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Day: August 23, 2010

Builder goes ‘Extreme’

Rich Duncan looks over plans for an episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” set to be filmed in the area. His company leads the project. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

A local builder has an extreme project ahead of him.

Rich Duncan, owner of Rich Duncan Construction, has been chosen to manage the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (EMHE) project when it comes to the mid-Willamette Valley. The TV show airs on ABC.

Details are still largely being kept under wraps, but it’s public knowledge that the project will be of a non-residential nature, but will instead benefit a lucky nonprofit. Duncan commented it’s part of “‘Extreme’ going extreme.”

Duncan, 43, is a lifelong area resident, born in Salem and a Keizer resident since 2002, when he opened his own business.

But before that he attended Portland Community College, obtaining a construction-related certificate, and went to work.

He started out in agricultural and residential building, moving on to commercial projects in about 1996. Consistently he’s worked as project manager, who “facilitates and manages it to a successful completion.”

When he opened his company eight years ago, it fulfilled a long-standing desire to be his own boss. He saw family members work decades for other companies, and didn’t see them getting a payoff for their loyalty.

“That’s not going to happen to me,” Duncan said. “I’m going to work hard and get rewarded for working hard. And that doesn’t mean money – that’s satisfaction with who I am and what I’ve done with my life.

“The harder I work, the more I earn,” Duncan said. “I get rewarded for my efforts and my quality. (And) you’re just always intrigued to be your own boss, you know?”

Duncan’s business specializes in commercial building. You can see his work anytime you visit the golden arches of McDonald’s in places like Klamath Falls, McMinnville and Vancouver, or sit down for dinner at Caruso’s Italian Café at Staats Lake.

He started out, he said, “with a white pickup and a toolbag,” incorporating the next year. He joined up with the Salem and Keizer chambers of commerce after having worked with both for previous employers. Currently he’s the vice president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

“It was just a matter of going out and promoting myself with a new name,” Duncan said.

Rich Duncan Construction now employs eight people. In addition to its for-profit projects Duncan’s company has participated in philanthropic efforts like a Habitat for Humanity week-long build in 2008.

“It’s using my trade to give back to the community,” Duncan said. “From a personal standpoint you want to drive down the street and see the good that you’ve done. … And that reward is forever.”

It’s also good for business, he said.

“It’s respected and looked at as something a good company should and is doing – and it certainly is great for morale and staff. They love to participate and know we participate in these kind of projects.”

That said, getting a call from EMHE producers wasn’t on his radar.

“Completely out of the blue,” he said of receiving an e-mail from producers. “I responded to it and within a couple of days staff flew in to meet with me.”

Turns out it was all of the above that led producers to choose Duncan for the project.

“The reason we selected Rich Duncan and his crew is they already give back to their community and make a difference,” said Diane Korman, senior producer of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “Sure it’s important that we work with a strong builder, who has a reputation for quality, and Rich is known for that, but he is also known for his service to Habitat for Humanity and that is exactly the kind of commitment it takes to pull off an extreme makeover.”

The process will take a week as producers and crews come in to transform facilities at a non-profit in the area. He can’t reveal any more than that about who will ultimately be chosen.

“They’re all pretty awesome,” he said.

His role as lead coordinator means he’s in charge of the construction itself, along with recruiting volunteers and even catering. Donations of time, money or materials can be made at

He lives in Keizer with his wife, Shelly. He has four children and one grandchild.

Big box restrictions get early help from labor

file graphic

Of the Keizertimes

A group seeking to ban big-box stores in most of Keizer is getting help from labor unions.

Both the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 and Marion-Polk-Yamhill Labor Council – a subsidiary of American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) – have given $1,000 each to Keep Keizer Livable’s efforts to place the ban on the ballot.

In addition, Keep Keizer Livable has opened a new office in Schoolhouse Square near River and Chemawa roads. They have been conducting petition circulating training to gather more than 2,800 signatures to place big box restrictions on the ballot in 2011.

The prospective initiative would ban any stores larger than 65,000 square feet anywhere within the city of Keizer except in Keizer Station’s Area A – the developed retail portion where Target, Lowe’s and others currently operate.

Thus far, the city’s elections officer has determined the prospective initiative complies with the Oregon Constitution, and the deadline for challenging the ballot title passed at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16.

It’s gotten little love from Keizer’s elected officials so far – Mayor Lore Christopher has already said she wouldn’t support such a ban – but is getting a boost from labor.

Jeff Anderson, secretary & treasurer of UFCW 555 – and also a Keizer resident who opposed building a big box in Keizer Station’s Area C – said the union’s interest is in “preserving communities, having local, family-wage jobs that provide affordable healthcare and safe pensions.”
In addition, he said his union represents some or all of the employees at Roth’s Fresh Markets, Safeway and Albertson’s. They also represent all employees of Fred Meyer.

He said Wal-Mart in particular “is the number one predator, not a competitor” and said the company shifts costs like employee  health care onto taxpayers via publicly-funded healthcare programs.

“Much of the retail industry does not provide affordable health care to their employees,” Anderson said. “Very few actually offer pensions. So there’s a spiral down when you expand big boxes into communities, you actually also lower the wages of the community that you enter.”

Joe Munger, president of the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Central Labor Council, said council members chose last week to support the idea. He said the council represents more than 9,000 members in its three-county area.

“Keep Keizer Livable came out and talked to us,” Munger said. “They were very passionate about what they are doing … the whole mission they were talking about resonated with many of our members.

“It’s obviously near to our hearts to make sure we don’t end up the same as the factory farms… where a few players own everything,” he added.

As did Anderson, he singled out Wal-Mart, saying he “wishes they would be a lot fairer to their employees. I wish they would choose American-made products … centrally located and cheap is a good idea, but it comes at a cost, I think.”