The first piece of equipment Mark Stephens bought for his then-startup abatement company still sits in the parking lot of Northwest Abatement Services, Inc.
The 1991 GMC Topkick has since been replaced with newer trucks, but Stephens admits he’s not ready to part with it.
“It’s where it all started,” he said recently from his office located at 9822 32nd Ave. S. off 96th Street between South Tacoma Way and Interstate 5.
While the truck is no longer active in the fleet, it’s a reminder of how far the company has come since Stephens co-founded Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. in 1994.
“I don’t know if we ever thought we’d get to where we are today,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”
Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. was born out of a failed purchase of another company where Stephens worked as a general manager at the time. The owners were looking to sell and Stephens and his partner knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.
While the purchase didn’t materialize, the process laid the foundation for Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. to get off the ground.
Stephens and his partner cashed in their savings and went all in, buying new equipment and using their local connections to land jobs.
The company has come a long way since its first gig removing the popcorn ceilings at the Days Inn in Lakewood.
From the beginning Stephens said he knew he wanted to do more than asbestos removal and environmental work.
Through perseverance the company has expanded its divisions to include:
- Indoor air quality services (air duct cleaning)
- Fire and water restoration services
- Container division
- Establishment of Stetz Construction
The development of these in-house services enables the company to be self-sustaining – one of Stephens’ goals – while also offering more for its clients.
“Honestly we’re everywhere,” Stephens said.
The company does work for private and public entities, including working with the City of Lakewood on some of its Dangerous Building Abatement Program properties. In 2017 the company worked with the city and owner of the Golden Lion motel to demolish the abandoned buildings off South Tacoma Way. It was the end of an era, and of a property that had become an eyesore in recent years.
Northwest Abatement Services Inc. has also done work for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Clover Park School District, Amazon and Boeing, to name a few clients.
And while it expanded its offerings and landed large-scale projects in the public and private sectors, Stephens has been deliberate about expanding the number of employees at the company.
He maintains 40 to 45 employees at any given time with a goal to keep his total employee count below 50.
“We’re still a small business and we pride ourselves on that,” he said. “We have a good culture and a good group of employees.”
Drawing the right personnel is something that has “organically developed” over time, Stephens said.
So too has the company’s wherewithal to give back to the Lakewood community.
Some of its giving includes cleaning up community properties free of charge and building the Peace Garden at Park Lodge Elementary School through the donation of labor and materials to create an area for Lakewood children to go outside and learn while at school.
It also assisted West Pierce Fire & Rescue with its 9/11 Memorial, donating volunteer labor, equipment and hauling.
But one of the most unusual volunteer requests of the company came from Lakewood Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Mary Dodsworth who asked Stephens to make a special trip to Snoqualmie Pass to load up one of his dump trucks with snow. The truck was to be unloaded at Fort Steilacoom Park for an event for kids.
With a request like that, how could he say no?
“It makes you feel good to give back to the community,” Stephens said.
Because of its commitment to the environment, air quality and partnerships with government and business for a better future and its more than two decades of service to the area, the Lakewood City Council recognizes Northwest Abatement Services, Inc. as its February 2018 Business Showcase.