Thompson Engineering was founded in 1953 in Mobile, Ala., and now has offices throughout six states in the Southeast, including Mississippi. The company offers a full range of services, including geotechnical engineering, design build construction and civil engineering.
“Our specialty is problem solving,” said Don Bates, a vice president of the firm and manager of its Mississippi operations, with offices in Ridgeland, downtown Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi and Moss Point. “We enjoy and embrace solving our client’s problems and offering unique solutions. We really listen to the client and try to think about what’s the most efficient way to do something. We try to look at every situation in a very fresh way.”
Greg McKnight, Thompson’s regional marketing director for Mississippi, said the Jackson office opened in 2011 and the Ridgeland office has been open for 14 years.
“We are a full engineering firm and we can do anything from working on casinos, to roads and shopping centers. With 320 employees (companywide), we can pretty much do anything.”
The company’s work on the water system at Camp McCain Training Center in Grenada was recognized as an exemplary project at the recent annual employee meeting.
Among its major projects is the unique coastal engineering design Thompson developed for Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, which the company describes as “the largest sea-anchored, semi-submersible barge structure in the world.” After Hurricane Katrina,, Thompson said, “The casino was one of the only Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos left standing and the first to resume business following the storm.”
Thompson also designed the 31-slip marina at Beau Rivage and collaborated with Tom Fazio’s golf course designers to create Fallen Oak Golf Course, which is owned by Beau Rivage.
Thompson Engineering is a subsidiary of Thompson Holdings Inc., which also owns two related firms: Watermark Design Group, an architectural and interior design firm; and Thompson Consulting Services, a disaster recovery consulting firm. Together, the trio offers a wide range of architectural and engineering services. Thompson, an employee-owned firm, has more than 320 employees.
Corporate offices are in Mobile. Thompson also has offices in Montgomery, Ala.; Atlanta; Pensacola and Lady Mary, Fla.; Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tenn.; and New Orleans.
The Thompson Holdings Foundation was established in 2004 and named for company founder Vester J. Thompson Jr., The foundation supports efforts to improve the quality of life in the communities served by the Thompson Holdings companies by investing in organizations, programs and activities that “strengthen our social framework, education, and sense of community.”
The foundation grants funding requests for education, environmental and cultural resources preservation, health and social welfare, civic and community development and arts and recreation.
Bates estimates that in Mississippi the company does about $10 million worth of business a year.
“The last two years have not been the best,” he said. “We’ve had to make some changes and streamline a bit to fit our clients.”
He said federal projects and commercial work such as shopping centers and subdivisions have been hit hard, as have transportation projects. “The state and local market has been good, and we do a lot of municipal work,” he said. “And the industrial market is growing in certain regions, but it’s been pretty slow.” Institutional work such as hospitals has been “spotty.”
Bates said Thompson’s operations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee are the company’s mainstays. “Fortunately those are financially conservative states so that’s helped us,” he said.
A lot of the traditional engineering firm work is slow to return because of the economy but Bates does see opportunity coming from the growth of the natural gas market. “It looks like that’s going to be an industrial boom across the South as the price of natural gas holds steady,” he said.
But he isn’t going out on a limb making projections about how the future looks for the economy. “We’re being very conservative in our projections for next year,” he said.