Office is ninth in the United States for Alabama-based operation
Two of the area’s leading engineers left the Fayetteville firm of McGoodwin Williams & Yates in January and opened their own firm in Springdale on Feb. 5.
Charles R. “Chuck” Nickle and Terry Carpenter are thinking positive. They hope to bring in $750,000 in revenue during the remaining 11 months of 2001 and possibly open three more offices in Arkansas soon.
The new business is named USInfrastructure Inc. The 2,750-SF office, at 4710 S. Thompson St., Suite 102, is the company’s ninth office in the United States and also has an office in New Delhi, India. Nickle and Carpenter own the Springdale operation along with Sohan P. Singh of Nashville, Tenn., who started USInfrastructure in 1994. The company is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.
Although the Springdale office is part of a larger system of consulting engineers and has an out-of-state partner, the two men setting it up stress that it’s locally owned and operated.
“We’re going to do business the way we want to do business,” said Carpenter.
Nickle is senior vice president of USI in Springdale. He grew up in Fayetteville and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.
Carpenter, vice president of the firm, is from Cabot and received his degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
Of the projected $750,000 in first-year revenue, Nickle said he hopes 10 percent will be retained as profit.
Nickle had been with McGoodwin Williams & Yates since 1974. He was made a vice president in 1985. Carpenter had been with the firm for the past 15 years.
Nickle managed $200 million in projects at McGoodwin Williams & Yates. He managed engineers doing business development, negotiating contracts and managing projects.
“I’ve learned a lot about what not to do,” he said. “I think this has given us invaluable experience in starting up and running our own firm.”
Nickle was the project manager on the Carroll-Boone Regional Water District, a $30 million project in which a 55-mile pipeline from Beaver Lake to Harrison was constructed to provide water to Eureka Springs, Berryville, Green Forrest and Harrison.
Nickle was also project manager for the Piney Bay Water Supply, Treatment and Transmission Facilities in Clarksville, a $12 million project that used Arkansas River water — for the first time since the 1950s — as a drinking water source.
Carpenter was a lead designer for the construction of the Har-Ber Meadows subdivision in Springdale.
In addition to water treatment facilities, the two men also specialize in highway and street construction, having served as project engineers on the widening and reconstruction of 40th Street and Gutensohn, both in Springdale.
Genesis of USI
Singh started USI in 1994, shortly after he and Nickle worked together on the $20 million widening of a 10-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 67 between Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge in Randolph County.
“The growth of this company has been phenomenal in six years,” Nickle said. “[Singh] now has over 220 employees.”
The biggest project USI has undertaken nationally was the $1 billion Jefferson County sewer construction in Alabama.
Employees at USI’s headquarters in Birmingham will take care of paperwork concerning payroll, taxes, insurance and other matters, freeing up engineers in the other offices to work on projects.
“The key to this type of business, and the reason we have the wherewithal to open a business like this, is because we have the support of the entire organization,” Nickle said. “So we consider it our parent company.
“The capabilities we can offer our clients here are much greater than before because of the large regional firm that’s behind us. … The major setback of most engineering firms is not getting the work done on time. We’re going to do some innovative things which should greatly improve that situation.”
The Springdale office will have five or six employees initially, all engineers except for one receptionist. By the end of the year, the owners hope to have 12 to 14 employees. They plan initially to outsource architectural services, electrical engineering and surveying.
“We’re spending between $200,000 and $250,000 just to open the door,” Nickle said. “We just left [McGoodwin Williams & Yates] on the fifth day of January.”
Nickle said McGoodwin Williams & Yates had about 30 employees, including a dozen engineers.
Nickle said the only job he had had during his life as a professional was with McGoodwin Williams & Yates, and USI will be in direct competition with his old firm.
“It’s a real commitment when you walk away from a job like that,” he said.
In addition to USI, Nickle and Carpenter have founded USInfrastructure of Arkansas, which will allow them to open offices in other parts of the state. The owners are considering locations in Fort Smith and central and eastern Arkansas. Then they would look at southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas.
If things get slow in the Springdale office, the engineers here can work on projects for USI’s other offices.
“We don’t have to sit here and twiddle our thumbs,” Carpenter said. “We’ve got work already.”
Nickle said he and Carpenter wanted to locate the office in Springdale because it was centrally located in Northwest Arkansas and had a “positive climate for growth.”
The company’s slogan: “Rebuilding our infrastructure and protecting our environment are the focal points of our business.”
“You have to make a profit,” Carpenter said, “but our main concern is to keep our clients happy.”