Surveying The Field

May 29, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — A small engineering company teamed up with a small surveying firm a week ago to create a new entry into the field.

Land Development Surveying is the new entity, the result of an agreement that Todd Olin and Robert Lemke entered into last week. Olin owns engineering company Land Development Solutions, while Lemke owns Lemke Land Surveying.

“It is a very small firm that we have joined with,” said Olin.

But the smallness seems to be the right size for a good fit that could lead to big things.

Land Development Solutions has three engineers, two computer-aided drafters and a business administrator. Lemke Land Surveying has three surveyors.

“Bob started his small surveying group about three years ago, and we got hooked up with Bob by accident. We were real impressed with his work, and he was with ours. So we started discussing what we could do to join forces,” said Olin.

After about five months of talks, Olin and Lemke signed the documents last week that made Land Development Surveying a reality. The new firm is a whole and separate business of its own.

“When we started talking, we both knew an investment was going to have to be made in this company, of course, and getting everything finalized took a little longer than we hoped. So we were not expanding the surveying group while these talks were going on,” said Olin.

But now that the new firm exists, Olin said his old firm may need to add another staff member in the near future. The new surveying company has started with two surveyors and a technician.

“Then there are resources within our company that we will share, such as the receptionist and the drafting. So it’s very likely that we will have to add another draftsman here to handle the workload from surveying,” said Olin.

Land Development Solutions got started when Olin and Keisha Westbrook resigned from Williams & Works four years ago. Westbrook left the firm a while back, and Olin has flown solo since her departure. Over that timeframe, about two years, the company added services to its menu and staff to its lineup, offering everything except geo-technical engineering and surveying.

Olin said Land Development Solutions subcontracts the geo-technical work and, of course, now offers survey work through its new company with Lemke. And despite the choking economy that has much of the state gasping, Olin said his company has been breathing easier.

“Even with a lack of residential work in the area, we’ve been able to stay busy because we are more creative than other engineering firms. So we’re working on lakefront properties and mixed-use properties. It’s got to be a unique development to market in this economy,” he said.

The firm’s clients have been many and varied, and include churches, retail outlets and centers, theaters, residences, restaurants, car washes and even an ice arena. Land Development Solutions did the engineering work for new Famous Dave’s restaurants in three states.

But Olin said his most satisfying project has been the Maple Creek Senior Living Community on 32nd Street. Site restrictions on the property that was once home to Luther Social Services made the project the most challenging his firm has worked on in its short history. Easements for sanitary sewer and water wandered across the property, and so did a few creeks. Plus, regulations to manage stormwater had never been proposed for the site, and the client had a tight construction budget.

“We worked with the existing landscape to make everything work out, and it came together,” he said.

Just like that project, things have come together for Land Development Solutions. And Olin thinks things will come together for Land Development Surveying, as well. So expect the new company to operate with the same trait that served Land Development Solutions so well: letting the firm’s work do most of the talking.

“We’re small, not too large of a company. We’re aggressive,” said Olin. “And still, word-of-mouth advertising has been the best marketing that we could have done, and that has been real helpful for us.”    

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