Quince Has ‘Superior’ Expertise

July 5, 2005
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MARNE — Vaughn Quince believes there are a lot of companies out there that are doing their part to help improve the environment. As chairwoman of Superior Environmental Corp., she sees them every day.

She and her husband, Jim Quince, combined their talents to form Superior Environmental in 1989. The Marne born-and-raised consulting firm now has a client base stretching across five states.

Vaughn Quince brought a background in administration to the venture and Jim brought a degree in hydrogeology. For the first few years they had one partner in the business.

"We wanted the opportunity to do something on our own," she said about their decision to strike out on their own. "Our goal was to have a place to work where people would like coming to work. We've always tried to keep up that kind of a work environment."

At the time, new legislation regarding leaking underground storage tanks was making a big splash.

"The federal government said all underground storage tanks in the country had to be upgraded because they were leaking like crazy," Quince recalled. "States had to start doing something and they had until 1997 to comply or they couldn't put fuel in the tank anymore."

Congress created the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund in 1986 to provide money to enforce upgrades at leaking sites, for the cleanup of sites that required emergency action, and for tank owners that couldn't afford cleanup costs.

Since Jim Quince's specialty was in remediation of underground storage tanks, in the early years that kind of work comprised the bulk of their business — that and property transfers, Quince noted.

There was a point where Superior Environmental employed 180. When the state's LUST fund went bankrupt, the company had to downsize significantly, Quince recalled.

"We still do work on underground tanks for clients, but it's not the focus of our business anymore."

Today the company employs 85 and offers a wide range of environmental consulting services, including: risk assessments for real estate and development; due diligence studies; air and water quality control assessment; industrial compliance; brownfields consulting; engineering; remedial investigation; and construction management.

Its areas of technical expertise include: civil, chemical and geotechnical engineering; geology and earth sciences; hydrogeology; industrial hygiene; chemistry, biology and toxicology; and occupational safety and health management.

The company's typical clients are major oil companies, banks, lawyers and state government. It does a lot of work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Banks fall into Superior Environmental's target market because they are involved in financing property transfers and they want to make sure a property thoroughly checks out before they approve a loan, she explained. Lawyers come to the table on behalf of clients buying or selling properties.

Superior Environmental projects, Quince said, can vary from disposing of a homeowner's old heating oil tank to a large remediation project for a major oil company.

Superior Environmental now has eight offices in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut. Some of that growth came in the past few years. The firm opened two offices in 2003 and two more in 2004.

Although the company is primarily focused on the Great Lakes region, it opened a Connecticut office for a large client who wanted Superior Environmental's presence nearby, Quince explained.

Quince handles the administrative side of the business — accounting, human resources and internal operations. Her husband takes care of the marketing and technical advising end of the business.

Most clients call on the company for a combination of environmental services rather than just one, because one issue or problem is often linked to another, she said.

"We just kind of go right down the list. If you do a risk assessment and find a risk, you have to take that to the next phase."

Quince said demand for environmental consulting services has grown over the past 15 years and some of it has simply been in response to changes in government regulations. Companies tend to be a lot more environmentally conscious today, too.

"There is definitely more heightened awareness of the environmental industry in general. And because of regulations and banking rules, and things people dig into, more and more is known when property is transferred."

Last year Superior Environmental started down the path to being 100 percent employee owned, which seems to go hand in hand with the Quinces' original goal: to create a work environment that people enjoy coming back to everyday. It's currently 10 percent employee owned.

"We'd like to have the company owned by the people who've made it," she said. "Without them it wouldn't exist. We've had a lot of people who have been with us for a long time. We still have our very first employee. This is a good group of people; they're fun to work with and they make it a nice place to come."

Quince said next year the company will likely open one, possibly two, new offices, following a steady growth pattern that remains primarily focused on the Great Lakes region.    

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