infrastructure built around transparency. Management shares safety-related information containing the company’s experience modification rating (EMR). This statistical evaluation for insurance purposes is currently 0.17. If an injury occurs, a meeting is organized as soon as the injured party is available to discuss what happened so that a recurrence can be prevented, and insights gleaned from these meetings are disseminated to the workforce.
The company’s goal is simple: instill a safety-first attitude among workers so “they’re looking out for each other on the job site every day. If you see something unsafe, it doesn’t matter if they’re an apprentice or a journeyman, they can stop the work until we get it corrected,” he says.
Environmental sensitivity is another piece of the safety puzzle. Long Painting Company frequently uses paint that is low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is more ecologically friendly than conventional paint. Low-VOC paint is a common criterion for building developments striving for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. “Here in Seattle, commercial projects are very heavy into LEED, which is a green initiative,” notes Newcomb.
Over the decades, the company has worked on a series of high-profile projects, including the Space Needle—a prominent Seattle tower and landmark—Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle, and Microsoft property. Paints and coatings for these projects are typically supplied by a handful of preferred vendors such as paint and coatings giants Sherwin-Williams and PPG Paints, as well as Rodda Paint, a firm based in the Pacific Northwest.
Of course, the company faces certain challenges. The once-booming technology sector in the Pacific Northwest has taken something of a downturn, with layoffs and slowdowns. As a result, new commercial construction is “on a pause. There’s not a lot of it going on,” Newcomb shares. Thanks to diversification, however, Long can rely on a steady stream of work. While the commercial sector might be down at present, the company remains strong in other areas. “We’ve got more work in our industrial group than we’ve had in the last five years.”
Similarly, Long’s services are also widely diversified. While company painters are not daubing as many brand-new structures these days, its “repaint group has taken off because that’s where businesses are spending their money. They’re maintaining their facilities instead of worrying about building new,” he says.
Long Painting Company has also experienced difficulty attracting new workers—something of a North America-wide problem as so many existing blue-collar employees reach retirement age. For all that, Newcomb and Fauchald are optimistic about the future and are excited to hand over the reins of the company to qualified new owners in due course.
“We’ve done some long-range planning with the next group of young folks that are coming in. The goal is to get those folks in position operating the company,” says Newcomb. “What we’ve shown them is a good model on how to be successful in the painting industry, how to run a business successfully and maintain it.”