Adam Jones Sr., founder of The Erection Co., has returned as the Arlington, Wash.-based steel erector’s CEO following the sudden death of Lance Richotte, who was TEC’s president, CEO and primary shareholder since last year. Ironworker Richotte, who started at TEC as a connector in the raising gang, died on Aug. 28. He was 53.
The immediate cause of death was a heart attack but that was a consequence of a mysterious breathing ailment that started in July and worsened over time, despite supplemental oxygen. Richotte did not smoke.
Echoing others, Shannon Testa, director of commercial construction for Seattle-based general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis LLC, calls Richotte’s death “a tremendous loss for the industry.”
Richotte was known as a mild-mannered and humble leader. “Lance garnered respect from everyone who worked with him for his level of knowledge, professionalism and his dedication to improving the construction industry,” says Testa. Lease Crutcher Lewis is the general contractor for Seattle’s Rainier Square Tower, with its radical composite steel frame. As it predicted, TEC topped out the 850-ft-tall tower in only 10 months, on Aug. 9.
During an Aug. 21 interview with ENR, Richotte said he attributed the success of the first-of-its-kind project, with a welded shear-wall core built of tied-steel-plate modules field-filled with rebar-free concrete, to the collaborative nature of the members of the building team, who had built up relationships working together for decades. This included the developer, structural engineer, contractor, steel fabricator and TEC. “All parties spent time and energy” to make the project a success, he said.
Richotte was “a seasoned veteran, very professional and collaborative,” says Rob Chmielowski, a senior principal at Magnusson Klemencic Associates. MKA was the structural engineer for Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, which includes three, 500-ft-tall towers and the centerpiece, known as the Spheres.
Richotte was involved with the Amazon complex and many other high-profile TEC projects, including the Seattle Central Library; the Mariner’s ballpark, now named T-Mobile Park; and CenturyLink Field, a multipurpose stadium that is home to football’s Seattle Seahawks.
Hanging the Iron
Richotte joined the Iron Workers Local Union #86 on Sept. 6, 1984, four years before he first started at TEC. “We were connecting partners on Gateway Tower, hanging the iron and climbing around,” says Jeff Glockner, a TEC superintendent who was the Local 86 business manager from 2009-13. “Lance had high standards. His saying was, ‘We have to do better than that,’” adds Glockner.
Richotte also was a mentor and active in the union, where he served on the executive board from 2012 until 2018, when he became an owner of TEC. He was known as a major advocate for safety, says Glockner.
About seven years ago, Jones began grooming Richotte to take the reins of TEC, which Richotte and Jones’s twin sons, Adam L. Jones and Brian A. Jones, bought last year. On Jan. 25, Brian, then 47 years old, died in a car accident. Upon Richotte’s death, Adam L. moved up from vice president to president of the firm.
Adam Jones Sr. founded TEC in 1981. The steel erector primarily works in Alaska, the Seattle area, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Currently, TEC employs about 240 workers, including Richotte’s two ironworker sons, Stephen and Lance Jr., and his brother Wade. Richotte’s ironworker father, Albert, retired from TEC.
“Lance had built relationships with all the general contractors in the area, as TEC’s general superintendent. He was well thought of by all the union men and was instrumental in training apprentices,” says Rod Sutton, Richotte’s former TEC boss and mentor, who retired in 1999. His death has “left a hole for everybody.”