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Kurt Batdorf / SCBJ 
(click to enlarge)
Marshall Cymbaluk (left) and Jeff Cymbaluk are moving Motor Trucks from downtown Everett to a new showroom on the Snohomish River.

(click to enlarge)
Marshall Cymbaluk

(click to enlarge)
Jeff Cymbaluk
Kurt Batdorf / SCBJ 
(click to enlarge)
Jeff and Marshall Cymbaluk, son and father, spent years looking for a new Motor Trucks Inc. showroom and service shop. Motor Trucks will move into their new building on the Snohomish River in Everett on Aug. 10.

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Jim Davis, Editor
jdavis@heraldnet.com
Published: Thursday, July 29, 2010

Motor Trucks forges ahead with new Everett showroom

EVERETT — In June 1974, America's economy was mired in turmoil, struggling with inflation, stagnant growth, Watergate and the lingering shock of the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

In the midst of that uncertainty, Marshall Cymbaluk bought the International truck franchise on Grand Avenue in downtown Everett that's known today as Motor Trucks Inc.

Fast forward 36 years and America's economy is again struggling. Once again, Cymbaluk is defying uncertainty. He'll soon open a new, much larger Motor Trucks facility along the Snohomish River that his business bought from the Port of Everett.

“We've come full circle, with the economy as tough as it is,” Cymbaluk said.

Motor Trucks has long looked to expand beyond the space it has in the Grand Avenue shop, where big rigs and buses are tightly parked outside awaiting work in one of the six service bays. In the early 1980s, Cymbaluk looked at property at 128th Street SW and I-5, but it was too expensive. In the 1990s, he looked around Paine Field but was rebuffed by property owners' desire to keep land for aerospace manufacturing.

Everett, it turns out, has precious little industrial land for Cymbaluk's business. But the Port of Everett had industrial land southeast of Highway 529 along the Snohomish River, site of a former Weyerhaeuser Co. lumber mill.

Cymbaluk said International Corp. gave him permission to move Motor Trucks in late 2004, but negotiations dragged on because the port initially offered only to lease the land while he wanted to own it. The City of Everett then insisted on a 50-foot-wide riverfront buffer with a walking trail before it would issue an occupancy permit, but Cymbaluk balked because he feared possible lawsuits from trail users. He and the port went back to the bargaining table to give the port ownership of the trail and buffer, by paying $1.38 per square foot more for the 5.2 acres he purchased from the port.

Cymbaluk finally got his fill and grade permits in early 2009 and foundation permits in August 2009, when construction started.

“I'm surprised at how long it took,” he said. “Purchasing the land added time. And then the recession hit.”

The new, two-story building is scheduled for completion Aug. 10, with an opening around Labor Day. The building and land improvements total about $7.5 million, he said, with another $500,000 or so to buy new office furniture and shop equipment.

Cymbaluk and his son, Motor Trucks general manager Jeff Cymbaluk, 42, showed off the new building July 16.

The biggest change is the number of the service bays — up from six in the Grand Avenue shop to 21 filling about 23,000 square feet, Jeff Cymbaluk said. One bay has a lube pit so the mechanic doesn't have to put the truck on a hoist or jacks to work beneath it. Motor Trucks is one of the only heavy truck dealerships on the West Coast to have such a pit.

The east half of the building looks out on the Snohomish River with second-floor views of the Cascade Mountains from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier. Upstairs are managers' offices and a drivers' lounge where over-the-road truckers can wait while their rigs get serviced. Downstairs are the lobby, parts showroom, service offices and a computer training library for the mechanics.

The Cymbaluks will add railroad tracks at one end of the parking lot so mechanics can test Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's specialized trucks that travel over rail lines and pavement.

The water recovery system in the truck wash bay filters all contaminants and leaves water clean enough to drink, Jeff Cymbaluk said. The service bay doors feature full translucent panels to let in natural light, while skylights further reduce the need for overhead lighting.

A boiler running on waste oil will heat the 40,000-square-foot building, with thousands of feet of pipe embedded in the light-tinted concrete floor.

“We tried to go as ‘green' as we could,” Marshall Cymbaluk said.

Once the move to the new building is complete, Cymbaluk, 70, said he'll scale back his responsibilities and his son will take over the daily operation of Motor Trucks “sooner than later.”

It's a big investment for a family operation, but the Cymbaluks wanted space in their new building to allow for the growth they're certain will come when the recession ends.

They've weathered the many ups and downs in the trucking industry over the decades, and they expect to weather this one, too.

Left uncertain is what the Cymbaluks will do with their buildings on Grand Avenue with the commercial real estate market in its current weakened state. Marshall Cymbaluk said he fielded calls during the real estate boom a few years ago from people wanting to buy and develop his property. For time being, he says, they'll have to hold onto land.

The Cymbaluks figure to have more than the 31 employees they have now, possibly twice as many in four years. Jeff Cymbaluk said 15 or 16 mechanics working two shifts from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. is their goal.

Motor Trucks already employs approximately 265 workers at its nine locations in Western Washington and Alaska, including shops in Mount Vernon and Bellingham.

Despite the trying economy, the Cymbaluks are bullish on trucking in the U.S.

“Trucking is a vital thing in the world today,” Marshall Cymbaluk said. “I see it being around for a long time.”

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102, kbatdorf@scbj.com.