A construction career seemed to come naturally for Dennis Harris, whose mother and aunt were among the first Black drywall installers in Oregon during the 1970s. He started his by joining Walsh Construction Co. in 1989.
Harris brings that more than three de- cades of experience, including running a construction company with two other people, to his ownership of Vanport Remodeling & Construction. He specializes in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and ADUs (accessory dwelling units), and works with a team of subcontractors when needed.
“I really enjoy the freedom of working for myself,” he said. “You are accountable for all of your actions, and you can’t blame anybody else for stuff not getting done. And you actually get to see something done at
the end of the day.”
Harris, who helped build New Columbia for three years and knows several people who bought houses there, also appreciates the opportunity to make things better in the neighborhoods he grew up around.
“A lot of times when I’m working on people’s houses, especially in North and North- east, I know people there and it’s a sense
of community,” he said. “That’s one of the more rewarding aspects of what I do as well.”
Over the years, Harris has learned the importance of hiring support staff like an accountant or bookkeeper to avoid getting overwhelmed while running a business.
“You’ve got to remember that you can’t do this all by yourself. It takes a team. Do what you do best, and get people in place who are going to help you succeed,” he said.
Harris noted that he met NAMC-Oregon Executive Director Nate McCoy as a super- intendent on a jobsite and said, “I’ve got so much respect for that man.”
The relationship has continued through Harris’ membership in the association, which he credits for supporting him in building nearly a dozen townhomes for Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives. The nonprofit PCRI provides afford- able housing to low-income families primarily in North and Northeast Portland.