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Dale Dekker: Designing a Dynasty


New Mexico Business Weekly
February 16, 2007


When Dale Dekker was in high school, he would trek out to Gallup in the
summers and help his dad design and engineer schools and churches.
Architecture was the Dekker family business and religion.

"We were working in the middle of nowhere, but I grew up in this business.
I didn't know anything else better to do," says Dekker, who still visits
far-flung school sites to build out the University of Nevada's campuses.
"I still enjoy doing the school projects, it's a challenge, there is not a
lot of budget -- you must be creative and work with what you've got."

Closer to home, he and his firm are working on some of New Mexico's most
visible commercial projects, including Mesa del Sol and the Spaceport.
Dekker, 54, is an owner and principle rainmaker at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini,
the state's largest architectural firm and arguably its most prestigious.

Making deals, hiring the right people and maintaining relationships has
characterized Dekker's run to the top. Sitting on five boards in New
Mexico, as well as on the U.S. board of the National Association of
Industrial and Office Properties, gives him an especially high profile
that he leverages daily.

Regional focus

Over the next decade, he hopes to make Dekker/Perich/Sabatini more of a
regional firm by expanding to Denver and Phoenix. Since Dekker joined his
late father Arthur's business in 1982, when there were just three
employees, he has established offices in Las Vegas, Nev., and Amarillo
through acquisitions and new partnerships. The company has grown to 200
employees and revenue is projected to reach $30 million in 2007, up from
$25 million in 2006.

In Sept. 2006, the company moved its offices to Jefferson Green, a "green"
building that is seeking to become the most environmentally sustainable
building in the state through a LEED gold certification. The office,
designed by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, is among the firm's most obvious
selling tools and positions it for the future as green buildings become vogue.

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini is working on the Thornburg Cos. campus in Santa
Fe, which also aspires to achieve gold LEED certification, a set of
standards called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design that were
established by the U.S. Green Build Council. The firm is designing all of
the interiors and landscaping. World renowned architect Ricardo Legoretta
did the project's schematics and recommended to Garrett Thornburg that
Dekker do the interiors. It is among the most expensive office projects in
the state at $45 million, and one of the most visible.

"Legoretta recommended to Garrett [Thornburg] that Dekker was right for
this project and after two-and-a-half-years, we have found Dekker's team
to be responsive and creative," says David Miller, a Thornburg managing
director." "Dekker has a good working relationship with construction
companies and in this business, relationships get strained between
architects and builders, but not in this case."

Designing a family dynasty

At 84, firm founder Arthur Dekker died on Jan. 13, but his legacy and
passion for architecture is carried forward by his three sons, David, Dean
and Dale, who all became architects. Art Dekker was that rare architect
who had an engineering degree and was involved in nearly every phase of a
project, but wasn't enamored with empire building. His son Dale is.
"He was a real hands-on guy and kept the practice small with a good,
stable, consistent client base, but when I joined, the business was not
good, and he thought about closing it down and becoming a consultant,"
Dale Dekker recalls.

After graduating from Texas Tech University with an architecture degree,
Dale Dekker joined an Albuquerque architectural firm, CCIC and worked on
Sandia National Laboratories and Albuquerque Public Schools) projects. In
1982, he joined his father and immediately started leveraging
relationships that he had made at Sandia into work for the family practice.

"This business is relationship-driven and my dad didn't market those
relationships. I was young and aggressive and I pursued opportunities over
the years. Our firm's growth was parallel to the growth of the city and the state."

By doing the schematics for the Alvarado Transportation Center in 1992,
Dekker had the type of high profile project that he could leverage. By
1997, the firm had 50 people. But it was a merger in 1998 that solidified
the firm's stature and positioned it for the next decade.

Bill Sabatini was both a friend and a competitor of Dekker's, but when he
merged his firm with Dekker's, they created a powerhouse. Sabatini was a
well respected architect, while Steve Perich was his operations and
financial executive. With that troika in place, Dekker was free to do what
he does best, work his contacts and win new business. By sitting on
boards, including the Albuquerque Public Schools Foundation and New Mexico
Economic Forum, Dekker has been able to keep his firm on the radar with
decision makers of large projects

Tipping point projects

Large, highly visible projects have been the company's staple over the
past decade. The conversion of the former Albuquerque High School into a
condominium complex gave the firm a major boost in its growing housing practice.

By adding three floors to Presbyterian Hospital's main campus hospital,
Dekker/Perich/Sabatini was able to enhance its stature in the medical
field. It's Singer sewing plant conversion into a large mixed use
development and its ABQ Uptown project gave the architecture firm strong
credentials in the high-profile retail/office category.

Unlike his father who worked well past retirement age, Dekker has plans
only to work another 10 to 15 years and turn the reins over to someone
within the firm. It's not likely a third generation Dekker will run the
firm, he says. His eldest son is a starting tight end at the U.S. Air
Force Academy in Colorado Springs and is planning to become a doctor. His
daughter is16 and a member of La Cueva High School's state championship
soccer team. Dekker's 10-year-son is an aspiring baseball player.

"My free time is centered on our kids. We've been blessed with good
athletes," says Dekker, who, at well over six feet and 250 pounds, casts a
bearish presence over the state's architectural realm.

 

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