Local engineering firms see profit increases
Annual revenue boosts upwards of 20 percent are not uncommon.
As investors continue to drive developments in Grand Rapids, local industries are reaping the benefits. And that might be most represented in the region’s civil engineering firms.
Business Journal research shows the majority of civil engineering firms have seen an increase in profitability in 2015 over 2014. SME saw an increase in revenue of about 31.25 percent from last year, a $1.7 million difference. Fleis & VandenBrink increased its revenue from $8 million in 2014 to $9.75 million in 2015, a jump of about 21.9 percent. Exxel Engineering Inc., Paradigm Design and Moore & Bruggink Inc. each saw year-over-year increases of at least 21 percent.
The largest leap was WLP Associates LTD, which went from $790,000 in West Michigan revenue in 2014 to $1.06 million last year, a 34.1 percent rise. And Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber’s West Michigan revenue of $61.8 million last year, the highest amount reported by companies surveyed, was the result of 19.1 percent growth over the previous year.
SME Senior Consultant and Grand Rapids Regional Office Manager Louis Northouse said the growth is nothing new to the region but rather a continuation of increased interest in the area since the end of the recession.
“When the recession happened, I think a lot of people were sitting on the sidelines instead of investing,” he said. “But now that the economy is moving forward, a lot of investors are getting back in it. We help a lot of developments both geotechnically and geologically and, as that private investment increases in the area, so does our work and our revenue.”
Northouse said since about 2008, SME has increased its presence in Grand Rapids each year, doubling its workforce in the past eight years. Among its services provided, SME credits brownfield funding, geotechnical value engineering and pavement management as resources that were instrumental in allowing the company and its clients to remain profitable during the economic downturn.
SME’s geotechnical work on various projects in recent years, including the M-231 Bridge, Blodgett Hospital, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport parking ramp and the US-131 S-Curve, have saved clients more than $1.65 million in costs. SME also has benefitted from the recent flurry of downtown real estate developments.
Currently, SME is working on several high-profile local development projects, which include the development of New Holland Brewery’s Bridge Street location, renovation of The Rowe and Switch Ltd.’s SuperNAP.
Northouse said while the public sector always has been moving forward, it’s the private investment into the area that has been the catalyst for this most recent bout of economic growth — and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.
“We don’t see a cliff coming,” he said. “I think a lot of people believe in West Michigan and will continue to invest in West Michigan. It’s a growing area, a hot destination and people are moving in.”