This article originally appeared on Northern Nevada Business Weekly on April 10, 2024

Key Takeaways

Dennis Banks Construction highlights:
  • Extensive Experience: Celebrating 40 years in business, Dennis Banks Construction has a rich history in both residential and commercial projects in Northern Nevada.
  • Diverse Project Portfolio: The company has handled everything from residential homes to significant commercial buildings and renovations, including notable projects at the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • Successful Succession Planning: Sons Garrett and Davis Banks are taking on leadership roles, ensuring continuity and growth of the business.
  • Community Engagement: The company’s reputation and success are bolstered by strong community involvement and support for local institutions and candidates.
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Longtime Reno general contractor Dennis Banks is approaching retirement age for some people, but Banks isn’t quite ready to begin writing the final chapters of his lengthy construction career.

Dennis Banks Construction celebrated its 40th year in business in 2023. Bank’s career in Northern Nevada started while attending Wooster High School in the late 1970s. He worked as a carpenter and laborer for his father’s company, Benny Banks Construction. In 1983, after turning 23 and with the required five years of work experience under his belt, Banks struck out on his own as a general contractor.

“My uncle and I were the only employees for my dad; that’s why it was imperative to go out on my own or else stick around and be a carpenter all my life,” Banks told NNBW during a recent interview at the company’s offices on Maestro Drive.

Initial projects for Dennis Banks Construction were modest — a few redwood decks, followed by a room addition for a high school friend. After that job, Banks started building houses for clients or spec homes one at a time, selling each residence before moving on to the next.

His transition around 1985 into commercial construction work, the company’s primary focus to this day, was equally inauspicious. A friend working in the electrical trades asked Banks if he did “TIs,” and they went to look at a vacant space in Old Town Mall that needed renovating for a new tenant. Tenant improvements were nearly constant at Old Town Mall in the mid-1980s, Banks said, and the mall’s owners even had Banks install an escalator at the iconic mall at South Virginia Street and Peckham Lane.

Although Dennis Banks Construction made its bones in the commercial sector, the company typically takes on one or two residential projects each year for existing clients, Banks said. Along the way, Dennis Banks Construction also has built and owned many apartment complexes and industrial warehouses, but its property holdings now are mostly in the retail, hospitality and office sectors, Banks noted.

“We’ve worked in every sector,” he said. “If commercial construction were to slow down, we would pick up some dirt and build houses – we build whatever is trending. We are not locked in; we try to do what is best for our company.

“We are always purchasing land and building for ourselves as well,” he added. “Right now, commercial happens to be the best avenue for us.”

Dennis Banks Construction has erected countless commercial buildings throughout the Truckee Meadows, but a few of the jobs Banks is most proud of include construction of Legacy Hall and Cashell Fieldhouse on the campus of University of Nevada, Reno, as well as the addition of 10,000 seats and an overhaul of the east sky boxes at Mackay Stadium.

While Banks won’t be hanging up his hardhat anytime soon, there has been quite a bit of succession planning at Dennis Banks Construction over the past few years. Sons Garrett and Davis have assumed leadership roles within the company and handle a lot of the work that used to cross their father’s desk.

“There’s definitely been a transition,” Dennis Banks said. “In the last couple years, we sold off some properties and had them more involved helping decide if we were going to purchase other properties.

“Other than our own projects, and some existing clientele, work gets handed off to them and I get to do the parts I like the best,” he added. “It’s pretty special when you get to a comfort level where you let other people put together bids and you know they aren’t going to leave out a few hundred thousand dollars.”

Much of the elder Bank’s time these days is consumed with overseeing his four restaurant properties. Dennis Banks owns South 40 and Napa Sonoma Grocery Co., in south Reno, Mexcal in Midtown, and Red Rock Sports Bar and Cafe.

The Biggest Little City has grown significantly since the days when Banks founded his company. Interstate 580 south of town didn’t exist – U.S. 395 ended at the South Virginia Street/Kietzke Lane exit. McCarran Boulevard didn’t yet encircle Reno-Sparks, and a contract for a construction job was noted on a single page with a handshake.

Banks has lived in the Truckee Meadows all his life. When he was a child, Skyline Boulevard was a dirt road on the outskirts of town. Although he’s spent his entire career working in the construction industry, Banks said he’s never wondered what could have been had he followed a different path.

“I can’t even imagine, because this career is pretty sweet,” Banks said. “I love it, and I’ve been pretty fortunate. Our company logo is ‘Born to Build,’ and there’s been no looking back.”

Reno has always been a town where reputation matters, especially in the business community, and especially for old-schoolers like Banks. New projects for Dennis Banks Construction often come from repeat customers or from the reputation of the company, he said.

“You have to do your part. We support candidates we believe in, the university, high schools — it goes a long way when your sign is up at different sports facilities. If you believe in something you support it, and that (goodwill) will come back to you over the long run.

“I’ve always had really good accountants, and that’s where people often get lost in construction,” he added. “If anybody goes broke in construction it’s because they got too busy, not because work was too slow. You can’t take on projects that aren’t really up your alley, and you have to have good people around you.”

That team currently includes Garrett Banks as company director, and Davis Banks as project engineer/superintendent. Construction has always been a part of their lives, they said.

“We grew up on job sites, whether it was a house or at Old Town Mall,” Garrett Banks said. “We were staring at metal studs after we were able to crawl. It’s the life we’ve always known, and it would be hard to do anything else.”

The duo will shape the next chapter in the long history of Dennis Banks Construction. Garrett Banks turns 39 in May, while Davis Banks is 36.

“We want to grow at a healthy, stable pace with the clients we’ve always had and new clients that fit the mold of our longtime clients,” Garret Banks said. “We are not going to try to grow 10 times from where we are, but as our clients grow and build and new customers come into the market, we will grow at the pace that’s needed in order to keep up with them.”