HWA – Serving Central Oregon for Three Decades

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(Photo above: (L-R) Patrick Cole – Principal, Sean Passage – EIT, Mitch Madsen – EIT, Kristi Fuller – Office Manager, Brett Parker – Principal, Veronica Schmitz – EIT, Rohan Grace – Designer, John McCoy – PLS, Mark Douglas – Principal, Bryan Samson – EIT, Jared Kapp – Surveyor and Grant Hardgrave – Principal. Not pictured: Dan Hendricks – Surveyor and Aquila Reed – Surveyor | Photo by Cascade Business News)

Diversity Key for HWA, Inc. as Company Celebrates 30-Year Milestone

Bend-based HWA, Inc. is celebrating a 30-year landmark of providing quality engineering, land-use planning and surveying services which have seen the company’s fingerprints all over the region’s multi-faceted landscape.

The company was established by Gary Hickman and Dave Williams (as Hickman, Williams & Associates) in August 1987 and has since grown into one of Central Oregon’s leading surveying and civil engineering firms, with an invaluable understanding of regional construction methods, geology, weather patterns, regulations, and other unique factors affecting client projects.

Whether providing accurate surveying, overseeing land use planning – including all aspects from due diligence assistance and planning, through to project entitlement phase -or construction management covering small to large civil engineering projects for the private and public sector, HWA has been an integral part of the area’s evolving environment.

A brief snapshot of projects with which the firm has collaborated include the 130,000 square foot downtown mixed-use Franklin Crossing Building, the iconic downtown Bend Public Library, retail projects like the Lowes Plaza and Century Park centers and the Deschutes National Forest headquarters.

In the public sector, HWA has assisted with multiple Bend Parks and Recreation initiatives such as Miller Landing, Canal Row and the Safe Passage channel downstream of the Colorado Avenue footbridge and key infrastructure projects like the SE 27th Street sewer interceptor Phase I extension, roundabout at Reed Market & 15th, ongoing South Third Street sidewalk and pedestrian access improvements and wider City of Bend ADA compliance upgrades.

And continuing an enduring legacy, a core group of talented long-term employees consisting of Grant Hardgrave, Mark Douglas, Patrick Cole and Brett Parker took over the reins of the company from previous principals Williams, John Kahlie and Jim Dowell early last year.

HWA President Hardgrave said: “It all comes down to having good people. As principals we have all been here long term – for instance I have been with the company 23 years – and continuing building the business and the culture established was part of our motivation for taking over the helm.

“Gary and David started as a basic survey company but soon after expanded the range of services to cover areas such as land use planning and civil engineering to create something of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for clients.

“I think it is important that we are a local firm in town and have built strong and long-term relationships, including with architects whom we have worked with from the get-go.

“There are a handful of firms of similar size locally, but often they are branches of bigger companies with multiple geographical locations. We have enjoyed 30 years of experience right here and 95 per cent of our work is in the Central Oregon area.”

Douglas added: “We all have multi-state licenses, but the core of our work is local and I believe it is valuable that we have particular knowledge that comes with the terrain, such as the local geologic conditions, and so we know the intricacies of excavation plans as part of infrastructure evaluations and so forth.”

On their acquisition of the company, Cole observed: “We had been an integral part of projects for a long period with a solid history including developing client relationships, so it was something of a seamless transition when we bought the company.”

Hardgrave stressed that diversification has been a key component of HWA’s philosophy, recalling that during the last boom, which primarily involved residential construction, the company was heavily weighted towards subdivision work with a consequent relatively severe impact in the aftermath of the market downturn.

Thereafter, he said there was a deliberate effort to broaden the scope of work undertaken to encompass a broader base of projects, including with public works, utility companies and municipalities, adding: “We are often an important cog in a project team as part of what you might call a ‘supporting cast’.

“We also continued strong links with City jurisdictions and BPRD as well as private-led development, which has come back to a large extent but is still just part of a broad range of client profiles.”

Douglas observed that during leaner years there was an emphasis on more collaboration with other companies as part of project teams, with HWA taking on certain components of overall work, such as evaluating traffic implications. He added: “We are part of the synergy of a project, and often architects with whom we have a successful track record bring us projects.”

He noted that as the area continues to grow there had been an increase in more urban, denser scale infill-type development and a noticeable spurt of hospitality work, with HWA being involved with multiple new projects including Marriott’s Springhill Suites, Best Western, Hampton Inn, with the potential for other hotel projects in the pipeline.

As growth gathers pace, the company recently hired three new engineers and two surveyors, bringing the current workforce total to 15.

Hardgrave said: “Before the last recession we had close to 40 people; then cut down to 10 at the depth.

“More than the latest equipment and technology, which we certainly keep up with as well as regulatory changes, our best asset is our people and the main emphasis is on building a great team – which we certainly have now and are excited about the future as we move into the next chapter of the company’s history.

“There are always new challenges and different projects and I can honestly say I enjoy coming into work every day.”

Douglas credited the previous owners with “keeping the doors open” during the last economic crash, adding: “We now have more balance, both in terms of the client and project mix as well as having a more diverse local economy and I think we have all heeded the lessons of the past.

“Instead of churning out 100-plus unit phases in residential development, big developers have scaled back and been careful not to overextend in terms of market exposure. We as a company have also hit the reset button and are more efficient and it will be interesting see how things continue to evolve.”

Cole said: “A key factor for us in taking over ownership is to build on the quality and legacy established by the company, and to maintain the culture. As newer principals, we have all been with the company a long time and were part of creating that culture.

“It embraces the importance of family and community. We are only as good as the people hired and strive to have happy and productive employees who put out great work while enjoying the Central Oregon lifestyle.

“We have a high retention rate and longevity of our workforce and it is nice to have younger, fresher minds here with prospects of moving up as we did.”

Parker added: “The company culture is essentially like family. We like our employees to enjoy life and with the size of the company can offer flexibility to help make that happen, while maintaining responsibility to clients and projects.

“We live in Central Oregon with all its great amenities like mountain biking and skiing and want to provide our employees the opportunity to spend time with their families and enjoy the outdoors. Family is important.”

HWA, Inc., 62930 OB Riley Road, Suite 100, Bend, Oregon 97703. For more information, see www.hwa-inc.org or call 541-389-9351.

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Simon Mather CBN Feature Writer

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