REAL ESTATE: EC&S buys Walker Land Surveying to broaden services

TRAVERSE CITY – The home improvement industry has its Home Depots. The grocery industry has its Meijer megastores.

And with the recent acquisition of Walker Land Surveying, Environmental Consultants and Services, Inc., (EC&S) becomes a one-stop, professional firm specializing in environmental, survey and civil engineering services for the private sector’s real estate transaction and development needs.

That’s how Mark Chilcott, EC&S director of marketing and business development, sees it. “By adding surveying and engineering services to our environmental expertise, we can work with our clients from A to Z, from environmental risk to economic feasibility of site development,” he says.

EC&S president Lee Blodgett concurs.

“This merger really sets us apart from other firms in our industry. We now offer services not just from a purely technical approach, but from both the business and technical ends,” says Blodgett.

The result of the February 1999 merger is EC&S-Walker Engineering Inc., which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of EC&S, Inc. Howard Walker, former president of Walker Land Surveying, has been retained as president of the new company.

The road to growth has been a hilly one for EC&S, according to Blodgett.

“The company actually started in 1990 in the kitchen of partner Ben Komrska. It grew so quickly we had to move to the basement,” he said, with a laugh.

From there it was on to its present site at 2748 Garfield Rd. North in Traverse City, where it grew from occupying one suite to its current two. Now, with the acquisition of Walker, a third suite will be absorbed.

In between, EC&S added offices in Muskegon, Bay City, and Alpena. Then came the crunch years of 1995 and 1996.

“Those were hard times–not just for EC&S but for the whole environmental services industry,” says Blodgett. “Demand for our services was slowed severely when the state Underground Storage Tank Fund dried up. Then the state (DEQ) eased its requirements while at the same time enforcement became almost nonexistent.”

By downsizing from four offices to two (Traverse City and Alpena) and getting compensation concessions from employees in exchange for profit sharing, EC&S emerged focused on the future.

“We had to sit down and totally re-evaluate our situation,” Chilcott says. “The result was a five-year plan to diversify into civil engineering services with an environmental focus on redevelopment.”

“Diversification will allow us to level the hills and valleys,” Blodgett added. “The acquisition of Walker is part of the implementation of our strategic plan.”

Their focus on site redevelopment appears to have been a wise one. Many large building projects have fallen under the redevelopment category in recent years. The River’s Edge project on the former site of the Traverse City Iron Works, the Riverfront Plaza built on a former bulk oil facility, and the Harbor View project at the former Rickerd Monuments site are just a few of the better-known local projects.

But EC&S has not limited its work to local jobs. “Because of our many experiences with redevelopment, we consider it one of our areas of expertise,” says Chilcott. “We’ve aided in site reclamation grants and brownfield redevelopment projects for the City of Portage, Bay City, Montmorency County and the Village of Edmore.”

Blodgett and Chilcott displayed drawings and aerial photos of a current brownfield redevelopment project they’re working on in the heart of Portage. “We can offer services to any size client for any size project,” says Chilcott. “From the little gas station on the corner to a 100,000 square-foot development, like the Portage project.”

EC&S Inc. can be reached at 941-2366. BIZNEWS