Ron Vekved Interview

Ron Vekved

Former President & First Anvil Employee

How and when did you first get started at Anvil?

In 1966 I went to work with Bechtel Corporation in Edmonton, Alberta. At the end of the year in November, I was assigned to the Great Canadian Law Science Project in Fort McMurray, which was the first Tar Sands project there. I met some people within the Bechtel organization and one of them was Larry Levenson, who oversaw the construction on that project. We established a relationship, and I found out that he had worked in the Ferndale, WA area on two projects. He found out that my wife was from Ferndale and told me he would eventually be moving to the Ferndale area and had bought some property on the Guide Meridian. That is kind of where we left things.

At that point in time, I finished my project in Fort McMurray and was transferred back to Edmonton and Montreal. Larry was transferred to Kenai, Alaska to work on two projects there. So, four years later, we chose to leave Montreal because my father was having health issues and was living in Surrey, B. C. We came back to the West Coast and I had heard that Larry had left his job. One day In early January of 1971, I was driving up the Guide Meridian near Lynden, WA and recognized Larry’s car as I’d seen it in Fort McMurray. Can you imagine that?

So, I drove in and found out that Larry had applied for an engineering license. He was interested in my background and we talked for a while. He checked my references for design work and about a week later offered me a job to come to work with him at Anvil. On February 2nd, he got his license to start engineering work. Since I was Canadian, I went through the process of getting my green card and arrived in the United States towards the end of February to start working at Anvil. Larry and I were the only employees for the first several months.

So that’s the background, we had a very interesting connection because we were not at all connected for about four years and then I ended up reconnecting with him, and that’s how I started to work at Anvil.

How have things at Anvil changed since you started?

We started reaching out to the refineries in Anacortes, at that time it was Shell and Texaco, and then we added the Nondestructive Examination Group. The NDE group started doing work all over regionally. So, that’s how we started growing. We did work for Scott Paper in Everett and then we started getting some small projects in Alaska. It just kind of grew up and down the West Coast because we established a very good reputation with the clients we were working for. That word got around and we were able to build on that. By the time I retired, we were working up and down the West Coast – from North Pole, Alaska down as far as the middle of Mexico.

What are some of your best memories?

I think the best memory is kind of a general thing – when we started becoming a regional engineering and NDE inspection company and we grew to some 400 employees in three offices in Bellingham, Billings, and Anchorage. We had some smaller activities in the Bay Area and also worked in Moses Lake, WA. The Billings and Anchorage offices became significant offices and they continue to be so.

For personal memories – I think George Griffith who led the NDE group had a great impact on our ability to expand our efforts. And, of course, people like John Macpherson that we hired right out of school who very rapidly grew professionally because they had to. And, we had people like Larry Nace who came to work for us and was maybe one of the best process engineers on the West Coast. You know, there are a lot of personalities here and I don’t like to leave people out, but some of those people were very important to our growth.

What were some of Anvil’s defining moments?

This is a tough one. I think adding the NDE department, our joint venture with Snelson-Anvil, and opening our officers in Anchorage and Billings were all big things. They were all very significant defining moments for Anvil because they provided us with stability as far as staffing levels were concerned. We were able to move work back and forth between the offices and not have to go through large swings in people being laid off or hired.

One other thing that helped define Anvil was our willingness to do small jobs and numerous jobs, often at the same time, which some of the big corporations were not able to do efficiently.

What are you most proud of from your time at Anvil?

I’m most proud of providing meaningful, challenging opportunities for professional people to work in a community that is probably as good to live in as any place on the West Coast. I certainly had quite a bit to do with that during the formative years.