Reno’s Dennis Banks Construction builds legacy of success, turns 35 this year
March 7, 2018
RENO, Nev. — In the late 1990s, then-University of Nevada-Reno athletic director Chris Ault was pushing to develop Legacy Hall, a lavish $4 million facility next to Lawlor Events Center that would feature offices for coaches, athletic support staff and administrators and serve as a landmark for the university's rich sports heritage.
Reno-based Dennis Banks Construction Co. was tabbed as general contractor for the project. Ault had become familiar with company founder and co-owner Dennis Banks — who was positioning itself as a diversified general contractor — when Ault was in the market for a new single-family home.
He was impressed with the craftsmanship on a home Banks was building in the new Interlaken residential community on Lakeside Drive in Reno.
During an interview this week at his office in Southeast Reno, Banks admitted the Legacy Hall project was one of the most challenging projects his construction company — which turns 35 years old this year — has ever taken on.
"Unfortunately, I was young and didn't realize how scary the project was going to be," Banks said with a chuckle. "Looking back, maybe we weren't quite qualified to do such a project, but it worked out and we got it done."
Since the Legacy Hall project was in the center of the UNR campus, Banks said, one of the biggest challenges was minimizing disruptions to everyday life to athletic staff, as well as managing the fact outside traffic from vehicles and pedestrians couldn't be diverted.
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Still, the project remains a crowning achievement for the company, Banks said, and is a testament to its diverse portfolio.
Having that diversity has allowed Dennis Banks Construction Co. to consistently meet the demand of a wide range of customers, Banks added, while effectively weathering the turbulent construction industry across Northern Nevada.
"We can do anything because we've made it mandatory that we don't focus only on one thing," he said. "It really comes down to not being too stubborn to think you are only good at one thing."
The company has developed many key projects, including several apartment complexes, automotive dealerships and retail shopping centers throughout the Reno-Sparks region.
Banks also built and became co-owner of a few shopping centers, including Plumgate on the corner of Plumb Lane and S. Arlington Ave. in Reno; and the 65,000-square-foot Longley West center off Longley Lane and S. Virginia St. in Reno.
Banks, who lives part-time in Portland, Ore., said the company has done a number of projects in the Pacific Northwest as well.
Banks' father worked as a contractor, giving the younger Banks an early taste in the industry, he said. Banks worked for his father out of high school before earning his general contractors license at just 23 years old.
Banks started his business by doing small office or residential projects before advancing to tenant improvements, then home-building and eventually large-scale commercial development.
He co-owns the company with his wife, Susan, a UNR graduate who sits on the Board of the Associated Builders and Contractors and Nevada Association of Employers. As the company's website notes, Susan "has been a part of Dennis Banks Construction since the beginning."
And that family tradition has continued, with one of Banks' sons, Garrett, coming on board as a project manager.
The company also added Mark Folgner as director of construction in 2015. Folgner has previous experience working for the general contractor who built Aces Ballpark (now Greater Nevada Field) in Reno and Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, in Santa Clara, Calif.
While Dennis Banks Construction continues to look for a variety of projects, Banks insists that another key to the company's longevity is taking on one job at a time.
He's seen many contractors go out of business because they've overextended themselves with too many projects at any given time.
"One thing I believe in that most companies in this industry go broke when they are too busy," Banks said. "If you're too busy trying to keep up with all the pieces and parts (of multiple projects), you don't do as good of a job."