David Shea was thrilled about serving as chairman of the board of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce during its 100th year.
But when the person slated to be chairman during the Chamber’s 99th year abruptly withdrew, Shea was asked to step in a year ahead of time.
He didn’t hesitate.
“It’s just as significant to be there in that role and timeline,” said Shea, president of Shea Construction.
Shea will be installed officially as chairman at the Chamber’s 99th annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. today, the day after his 54th birthday.
The featured speaker, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman of the board of The New York Times Co., will address a sold-out crowd of 1,022 at the Agricultural Trade Center.
The kind of community devotion Shea displayed in stepping up his appointment is typical, say friends and colleagues.
“His heart is with this community,” said Chris Schnug, outgoing chairwoman of the board. “He feels a personal commitment to achieving the aim of the organization.”
“When he assumes a responsibility, he always follows through,” said Paul Redmond, chief executive officer of Washington Water Power Co. and a past Chamber chairman.
Among the positions Shea has held are president of Momentum; president of the Spokane Symphony Society; president of the Spokane Construction Council; board member of the Spokane Sports, Entertainment, Arts and Conventions advisory board, and member of the Chamber’s executive committee of the Base Realignment and Closure Task Force.
Of all the Chamber committees he’s served on, the Base Realignment and Closure Task Force stands out in his mind because of the threat of closure Fairchild Air Force Base faced in 1993.
“We had to hustle like all get out to justify that Fairchild had a significant mission,” Shea said. “Fairchild’s importance to the community can’t be underscored.”
The challenges facing the Chamber this year are many. The top priority is implementing the New Century plan, a roadmap of economic and community development goals for Spokane that stretches years into the future.
Putting the plan into action, with goals such as raising wages, preparing students better for work and improving the city’s infrastructure will make the community healthier, which in turn makes the business community healthier, Shea said.
“One doesn’t exist without the other,” he said.
Another focus for the Chamber this year will be its alliance with two other economic development organizations, the Spokane Area Economic Development Council and the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Shea said he believes the three organizations will move into the same building within the next two years. And, Shea said, there will be electronic links to the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and Jobs Plus, an economic development organization in Coeur d’Alene.
Sharing meeting rooms and possibly accounting departments and research facilities will help the organizations minimize duplication and better serve the public, Shea said.
Shea was born and raised in Spokane, with construction as his lifelong dream. As a child, he would sit and watch as houses were built in his neighborhood. He began visiting construction sites with a family friend who was a general contractor.
After graduating from Gonzaga University with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering, he spent two years in the Army Corps of Engineers in Virginia, Georgia and Vietnam.
During 14 months on a construction battalion in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966, Shea helped build bridges, highways and hospitals with tight resources.
“You’d be at the dock waiting to see what was on the ship that you could use,” Shea said.
When he returned to the United States, he worked for a general contractor from 1967 to 1974. In 1974, he joined forces with Bernard Levernier to form Levernier-Shea Construction. That lasted 12 years, until the pair parted in 1986.
Now Shea Construction is approaching its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, the company will build its second Blitz House on Sept. 21 for Habitat for Humanity. The house is so-named because it’ll be built in a week.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates his philosophy than the Blitz House, Shea said.
“We’re not just builders in the community,” he said. “We have to be builders of the community. I try to take that role myself, as a model.”
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