Thomas, James R., Jr., Independent Banker
The people who design solutions
The major components of America's infrastructure-roads, bridges, tunnels, sewers, hazardous waste disposal systems and othersmake people's lives safer, cleaner and more comfortable. These engineered structures also give us greater mobility, more work and recreational opportunities, and a better overall quality of life than we would have without them. But who comes up with these ideas? Who figures out how to suspend a bridge, clean rainwater, heat and cool a 40-story building or construct earthquake-resistant buildings?
Consulting engineers, entrepreneurs with specialized expertise, are the technical advisers who investigate and then develop the best, most innovative and effective solutions possible to physical challenges.
If you look at a typical consulting engineering enterprise, you will find a small- to medium-size firm with far fewer than 100 employees. Surveys suggest that 80 percent of consulting engineering firms in the United States are less than 30 in staff. About threefifths of consulting engineering firms are corporations-about a quarter are S Corporations, nearly 10 percent are sole proprietorships and the remainder is partnerships.
Most consulting engineers operate locally, serving repeat clients. And their clients vary. According to the 1996 "Business Trends Survey" conducted by the American Consulting Engineers Council in Washington, D.C., two-thirds of the consulting engineering firms do some work in the private sector; a little more than half have public agency clients.
More than 80 percent of those doing work for public agencies have jobs for counties and municipalities. …