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Pickering Engineering connects with Smith acquisition

Southaven — After a 30-year engineering career, Ben Smith didn’t want to retire. But he was looking to take his firm to a new level while preparing long-term for a lessened workload.

Smith, who founded Smith Engineering Firm in Southaven in 1973, had collaborated on several survey projects with Pickering Inc., a Memphis-based engineering group.

Primarily, Smith focused on work in residential subdivisions; Pickering handled mostly commercial and industrial projects.

“While Pickering has the same capability to do residential, Ben Smith has been in DeSoto County for 30-plus years and has a lot of good connections politically and professionally,” said Kerry Roby, a principal in Pickering Engineering’s Hernando office.

Smith’s full-service civil engineering, surveying and rezoning firm, which employs 20 at its Southaven and Hernando offices, serves clients throughout North Mississippi, as well as in eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee.

“Ben has done some commercial and industrial, but he hasn’t done much in the way of municipal civil engineering or transportation work, and those are areas where we can help him,” said Roby. “That’s where we’re looking to expand our opportunities in North Mississippi.”

Pickering’s 49-year-old full-service firm, which employs 160, provides architectural, engineering, environmental, planning, construction management and surveying services with branch offices located in Nashville, Tenn., and Brookhaven, Hernando, Jackson and Pearl.

O.L. Pickering established the engineering firm in Midtown in 1946; the corporate office recently moved to Lenox Park in Memphis. Earlier this year, the Memphis Business Journal named Pickering as one of six finalists in the medium-size company category for Best Places to Work in the sprawling metropolis.

Pickering had been eyeing Smith’s firm since the company acquired Jackson-based Engineering Associates Inc. (EAI) in 1999, which has a Brookhaven office.

EAI, a division of Pickering, brought to the table specialized engineering services in civil/municipal; transportation; water/wastewater; and environmental services including engineering investigations and reports; master plans for water, wastewater and solid waste; site location and development plans; environmental studies; transportation systems; master drainage planning; and water supply, treatment, storage, collection, distribution, pumping and wastewater disposal.

“We had talked to Ben several years ago, and then we picked up discussions again earlier this year and it seemed like a very good fit for us,” said Roby.

The acquisition details were not disclosed, except that Smith signed a three-year employment contract. The two Hernando offices will eventually be consolidated.

“So far, we’ve been very, very pleased,” said Roby. “Plus, their expertise had something to do with our decision. Ben has some very good people who know how to put together a good set of engineering plans, and that’s really important to developers who are trying to get their plans approved, so they don’t have technical issues during the review process.”

The new partnership immediately snagged a Church Road widening project in Horn Lake and may better position Pickering to pick up some design contracts for the new Interstate 69/269, which has recently been fast-tracked. Between newly approved federal funding and local bonds being issued by Marshall, DeSoto and Tunica counties, the construction of the North Mississippi portion of new roadway will occur years earlier than originally considered. “They haven’t even solicited proposals yet,” Roby pointed out.

“Frankly, I-69 wasn’t part of the acquisition discussion, but it won’t hurt.”

Pickering Environmental Consultants Inc., another Pickering subsidiary, offers full service environmental consulting services, including environmental site investigations and remediation; asbestos and lead survey; abatement and air monitoring; emergency planning; air quality; and wetlands mitigation and phytoremediation. stormwater management; water quality; storage tank management; regulatory compliance and dry cleaners; noise studies; cultural resources assessments; and NEPA environmental assessments.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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