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Businessexcellence September 07 34 value that goes beyond helping our clients to merely meet their needs.” Nolte does not take just anyone as a client. He frowns on the sometimes poor planning that can go into a request for proposal for engineering services. “We won’t work for a client that lacks the resources or knowledge to do a project properly. Public policy on how projects are processed is sometimes questionable, but it always trumps. It’s a significant problem because of projected costs versus realistic costs. Sometimes when you get through these exercises, at the end you ask, where was the added value?” Being based in California, with its governor’s recent emphasis on environmental and green building issues, is a mixed blessing. About five years ago Nolte made a commitment to sustainability, reflected in its mission statement, to deliver sustainable solutions to civil infrastructure needs, and George thinks that civil engineers can have an enormous impact on sustainability by the way they design projects. Roughly 10 percent of his staff is LEED certified (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system is the federally authorized, nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings). “It’s a big issue for us,” he says. “We run all projects over $100,000 (our fees) through a sustainability assessment at no additional cost to our client. The goal is to determine whether we can design a project in a different way that can benefit the community, client, and/or end user and is reasonable (in terms of engineering, construction, and cost). In terms of what’s going on in California right now, I think it’s important that the governor makes this kind of commitment towards sustainability, but it’s very frustrating when the initiative isn’t well thought out.” Notable recent projects include ReTRAC for the City of Reno, Nevada, a $240 million project (10), Colorado (3), Utah (1) and Mexico (2). The company designs infrastructure projects, such as water systems, transportation systems, industrial/office/residential developments, and master planned communities. “We’re comprehensive in this realm,” CEO George Nolte says. “For example, in the public transportation sector we conduct corridor studies, prepare freeway and bridge designs, conduct construction surveys, and provide construction management, where we’re the owner’s representative on projects.” In water systems they offer similar services for flood control and drainage projects, wastewater projects (collection and treatment plants), and clean water projects (such as pump stations and pipelines that deliver potable water for residential and industrial use). “Then in the private sector, we can address all of the civil infrastructure needs associated with a development project, such as grading, streets and utilities planning and design, and mapping. In the last five years we’ve taken on higher order work, helping clients with program management— for example, budgeting, including forecasting cash demands to enable financing, and setting strategies for our client’s side of the work.” Nolte thinks of his business as the core foundation for building communities. “Our vision statement says ‘to provide leadership in delivering civil infrastructure to communities.’ For the past 25 years we’ve put a lot of effort into thinking about how we structure ourselves as an organization, what kind of investment to make in our processes, how we feel about and value our people, and how we define our preferred client base, which is roughly 50:50 public (municipalities, regions, districts, counties, states) and private (community developers/builders). About 80 percent of our work comes from this kind of client. We’re geared toward larger, more complex, demanding projects and put a lot of effort into providing a “I think it’s important that the governor makes this kind of commitment towards sustainability, but it’s very frustrating when the initiative isn’t well thought out.”

September 07 Businessexcellence 35 to depress train tracks that run through the downtown section of the city. Nolte initiated that project; it saw that the community had a need and brought it to the attention of local public offi cials, as well as infl uential people in the private sector. It did the preliminary engineering and environmental documents and ended up doing a substantial part of the design work as well. Nolte is the primary civil engineering fi rm on Daybreak, a 5,000 acre, 14,000 homes project just south of Salt Lake City, Utah, being developed by Kennecott Land, the non-mining branch of Kennecott Utah Copper, owned by Australian conglomerate Rio Tinto (the secondlargest resource extraction company in the world), which has adopted a sustainability policy that extends to its sub-contractor base. The current housing slump in the US market doesn’t affect fi rms like Nolte, since its developer clients plan their projects four to eight years ahead. Besides, after riding the cyclical nature of the economy since 1949, it’s well prepared to deal with the market. A more critical challenge is attracting and keeping skilled, qualifi ed people. “We approach our staff in a holistic way,” Nolte summarizes. “We defi ne our growth as a refl ection of the abilities of our staff, tying ourselves to their professional career development, as opposed to having an expansion-oriented, volume of work goal.” “In civil design engineering, as in any business, you have to be accomplished in three areas: your core abilities, your capability to make a profi t (very simply, your revenue has to exceed your costs), and client focus. Our dominant focus is client service. We’ve defi ned our success relative to our clients’ success, and we’ve written that into our value statement; we’re values-driven.” Nolte Associates