Engineering profits: Company transcends first-year expectations

TRAVERSE CITY – “We had hoped to gross $300,000 our first year, and we thought that was pie in the sky. But we’ll do about five times that,” Craig Wells said, as Wells/Mansfield Inc., ended its first year in business.

Formerly with Gourdie/Fraser & Associates Inc. in Traverse City, Wells and Doug Mansfield started their site engineering and land use consulting business last July with only one other employee, CAD Technician Michelle Marsh, and worked out of two construction trailers.

In one year, they’ve grown to 10 employees, have moved across the street into an office building at 2160 Cass Rd. and are constructing a new location on Rennie School Road,where they’ll move in late October.

Wells, a professional engineer, worked at Gourdie/Fraser & Associates (GFA) for 3 1/2 years, handling the bulk of the private sector work. Mansfield, educated in computer-aided design and architecture, worked for GFA for 10 years, handling the design and approval processes exclusively for the private sector. They said they made an “up and up” break from GFA and didn’t attempt to take any of their clients. In a nutshell, Wells/Mansfield services the private development sector on land use consulting, design, engineering and permitting. They service only the private sector because, as Wells says, trying to serve both public and private would be like being an attorney representing both the husband and wife in a divorce settlement.

“Traverse City has become a bigger market,” Mansfield said. “With the growth has come the increase in rules and regulations in land use, increasing developers’ expenses, (which means) profit margins aren’t as big anymore.”

Wells/Mansfield takes a parcel from speculation to development, looking at regulations and the highest and best use of the land. Realtors are brought into the first concepts of the design, while the township dictates feasibility of the project.

Mansfield is the Union Township Supervisor and sits on the Board of Public Works and Wells serves on the Construction Board of Appeals. These positions help them understand the decision-making process when looking at potential developments and their impacts.

As consultants, Wells and Mansfield are able to ask municipalities where certain policies originated and why, and to get the policy altered if need is justified.

“We objectively look at the rules, regulations and policies set by the municipal sector and ask ‘are they justified?'” Mansfield says.

Wells and Mansfield then pursue approval for the project and land use. Once that’s completed, they draw up a final design for engineering, including the roads, parking, sewer and water. They pursue the permits for the client and work with the contractor through the final stages.

Their specialty lies in the area of Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) and special use permits.

“The PUDs are a lot more intense process and require a lot of public input, but then evolve into something everyone gains from,” says Mansfield. “Our vision is to establish and cultivate long-term relationships.”

The company has done work all over Michigan. Two of their current projects include a 522-acre project in Benzie County for Cheval Knudsen and a 172-unit clustered residential project, Ashland Park, between Stone Ridge and the Horizon Outlet Mall in Traverse City.

According to Wells and Mansfield, they have the most technically-experienced staff.

“We’re able to hand pick our employees and have the best in town,” Mansfield declared. Wells added, “We definitely use technology to our clients’ and our benefit.”

Reach them at 946-9310. BIZNEWS