A native of San Diego, Don Whitacre became interested in the construction industry while still in high school. In 1972, after completing a year of college, Don moved to Colorado where he became an apprentice on construction sites and had the opportunity to learn firsthand ground-up turnkey construction. Following Colorado, Don signed up with an overseas contractor for a construction project in Antarctica supporting the National Science Foundation. During his eight month tour, Don’s crew worked at the McMurdo Station, the South Pole Station and on the Ross Ice Shelf building new research structures and maintaining existing sites including the geodesic dome at the South Pole Station.
Returning to San Diego in 1978, Don decided to get his contractor’s license and open a one-man operation. It was a challenging time to start any business due to the oil embargo and gas rationing that came with the Carter years, so Don entered the residential arena and focused on large custom homes. His crews poured the concrete foundation, laid the masonry and framed the structures..
In 1981, the Company entered the commercial market doing rough carpentry. With that jump-start and with the return of a healthy economic environment, D.A. Whitacre Construction expanded and grew so that, although the Company continued to frame houses, its specialty became commercial framing..
By 1984, D. A. Whitacre Construction had grown from a one-person operation to more than 25 employees. Don incorporated and his brother, Bill Whitacre, became the Company’s Vice President. Don’s wife Vicki took over as Corporate Secretary. Vicki had always been an important part of the business, putting together bids and preparing payroll on the family coffee table, and she continues to play an important role today overseeing several aspects of the Company’s operations..
Bill Whitacre started with the company while in high school working part-time for his brother during the summer. After graduating from San Diego State University, Bill was hired by his brother in 1984 as a full time employee concentrating on field operations. Together, they became power players in the commercial building field, and by 1990 D.A. Whitacre Construction employed more than 100 framers. The Company moved out of Don Whitacre’s residence and into the El Cajon location it built..
The early 90s brought a recession that hit the construction industry hard. But instead of laying off employees and closing its doors when work became scarce as many firms were doing, D.A. Whitacre worked hard to keep its core workforce on the payroll by accepting whatever new construction, remodel or reconstruction job it could source. The strategy and hard work paid off, and when the construction industry began to grow again in 1995 and jobs were plentiful, D.A. Whitacre workers stayed with the Company. As a result, the Company today has a core of highly-skilled core employees of which some have been with the Company for more than 35 years. This strong core of highly experienced workers provides the Company with both a competitive edge and the personnel to help ensure continued success and future growth..
By late 1998, D.A. Whitacre Construction, Inc. had developed enough business to support more than 250 framers and welders and an office staff of 15. Specializing in commercial construction, Whitacre focused on commercial wood framing, roof structures and mezzanine decks for tilt-up buildings. The Company also framed shopping centers, medical buildings, retail centers, auto centers and dealerships, warehouses, hotels, multistory office buildings, restaurants, schools and churches. Business increased dramatically. In 1998 the company completed close to 200 projects.
DA Whitacre Construction’s project list is as varied as it is long. The Company has participated on many phases of the Hotel Del Coronado, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, La Valencia Hotel and the Estancia Hotel as well as various projects at Sea World, San Diego Zoo and San Diego State University. The Company has specifically worked on SeaWorld’s Shamu Close Up, the Dolphin Interaction Program and Shipwreck Rapids; the Kona Kai Hotel, Mission Bay Hilton, Fashion Valley and Mission Valley Shopping Center redevelopments and the Olympic Training Center in Otay Mesa. Other projects include Qualcomm buildings and the San Diego State University library that also won a “Build America Award.”
D. A. Whitacre is already preparing for the future. As wood prices fluctuate, the construction industry is finding new ways to keep construction prices reasonable. Advances in construction technology include the tilt up building construction technique that now incorporates steel along with wood in roof structures and metal decks. The Company provides ongoing training to its workers in the latest framing techniques and safety programs in order to stay on the cutting edge of this industry.