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Two professionals aim to grow businesses An engineer and a physician are poised to take their enterprises to next level

Edward O. Watts Jr. and Dr. Gregory Daniel have a few things in common.

Each is the most recent recipient of minority business awards from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Both offer services in their respective industries that few others - if any - provide.

And as each one describes past journeys and future plans, it's clear these men are just getting started.

"We have been successful as a subcontractor, but now we want to advance to another level to function as a prime contractor," said Watts, president of Watts Architecture and Engineering. "We have all the staff and all the other resources."

His Buffalo firm consists of 60 fulltime architects, engineers, environmental scientists, technicians and special consultants.

Last November, Watts was chosen Minority Business of the Year by the Partnership. One of the projects his company has worked on is the Buffalo Public Schools Reconstruction Program, a billion-dollar project.

Daniel is chief executive officer of Exigence, a Williamsville-based emergency medicine management, consulting and staffing company founded in 2000.

Exigence staffs emergency departments and urgent care centers with emergency room physicians in all five hospitals of the Catholic Health System, as well as Olean General Hospital, Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston and Our Lady of Lourdes in Binghamton. And since 2004, he's won contracts in New Jersey, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

"We have plans to expand throughout the country. We can compete with any industry out there," said Daniel, who was awarded the Partnership's New Minority Business of the Year. He is one of only two local companies providing the service and the only minority- owned firm, he said.

Born in Trinidad, Daniel grew up in Madison, Wis., and began practicing emergency medicine in 1986 at Sisters Hospital and at St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga.

In 1998, he decided to go to business school. So for one weekend a month for two years, he took classes at University of California at Irvine for his MBA. It was a grueling process, he said, but he needed to understand the business of medicine if he wanted to continue in the profession.

"I would leave Buffalo at 7 Thursday mornings and get into California between 11 and 1," he said. "Classes lasted from 4 until 10, and I had classes all day Friday and Saturday and a half day on Sundays. Then I would fly back to Buffalo by midnight."

"I felt it was a risk worth taking," he said. "I think adding business skills to the medical profession brought me to a point that I am quite happy, and I can play a role in maneuvering the process of health care."

Watts, an Alabama native who formed Watts Engineers in 1986 with himself as the sole employee, focuses his expertise these days on the engineering side of the company. His son Edward O. Watts Jr. was brought on board almost three years ago to run the architectural arm.

Watts Architecture and Engineers also specializes in asbestos/lead consulting, construction inspection and indoor air quality.

In the future, Watts wants to secure more opportunities as a prime contractor, he said, pointing to the fact his firm offers services that some of the large companies don't.

"There are very few firms with all the services we have," Watts said. "It gets to a point you don't want to be close. You want to get these jobs. We would like consultants to give us the opportunity to compete."