PACE's 30th Anniversary | A Look into the First Year at PACE

Marty Penhallegon, President of PACE, told us the story of how PACE Engineers started:

Several of PACE’s early employees came from my old place of employment. The president of that company was my good friend and mentor for the first 18 years of my career. He had told Bob Stanton and me that when he retired, we would acquire the company. Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer after I had been there about 18 years without any written plan for succession of the Company. Before his passing, he named me to be the president and run the company which I did for about 3 years. Bob and I each owned about 1% of the company’s stock, with the controller owning around 2%. That meant the previous owner’s two kids, who had no experience running a service-oriented company, held over 95% of the company. The company was running very well and very profitable. So, the kids didn’t want anything to change and brought in accounting friends to the Board. After several years, when change of ownership did not happen, employees became concerned about the company’s future, and several gave notices that they were leaving, including Bob.

I was more than frustrated because I felt confused trying to acquire the company while increasing its success and value. With Bob leaving and taking a job in Idaho, where his wife was from, I would make one last attempt to purchase the company. Working with an attorney, an employee’s father, I put together an offer. I got the Commerce Bank of Washington (our current bank to this date at PACE) to provide me with a substantial loan to make the offer based on the company’s financial status. As a backup plan, and at the attorney’s recommendation, I had him incorporate a new company, “Penhallegon Associates Consulting Engineers, Inc. (PACE),” just in case the offer went entirely sideways.

I was able to obtain a second mortgage on my house to finance a new company, just in case. When the next Board meeting came on a Wednesday, l explained to the members the defections leaving and why and gave them Bob’s formal resignation. Then, I gave them my resignation if they didn’t accept my offer to acquire the company by Friday, thinking that at the least, this would get them to sit down and work something out. The next day, I was escorted to the front door first thing in the morning, allowed to take my briefcase, and drive the company car home. I never was allowed back, nor did I ever go back to that office after being there 21 years.

That afternoon, I called the attorney I was working with to explain what had happened, and he just said, “I better start running.” Running was something I was good at in high school and had many awards to prove it, but this running was quite different. I decided to call my good friend Tom Peadon, manager of what is now Coal Creek Utility District having been the District Engineer for years, and he told me to get my resume to him. Penhallegon Associates had its first client at the District’s next Board meeting. By the end of that first year or slightly after, the company had Susan, Dave, Phil, Tracy, Lorane, Larry, Diane, and yes, Bob moved back. I had to offer Bob a corner view window, and luckily his house in Kirkland had not yet sold! All from that former company, PACE was off and running!

Since that first year, PACE has grown into a multi-discipline service company with four offices located through the PNW. Our company has many things to be proud of, including our 135 employees, acquiring eight firms, one of Zweig’s Best Places to Work, and eight times PSBJ’s top 100 fastest growing private Companies in the Northwest! Cheers to our 30th years in business!