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Builders race to meet IDC's growth
"It's hard to know which is growing faster - Bainbridge's newest office building, or the tenant-to-be that has already outgrown it.The 20,000-square-foot building on Hildebrand Lane was started just over a month ago, and should be finished by mid-November. By the time IDC, the tenant, moves in, it will have between 80 and 90 employees, making it one of the island's largest private employers.Without this building, we would not have been able to stay on the island, said IDC president Dan Allen. Everybody - the people at the city, the architect, developer and contractor - has collaborated to make this happen.We were working on their deadline, said Jim Laughlin of Madison Avenue Development, which will own the building. It's a great motivator, having somebody wanting to give you money.Two things have made the rapid construction schedule possible - an integrated design-build approach, and liberal use of pre-cast material.What we're used to seeing is a step-by-step approach where you do your design, ask for bids, pick the low bidder and then get the contractor on board, said architect Mark Miller of Wise Miller architects in Seattle.But here, we got everybody on board at the beginning.The contractor is a known quantity - Drury Construction, formerly based on the island before moving to Poulsbo. The advantages of getting the contractor involved up front more than outweighed any disadvantages that might arise from the lack of a competitive bid, Laughlin said.They bring expertise you don't get if you leave the contractor out of the loop while designing, he said.The cement slabs and lower-story beams were pre-cast off site, Miller said, and needed only to be fitted together.You can build in concrete without having to spend a lot of time to build forms, Miller said. You also have a better controlled environment for doing the work.The speed advantage is apparent to even the casual onlooker. Excavation work began about five weeks ago. After a week of digging, crews began pouring the foundation. Then they could assemble the slabs and walls immediately. Next week, the roof trusses will go on. The whole building should be closed before the winter rain begins. We want not to be working in the wet, yucky weather, Miller said.The fact that the building is functional and efficient to build won't detract from its appearance, Miller said. The to halves will be joined by a central staircase, which will be glassed in.The entry stairway will be a showpiece, said Miller, who also designed Sakai Intermediate School. It will be done all in glass and wood.The building has two stories with one level of underground parking. Additional parking will be available on the street level. IDC rides niche to fast-track growthThe new structure can't come too soon for tenant IDC, or Integrated Data Communications.Since opening its doors in January 1999 with a handful of employees, the company has grown to 75 employees jammed into four separate offices. And at least a dozen more are on the way by the end of the year.The official company address is on Ericksen. The main office, which it plans to retain, is the space above the state liquor store on Hildebrand. The firm also occupies space in two buildings where the city planning department was housed before the move into city hall.The phenomenal growth testifies to the fact that IDC is in one of the hot hi-tech niches - wireless software.IDC's initial product is a battery-size location-tracking device that can be clipped onto a cellular telephone. The clip-on contains a Global Positioning System (GPS) device that, at the push of a button, will tell a recipient where on the earth - within 40 feet - the caller is located.The company won't retail the product directly, but rather will distribute it through intermediaries like cell-phone manufacturers and automobile clubs.IDC has also been developing software for what it calls telematics, that is, transmission of data to and from automobiles.One application might be that when the airbag deploys, the automobile will alert emergency services and provide a location, Rimkus said.Other possible applications are more consumer-oriented.You could be driving in a strange town, and this could tell you where the nearest pizza place is, Rimkus said. It could provide location-sensitive concierge services.The company's thrust during its 18-month existence has been on developing both its technology and its relationships with potential customers. It is still living off investor-provided capital, but expects that to change soon.We'll be making a major announcement in the near future about our products, Rimkus said.Even before sales begin, though, the company is contributing to the area's economy, said Allen, IDC president.We've recruited people from all across the country, and almost every one of them has moved to Kitsap County - either the island or Poulsbo, he said.When Allen decided to leave Nextel and start his own company, he chose Bainbridge Island as his headquarters.I'd lived all over, and there's no place like the Northwest, he said. I thought this would be a great place for a hi-tech startup.He still does. While pulling engineers out of the hi-tech mainstream can be a challenge, the island's lifestyle advantages, particularly the slow pace, are enough of an attraction to make it work.Most places, you leave the airport, fight your way downtown, and by the time you get to your meeting you're all stressed out, Allen said. But here, they take that ferry ride, and by the time they get here, they're in a great frame of mind. Allen says the fast-paced, competitive nature of business creates enough tension.I want management, our mission and our investors to be the ones to introduce stress, Allen said, not the outside environment.He thinks the company will continue to grow, and will expand to offices around the country in the near future. But the nerve center will still be on Bainbridge.My house is on Rockaway Beach, he said. Andy (Rimkus') house is at Meadowmeer. This is where we're staying. "