Heavy Lifting: Traverse City’s engineering firms take on oil spills, large-scale building projects

Cleanups of oil spills, sprawling housing developments and state-of-the-art educational centers: These are just a few of the projects that companies in Traverse City’s impressive engineering sector have undertaken over the past decade.

The TCBN touched base with five of the area’s leading engineering firms to learn more about what they do, what their recent project loads have looked like and what the future might hold.


Gourdie-Fraser, Inc. (GFA)

Company history: Founded in 1948, GFA is a diversified engineering and consulting firm with services that span civil engineering, surveying, permitting, site testing and more. According to CEO Tony Kuberski, the business serves clients in the municipal, government, private development and energy sectors – many of whom have been working with GFA for decades. “GFA’s philosophy is to service a select number of clients, providing them with exceptional service and dedication,” Kuberski said. “Several of our clients have depended on GFA for more than 30 years.”

Engineering specialty: Kuberski breaks GFA’s key services down into four main categories: civil engineering, surveying, contract operations and maintenance, and testing and construction observation. Civil engineering services include stormwater design, roads and bridges, parks and recreational spaces, waterfront design (including marinas, docks, boat launches, and coastal structures) and more. In the surveying niche, GFA offers topographical surveys, boundary surveys, aerial and conventional mapping, structure surveys, roadway design surveys, oil and gas surveying and permitting, and hydraulic surveys, among other survey types. Services in the contract operations and maintenance category mostly focus on water and waste systems – including septic systems and public or private water systems and wastewater treatment systems. Finally, GFA’s testing and construction observation capabilities include soils testing, concrete testing, aggregate testing, bituminous pavement testing, field density testing and construction project oversight.

Recent projects: GFA recently served as the engineer of record for Peninsula Township when the township sought to construct a brand-new fire station. According to Kuberski, GFA was responsible for the project from start to finish, “including special use permit application, public engagement, design and construction drawings and specifications, permits, construction management, and inspection services.” The new fire house, which includes 1,200 square feet of living space and a 2,000-square-foot garage, was officially completed this past April. GFA also served as a key partner in a 2021 overhaul of the Cass Road drain in Traverse City. Property owners in that corridor were dealing with regular flooding due to “undersized and failing culverts.” GFA worked with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission and Team Elmer’s on a three-phase project to replace the culverts, providing construction oversight services on the project.

Coming up next: “GFA will continue to work with our existing clients on capital improvement plans and project costs and budgets, with the unpredictability of the current materials and labor market,” Kuberski said. “Many are struggling with aging infrastructure and are in need of upgrades. GFA continues to remain a strong ally and resource for our clients by monitoring funding opportunities to ensure our clients can capitalize and access funds to assist with these projects.”

Global Environmental Engineering

Company history: Global Environmental Engineering was incorporated in 1992 by founder William Korreck. The company is a full-service environmental engineering firm, focusing on areas such as wastewater treatment, environmental auditing and more. Though it was founded in Traverse City, Global added a second office in Holly, Michigan in 2001. The business also operates two other divisions, in addition to its environmental services: Global Treatment Solutions (which offers equipment for rent or for sale for large-scale to small-scale remediation projects) and Global Analytical Laboratories, which was established in November 2014 to perform asbestos auditing.

Engineering specialty: “As an environmental engineering firm, much of our focus is on environmental compliance and consulting,” said Alaina Korreck, Global’s president. “This can range from the development of responsible storm water management plans to the complete remediation of contaminated air, water, or soil. We are unique in the industry in that we actually manufacture and operate our own remediation systems – primarily industrial water treatment systems – so we not only identify and diagnose areas of environmental concern, but we supply the equipment, materials and personnel to treat the contamination.”

Recent projects: Global’s biggest claim to fame was likely the role the company played as the contracted “water treatment specialist” for the remediation of the Kalamazoo River after the 2010 Enbridge oil spill. While Korreck is unable to disclose identifying client details for many more recent jobs, she said one of Global’s highlights over the past few years involved “providing on-site water treatment services for a multi-year, large-scale construction project in Detroit … to address PFAS-impacted groundwater.” Closer to home, the firm has served for more than 20 years as “as the environmental consultant for a corporate client at a project site in northern Michigan.” The site in question is contaminated and Global is helping the client navigate conversations at the state and federal levels to ensure compliance and advance the site towards closure.

Coming up next: Global is right in the midst of an historic moment for the company in the form of a generational changing of the guard. Alaina Korreck, who is the daughter of company founder William Korreck, officially took over ownership and operation of the business in June. “This is the start of a new chapter for Global and as a woman-owned small business,” she said. Under Korreck’s leadership, she noted that the company plans to focus in particular on major federal contracting opportunities.

Mansfield Land Use Consultants

Company history: The roots of Mansfield Land Use Consultants date back to 1980s Detroit. It was in the big city that Doug Mansfield, the company’s founder and president, got his start in site engineering. That was in the heyday of the Oakland County expansion and Mansfield worked on projects ranging from apartment buildings to the Palace of Auburn Hills. He and his wife moved to Traverse City in 1989 and Mansfield went to work for a company that, much like Mansfield Land Use Consultants does today, worked with private sector contractors and developers to help them with their land development projects. When that company started shifting more into work for the Michigan Department of Transportation and other public sector clients, Mansfield left to start his own business. Mansfield Land Use Consultants was officially established in 1999.

Engineering specialty: According to Mansfield, he launched the business because most local firms at the time were focusing on municipal work because it offered steady monthly billings. He saw the need for a business that was not going to ride the fence between public and private clientele, but that would focus specifically on private sector work.

“We wanted to be the ally and support and counsel for private sector developers (in northern Michigan) and their voice among the maze of permits and approvals,” he said. “(Our specialty) is understanding how to take a piece of land, look at that maze that you have to go through and defining a path for the developer.” To provide that assistance, Mansfield Land Use Consultants has a holistic philosophy that incorporates services for land surveying, land planning, civil engineering, landscape architecture, building architecture and interior design.

Recent projects: “One of the things we see is there’s still very few firms – of the 20-some firms in town that do engineering and surveying – that that really want to get into the private sector,” Mansfield said. As a result, he noted that Mansfield Land Use Consultants is “touching almost all the larger projects in the area” when it comes to private development. Recent highlights include major commercial developments (downtown Traverse City projects like the new 4Front Credit Union, West Shore Bank, 309 W. Front St., and Commongrounds), hotels (the Tru by Hilton, currently under construction on US-31 S), affordable housing (Ruth Park Apartments on Wellington Street, Annika Place on Garfield Road), residential developments (Alta Vista in East Bay Township, Peninsula Shores in Peninsula Township) and more.

Coming up next: As the housing market in northern Michigan continues to boom, Mansfield Land Use Consultants is a key player in multiple projects that will add to the housing stock. One project, Mansfield said, will develop 76 lots across 240 acres in the Kingsley area. Another is a new 250-unit development planned at Four Mile and Hammond roads. Perhaps the biggest prospect on the horizon for Mansfield Land Use Consultants relates to how Traverse City Horse Shows is creating a magnet of development interest around Flintfields – interest that could eventually reshape the look, size and feel of Acme Township.

“We see a lot of pressure with the Horse Shows, to (develop housing) immediately adjacent to the Horse Shows,” Mansfield said. “So, we have an expansion plan (around that area) that comes to the township in October. And then we are also getting daily calls from people buying larger parcels out there – from thousands of miles away – to be a part of that area. So, you will witness sales figures that that area has never seen before. This next couple of years, I think it’s going to throw people for a loop seeing what the value of our land really is.”

Nealis Engineering

Company history: Nealis Engineering was founded by Gary Nealis in 1995. According to the company’s current owner, Jason VanBrocklin, Nealis’s vision was to create a mechanical and electrical engineering firm that would be large enough to operate efficiently, but small enough to offer clients the personal attention they deserve. VanBrocklin joined the team as an electrical engineer in 2001, became a partner in 2005 and transitioned into full ownership in 2017. Nealis is still a part of the company – though VanBrocklin teased that “there are rumors of his official retirement at the end of this year.”

Engineering specialty: “We design plumbing, mechanical HVAC and electrical power and lighting systems for commercial, institutional and industrial buildings,” VanBrocklin said of Nealis’s work. The company regularly works as a contractor on new construction projects, as well as additions or renovations of existing structures. VanBrocklin said his team has worked on clinics, schools, community buildings, libraries, fire stations and more. Nealis also specializes in renovation work involving historical buildings and the company’s resume includes work on Building 50 at the Grand Traverse Commons.

Recent projects: Nealis Engineering’s biggest recent projects have mostly occurred in the education sector. At Interlochen Center for the Arts, the company handled plumbing, HVAC, geothermal, interior and exterior lighting, power distribution, communications and security systems for the 37,780-square-foot Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow House – a newly built residence hall and artist suite on Interlochen’s campus. Nealis also provided similar engineering services for the 65,900-square-foot West Hall Innovation Center at Northwestern Michigan College; for a trio of buildings at Kirtland Community College’s Grayling campus; and for an extensive renovation of an old retail facility at West Short Community College in Manistee, which was converted into an office, meeting, multi-purpose, and tenant space.

Coming up next: In addition to several major local projects – including both the new Montessori School for Traverse City Area Public Schools and the new Conservation Center for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy – Nealis is also in the midst of a big move. “We will be relocating our office within the next month to 1419 Industry Dr. in the Hammond Industrial Centre,” VanBrocklin said. “We have loved our time in the Grand Traverse Commons for the past 16 years, but we couldn’t be more excited for our new space.”

Otwell Mawby, P.C.

 Company history: Otwell Mawby, P.C. launched in 1988 with the goal of helping clients comply with ever-changing environmental regulations and opportunities to redevelop contaminated sites.

Engineering specialty: According to President Roger Mawby, Otwell Mawby specializes in supporting businesses, nonprofits, and governmental entities in facility development and expansion by managing critical environmental and regulatory requirements. Specific services include environmental due diligence, brownfield redevelopment consulting, asbestos and lead paint surveys and assessments (as well as abatement oversight or demolition monitoring for both issues), environmental risk assessments, brownfield grant and loan procurement, environment compliance assistance, assessment and remediation of leaking underground storage tanks, and vapor intrusion assessment and mitigation.

Recent projects: “Otwell Mawby has supported many of the major developments in Traverse City and throughout northern Michigan,” Mawby said. Recently in and around Traverse City, Otwell Mawby has had a hand in the development of the new West Short Bank building on Eighth Street, the Commongrounds building (also on Eighth Street), and the new downtown 4 Front Credit Union building. Outside of Traverse City, Otwell Mawby has been a partner on the Cadillac Lofts affordable housing project, the Duke LifePoint Marquette Hospital in Marquette and more.

Coming up next: While the pandemic caused a slowdown for Otwell Mawby, Mawby said the company “saw a strong rebound in late 2020 and (is) having a very strong 2021. We anticipate continued strong growth over the next number of years as northern Michigan continues to be attractive for private and public investment.”

The hot real estate and development market has Otwell Mawby eyeing its own growth – in particular, expansions of its environment due diligence and Brownfield redevelopment market sectors. “Otwell Mawby is currently working on seven brownfield grant and loan projects and is looking forward to the next EGLE brownfield grant funding cycle,” Mawby said.