Engineering firm expects turnaround in Fourth Quarter
M&S Engineering Ltd. just celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a big party at Gruene Hall. More than 400 people turned out to listen to live music and celebrate the firm’s success. The full-service engineering and design firm has grown from a two-man shop in 1999 to a statewide, multimillion-dollar business employing 60 people. But after seeing steady growth for the first nine years of its existence, M&S hit a rough patch in 2008 as the national economy went into a deep recession. “2008 was a horrible year,” says Keith Strimple, a principal and co-founder of M&S Engineering. “We didn’t make any money last year, but we managed to avoid having any layoffs like a lot of other firms did.” To keep from having to lay off employees, Strimple says he and his partner Brian Meuth took big cuts in their own pay and made a lot of other cuts in expenses.
“We cut out all the frills and somehow managed to get through and break even without having to lay anyone off,” Strimple says.
“It is truly by the grace of God that we are still here.”
M&S Engineering provides a host of engineering and design services geared mainly toward land development. The company’s services include surveying and land development support; water line design; reservoir design; electrical transmission design; roadway design; and flood plain studies. M&S Engineering relies heavily on new residential construction. As a result of the sharp drop in housing starts in 2008, the firm’s finances were hit pretty hard, Strimple says. Last week, Strimple says he signed the first residential development proposal in more than a year and a half and he hopes that is a sign that things are finally starting to turn around. “I think we are at the bottom and on the upward side of the parabolic curve,” Strimple says. “It looks like we may be getting past the bad times and hopefully by the fourth quarter of this year it will start to look better.” Prior to 2008, M&S Engineering was doing upwards of $7 million in annual revenue. Company officials declined to reveal 2008 revenue figures.
Strimple and Meuth first met when they were freshmen at Seguin High School. They both wound up going to Texas A&M University where Strimple earned a degree in civil engineering in 1983 and Meuth earned a degree in electrical engineering. Both also went on to earn their MBAs. Strimple worked for 15 years with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and then worked briefly with the City of San Antonio’s Public Works Department before hooking up again with Meuth. Meuth worked in the private sector before deciding to form M&S with Strimple.
Strimple and Meuth got together in 1998 to talk about setting up their own multi-disciplined, full-service engineering firm. Both were unhappy with their employment situations at the time and both wanted to exercise more control over business decisions. “We put together a great team and began working with some excellent clients,” Strimple says. “We are all about the people — both those we work for and those who work for us. The customer relationships we form are ultimately more important to us than the business.” Strimple says he believes the thing that most distinguishes the company from its competitors is the way M&S treats its employees and customers while keeping its costs and prices down.
Bron Leatham, development manager for Stadler and Leatham Development in San Antonio, says his firm has been working with M&S Engineering for about a year. Leatham says he is very happy with the quality of the company’s work. M&S has done all the civil engineering, surveying, road work and electrical grid work on the company’s development on the north side of Canyon Lake, known as Cascada at Canyon Lake. Leatham says his company was originally under contract with another engineering firm, but they were unhappy with them because they would not meet with them on a regular basis to answer questions and allow them to have input. Working with M&S has been a completely different experience, he adds. “They have done all the things we wanted while giving us regular updates and the opportunity to provide input,” Leatham says. “That, plus they were about 30 percent cheaper.”
“It was important for us to find someone who shares our company’s philosophy that our customers and our employees are the most important part of what we do”
Barry Denton, regional sales director for Blue Green Communities, says he can’t say enough good things about M&S Engineering. Blue Green has worked with M&S for the past several years. M&S laid out the lots and performed all the utility and road work for Blue Green’s Village Oaks master-planned development located on Highway 46 between New Braunfels and U.S. Highway 281. “It was important for us to find someone who shares our company’s philosophy that our customers and our employees are the most important part of what we do,” Denton says. “M&S most certainly fills that bill. They understand that while we are a customer, ultimately it is the people who will purchase the properties who are the ultimate customers.” Denton says M&S Engineering has helped to make Blue Green’s projects run smoothly not only because of M&S’ quality customer service, but also because the company works so well with independent contractors and city and county officials.
M&S Engineering does work all over Texas. However, Strimple and Meuth chose to base their company in Spring Branch off U.S. Highway 281. They remodeled an old 5,000-square foot schoolhouse on a 5-acre lot to make into their headquarters. They have since added another 20,000 square feet of office space on the property and still have enough room to expand. Strimple says that as the economy slowly recovers he and his partner are looking to align themselves more closely with the green movement by looking for ways to design properties in ways that are environmentally-friendly and energy efficient. “Looking down the road five to 10 years, this is the direction the country is heading and we are working to stay at the front of the curve,” Strimple says.