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Emerging nations helping to boost E&E's business

Ecology & Environment has watched emerging countries adopt a stronger commitment to the environment, a positive trend for the Lancaster-based company.

The nation of Chile elevated its minister of environment to a cabinet-level position, and then picked the head of an E&E office in the country for the job.

The growing "green" awareness coincides with a rising standard of living in emerging markets, said Kevin Neumaier, president and chief executive officer of the environmental services firm. And E&E benefits from its ties to those nations, he said.

"We've been in some of these countries 20 years," he said at E&E's annual shareholders meeting on Thursday. "We knew people before they had the money. We've been doing work in the country when there was very little work being done. And then we've also gained an operational knowledge of how to work in some of these countries, which takes some doing. And this first-to-market really can make a big advantage."

At a mining complex in Peru, E&E monitors flora and wildlife, including bats, birds, lizards and rodents. "You look back 10 years ago, they wouldn't spend $500,000 for work like this," Neumaier said. "This is the country caring more about it, and really doing a lot more on the environment."

In the United States, E&E has contracts related to everything from a natural gas pipeline to Great Lakes restoration, as well as renewable energy projects involving solar and wind power.

The company has about 1,100 employees in 54 locations around the world, including 310 locally. It is preparing to open a bureau in Vancouver, B.C., a region where the company already has various projects.

"We've been a leader in environmental services really since day one," Neumaier said. "There weren't environmental companies when E&E was born [in 1970], and we continue to lead in that area."

E&E executives say the company is on solid footing financially.

"We've been doing well for a lot of years, but right now, we're doing particularly well," Neumaier said.

In its fiscal 2010, which ended last July, E&E's net income declined 18 percent from the year before to $4.26 million, or $1.02 per share. But Neumaier said the company's past two fiscal years were its two best in the past 15 years, and its past two quarters were its two best ever.

John Mye, E&E's chief financial officer, said the company is "firing on all eight cylinders." He said E&E has shown strong growth in net revenue -- revenue excluding subcontracting costs -- in the past few years. Its net revenue in the past fiscal year rose 4.5 percent from the year before, and has soared to $113.8 million from $85.3 million in fiscal 2007.

A shareholder asked Neumaier why the company switched its listing to Nasdaq from the American Stock Exchange.

"We looked at the Nasdaq as sort of aligning us better as a high-tech company," Neumaier said. "That was a big, big reason for making that decision."