The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo
Member Profile
Denali General Contractors
The Associated General Contractors of Alaska logo
Member Profile
Denali General Contractors
Fuel Cell/Corrosion Control Hanger Complex on Elmendorf Air Force Base in winter
Denali General Contractors’ project portfolio includes several publicly funded projects including the Fuel Cell/Corrosion Control Hanger Complex on Elmendorf Air Force Base. This 54,570-square-foot complex provides protective space for large aircraft repairs and fuel system maintenance. Denali worked around stringent work restrictions such as complete shutdown of construction during air shows, and during the weekend when noise activity hours were limited.
Celebrating A Milestone
Forty years brings experience and wisdom to the construction industry
By Rachael Kvapil

hris Hamre, president and senior project manager of Denali General Contractors, always wanted a career in Alaska. In 1983, he expanded his existing construction career by opening his own contracting business in Anchorage. From there, he developed niche markets in communities like Nome and Bethel and occasionally completed projects in the Lower 48. As Denali General approaches its fortieth anniversary, Hamre and his team are just as dedicated to providing quality construction statewide.

“When you’re a young company just starting out, you do what you can with the talent you have,” says Hamre. “As you gain experience, you also gain financial resources in addition to talent and can take on more ambitious projects.”

Denali General has seen a lot of economic booms and busts in its forty years, and company leaders have derived wisdom from those times. For instance, Hamre says, they learned to conserve finances, not overextend credit, or go too far out on a limb with a client.

He says they have found financial stability by primarily working on publicly funded projects at the local, state, and federal level. He says these options give them leeway during the different stages of the economic cycle. When local and state dollars are hard to find, Denali General focuses on federal dollars and vice versa. This has led to a wide range of projects in their portfolio, including school buildings, national defense infrastructure, and transportation facilities, rounded out by medical facilities for the private sector.

treatment center in Pendleton, Oregon
After building two cancer treatment centers in Alaska, Denali General Contractors worked with Radiation Business Solutions on a treatment center in Pendleton, Oregon. Denali General’s ability to schedule projects well in advance allowed for the timely installation of equipment vital to the operation of the center.
Projects With Meaning
“We love all our projects,” says Hamre. “I read in a recent AGC [Associated General Contractors] article that the future workforce really wants to know that what they’re doing is valuable to the community. Schools contribute to educating the future. National defense keeps us safe. Treatment centers help cancer patients. Our projects have a purpose.”

In Nome, the University of Alaska Fairbanks benefited from that purpose when Denali General dedicated four years to a multi-phase project that involved renovating various buildings and their supporting utility infrastructure on the Northwest Campus.

Jakob Theurich, project manager for UAF’s Division of Design & Construction, says Hamre and his team kept within the grant specifications that required retaining a portion of the existing building in their renovation plans. The project included the renovation of several individual buildings and connecting several other renovated structures by bridging them with boardwalks.

“They were very accommodating,” says Theurich. “They addressed issues up front before we got bogged down in construction. They were easy to work with throughout the process.”

Quinhagak School Addition and Renovation project buildings
Chris Hamre, president and senior project manager of Denali General Contractors, says his company found a niche market working in remote Alaska communities where logistics is extremely challenging. The Quinhagak School Addition and Renovation project required detailed planning to make sure all necessary supplies arrived on the two annual barges that deliver freight and the one barge that delivers fuel to the area.
Keeping to the Timeline
Hamre says working in remote areas is logistically challenging. Shipping supplies to a remote project such as the UAF Northwest Campus requires careful scheduling with the seasonal barge deliveries. Likewise, they had to organize the workflow of this particular project around the school semester, which meant going to work as soon as students left campus and making sure they had classrooms when they returned.

Trip Leasure, vice president of business operations and project development for Radiation Business Solutions, says Denali General faced a different challenge when they were building the Eastern Oregon Cancer Center in Pendleton, Oregon. Part of the 5,000-square-foot radiation oncology center included building a 1,000-square-foot vault for a linear accelerator on a tight six-month schedule. Leasure says Denali General’s ability to schedule projects well in advance allowed for the timely installation of equipment vital to the operation of the center.

“Chris understood the key milestones needed to complete the center on time,” says Leasure. “Denali General knew without our equipment we wouldn’t have a functioning facility. We wouldn’t be open in time to diagnose new patients, which meant they would have to drive miles elsewhere for treatment.”

Prior to building the Eastern Oregon Cancer Center in Oregon, Denali General completed the Central Peninsula Hospital Radiation Oncology Center in Soldotna and the Southeast Region Oncology Center in Juneau.

Post-COVID Challenges Remain
Hamre says there are many benefits to being an AGC member. The organization invites members to advocate as a group locally and nationally for issues important to the industry. The information provided by the industry also allows him to keep track of changes to regulations and make important decisions.

“It’s harder to advocate for things like workers’ comp and labor laws alone,” says Hamre. “It’s much easier to advocate for things together.”

In recent years, Hamre says new challenges have arisen in the industry. Between instability in the supply chain and rising inflation, he has found scheduling and pricing projects in flux. Added to this is a shortage of labor. Cindi Wagner, vice president and CFO, says the labor shortage started during the COVID years and recruitment has been challenging since.

“We pay top dollar,” says Wagner. “We house all our employees and feed them well at remote jobsites. It is mind-blowing that we’re having this kind of shortage.”

One good thing did come from the pandemic, however. The short break they took while their clients sorted out COVID protocols and funding allowed Hamre and his staff a rare moment to personally recharge.

And though Denali General already has projects lined up for the coming season, they also plan on keeping that practice of scheduling some personal time off following the major construction season.

Rachael Kvapil is a freelance writer who lives in Fairbanks. Photos provided by Denali General Contractors.