In 1941, John Moffatt and Frank Nichol accepted the challenge of getting the Southern California naval installations at Long Beach and Port Hueneme designed, built, and online to secure the nation’s Pacific Coast at the outset of World War II. They mastered the challenges of marine design and construction—not just the piers, wharves and roads that were integral to the facilities—but the complex interaction of marine structures with the coastal environment. During their distinguished careers, they established a reputation for developing creative but practical designs, nurturing a company that continues that tradition today.
While the professional bond grew during the war years, it had begun more than a decade before when John and Frank worked at the Truscon Steel Company in Portland, Oregon in the 1930s. Collaborating directly with architects, they developed a real-world understanding of the relationship between engineering design and construction.
Frank and John made a move to Southern California to join Guy F. Atkinson Construction, then under contract to the U.S. Navy to build a naval shipyard on Terminal Island in San Pedro Bay to service and fleet vessels. Under wartime deadlines, they assembled teams that got jobs done, establishing a reputation for themselves as engineering professionals and demonstrating a can-do approach to complex design challenges. By war’s end, Frank and John had embraced a new expertise—marine design and construction through design-build delivery.
As World War II came to a close, the construction industry shifted back to a peacetime economy focused on civil infrastructure and commercial development. In Southern California that meant opportunity for enterprising professionals, and in 1945, John and Frank officially launched their own company at the Nichol family’s kitchen table. A firm was born, and a partnership that would revolutionize waterfront engineering through the next century was off and running.