Environmental Engineering Firm Helps Businesses Comply and Prosper
About mid-2005, EBI Consulting announced it had hired its 200th employee. That may not sound earthshaking, as many large engineering firms employ hundreds and even thousands of people, often in offices throughout the U.S. and around the globe. But much of EBI's growth has come recently, indicating the firm has hit its stride and found a profitable niche or two.
Indeed, at the end of 2003, the firm employed 106; this number grew to 173 by the end of 2004, and today, 225 employees comprise EBI's payroll, including 100 engineers. Along with the growth in peoplepower, EBI Consulting has expanded geographically. Based in Burlington, Massachusetts, it has 14 offices spread around the country.
Much of EBI's success stems from its unique mission, that of an environmental consulting and engineering firm geared to helping businesses. "We are helping firms be more efficient and have a smaller environmental footprint," explains Steve Kmiotek, vice president and manager of EBI's Environmental & Health Safety Services division. "As the other piece of it -- right, wrong, or indifferent -- companies have obligations to operate within environmental regulations. They need permits. They need to meet certain standards. Part of our job is to help them do so in the most cost effective manner possible."
EBI Consulting was founded by Frank Previte in 1989 to provide engineering and environmental health and safety (EH&S) services for property owners, manufacturers, real estate investors, investment bankers, and attorneys. Prevalent in the Boston area, semiconductor manufacturers fueled much of the firm's early growth. Previte served as a financial officer at W.R. Grace and then later at the Shipley Company, which has since been acquired by Rohm and Haas. Dating back to the 1970s and 80s, as Kmiotek tells it, "he saw a lot of money being spent by industry on environmental consultants. Much of that wasn't being spent wisely. The consultants weren't being managed, and a lot of times, the consultants didn't have a lot of expertise. He formed the company with a vision of hiring a mix of people with good technical skills in the environmental field, good in-plant experience, and good management skills."
This is backed up by the fact EBI's principals have extensive experience in facilities engineering, EH&S management, and environmental assessment and cleanup. "You look around the company, you see a lot of folks, particularly in my group, with direct industrial experience. We've worked in plants, we've designed plants, we've operated plants in many cases." A Ph.D. in chemical engineering and a licensed engineer, Kmiotek has more than 20 years of experience in the chemical industry and environmental engineering.
Further explaining EBI's growth, Kmiotek says, "We don't specialize in any one particular area. We have folks that have experience in the chemical industry, semiconductor industry, electronics, power, on and on. We have set ourselves up to handle all those types of issues. So as the business climate changes, we adapt." And he adds, "We've done very well going after the small to mid-size projects."
EBI's largest area is its real estate division, accounting for about two thirds of the business. The bulk of its work consists of environmental site assessments and property condition surveys for commercial lenders on structures such as stores or condominium complexes being sold. In assessing long-term environmental liability, they look for problems like past releases of hazardous materials, lead-based paint, asbestos, radon, and ozone-depleting substances. They also evaluate wetlands, monitor wells, and analyze air, soil, and water samples. Property condition surveys generate information on a building's operating systems, overall design and architectural features, and any deterioration or functional obsolescence that could limit the building's potential to generate income.
A typical client for EBI's real estate division has been the Prudential Mortgage Capital Company of Atlanta, Georgia. EBI has worked to secure loans on projects for Prudential, including an industrial complex in Las Vegas, warehouses in southern California, a New York City highrise tower, and multifamily dwellings in San Francisco.
EBI's Site Investigation and Remediation Group acts more like a typical environmental engineering firm, specializing in environmental site investigation, contaminant remediation, and site closures. This includes closing underground storage tanks, decommissioning facilities, monitoring groundwater, brownfield redevelopment, construction-related remediation, and contaminated soil and water management.
A third operating division within EBI is Environmental Health & Safety Services, headed by Kmiotek. "We have about two dozen engineers and scientists headquartered in Burlington. Our work there is to support the environmental health and safety manager at an operating company," he reveals. "We do environmental permitting. We do design and installation of pollution control systems. We help in the modification of a process to be more environmentally friendly. We help in the development of health and safety programs. We have industrial hygienists who analyze worker exposure to different materials. The breadth is very wide." Clients include chemical manufacturers, biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, printers, hospitals, universities, and semiconductor manufacturers.
Within the EH&S Services division, EBI's Process Engineering and Design group designs solutions involving manufacturing processes, waste minimization, wastewater treatment, and materials storage and transfer. They develop recovery systems to reclaim heavy metals, organic solvents, acids, and specialty chemicals, which the client can reuse or sell to offsite recycling services, reducing their waste disposal costs. One specialty is tank farms, both aboveground and underground, for handling water and wastewater, flammable materials, waste sludge, and compressed gases.
Over the past five years, another operating division has emerged in the form of EBI's telecommunications business. In handling the licensing and siting of cellular communications towers for wireless companies and tower erectors, they investigate environmental, architectural, visual, and historical issues. "It's been a very nice niche market for us," Kmiotek reports. Clients include Cingular Wireless, U.S. Cellular, and Spectrum Resources Towers.
In discussing the real estate and telecommunications businesses, Kmiotek says, "We're doing work in both those areas throughout the country. The work is divvied up by geography," meaning all of EBI's offices get involved. On the other hand, "Most of our work in EH&S is in New England," but he adds that they do work for companies operating throughout North America. The net result: "Our clients are all over."
That in itself helps explain EBI Consulting's phenomenal growth in recent years. The fact they have become diverse and flexible ensures they'll continue to grow for years to come.
Company: EBI Consulting, Inc.
Type: Environmental engineering and consulting firm
Location: Headquarters in Burlington, Massachusetts with other offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Exeter, New Hampshire; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; New York City; Phoenix, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and York, Pennsylvania
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Demand is high throughout the company in all areas. "In 2006, we're looking to expand geographically in my division. We're looking to expand probably into the mid-Atlantic region," Kmiotek says. "Right now, we could use a couple junior level environmental engineers and any good senior engineers that come with a client base."
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