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Small civil engineering firm produces big results for clients

MERIDIAN — Airport design and rehabilitation, bridge and culvert design, commercial development and construction administration are only a few of the services that 10-employee Engineering, Surveying & Inspection Inc. (ESI) provides its clients.

As Mitch King, a graduate engineer at the three-year-old civil engineering firm, said, the good thing about being part of a smaller firm is handling every phase of the engineering process. On the other hand, the bad thing about being part of a smaller firm is handling every phase of the design process.

For King and the others at ESI, however, the firm’s size is just right.

“Many times I’ll come in wearing a suit and then change into outdoor work clothes,” he said. “That’s the great thing about it. You don’t walk in every day knowing exactly what you’re going to do. It keeps it really fresh.”

Just because he enjoys the size of the firm does not necessarily mean there are no challenges involved with being part of it though; on the contrary, King said the constant challenge faced by ESI is punctuality.

“You have to wear a lot of hats when you work for a small company. If I had to go out in the field today, that would change my schedule for the rest of the week,” King explained. “To have the project done in the time frame the client has asked for — that’s something we strive hard for.”

The biggest challenge is keeping qualified personnel, said Ron A. Robinson, P.E., president of ESI. The city plays a part in ESI’s ability to hire and keep such people.

“The community has to have a draw,” he said. “I love Meridian. It’s a good town-a family town. But you have to find people who are small town- and family-oriented.”

Robinson found those small town-, family-oriented people and decided to open ESI in May 1999 for several reasons, one of which stood out among the rest.

“I think it’s the goal of every professional to own and operate his or her own business,” Robinson said. “There’s lots of flexibility and there’s a lot of reward for that.”

Robinson added that a person’s self-motivation and desire contributes to the success of a business as well. But no matter how much motivation and desire a person has, if the need is not there, a business could be doomed to fail. In Meridian, Robinson saw a definite need for another engineering firm. While there are two other consulting firms in the city he saw a lot of development taking place there. “It’s a supply and demand issue,” he said.

Currently it seems there is an ample supply of business for ESI. The firm is working on a large sewer project for about 700 homes in Lauderdale County, a 150-lot subdivision north of Meridian that will include a 35-acre lake and much more. In addition, ESI has been chosen as the engineers for the NTS Water Association and the North Lauderdale Water Association. According to Robinson, a shortage of business for ESI in the future is also unlikely.

“Most rural water associations are facing growth problems on systems,” Robinson said. “There is a potential there for upgrading these facilities. (Business is) really looking good for the next couple of years.”

Regardless of how good business goes, Robinson prefers to keep ESI small.

“We’ll probably try to stay under 15 employees and really just focus on commercial and residential development and some municipality work,” Robinson said. “We want to continue to provide quality service for the smaller clients.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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