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Engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen sets up in downtown Buffalo

A national engineering and construction services firm that already has three offices in Western New York has opened its first location in the heart of downtown Buffalo to better serve its public-sector clients in response to continued growth in all of its business areas.

Greenman-Pedersen Inc. moved its 14-member engineering department from its suburban office in Cheektowaga to the Hunt family's Brisbane Building at 403 Main St., occupying a 3,200-square-foot third-floor suite with room for additional expansion in the future. A formal grand-opening will held on June 19.

The engineering department includes the firm's design, construction, coatings and inspections groups, and mostly handles public-sector work. Those employees focus on design and construction inspection for regional infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, "complete streets," water and wastewater systems, and multi-use recreational trails like Shoreline Trail.

GPI, based on Long Island, has been operating in Western New York for 18 years, but has "had longstanding relationships" with both Erie County and the City of Buffalo through its predecessors, said Joseph Nemmer, the firm's senior vice president and branch manager for Western New York. So moving downtown brings the team closer to its primary clients so it can better serve them, he added.

At the same time, "having a city office does help attract that younger talent," he added. "It's no secret they want to live and work downtown, and be part of the community down here."

Meanwhile, its bridge inspection, land-planning and survey groups remain at its Genesee Street office, where "we were really tight for space," Nemmer said. It also has offices and employees in Jamestown and Rochester, with a total of 78 among the four locations under Nemmer.

"It's a great organization to work for," Nemmer said. "We've just been fortunate with our clients. Work has been growing from year to year."

And he noted that there's a "huge need" for more public spending on infrastructure, as demonstrated by a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers. "The current funding levels have improved the system over the years, but there's much more that needs to be done," he said. "We haven't had a truly major new transportation program in a number of years, and it would be very welcomed."

For example, the firm's bridge team works with the state Department of Transportation to conduct biennial safety inspections for bridges. That's a federally funded and mandated service that's been a constant source of business, although Nemmer admitted he would have expected much more work given the well-publicized condition of many bridges statewide.

"We've been fortunate that we've been doing that basically uninterrupted for 34 years now," Nemmer said. "The locally administered federal aid program has held steady. It hasn't grown to the extent that we would hope as an industry, but the program is strong and that's what we've been part of for so many years."

GPI's local land-planning group handles residential and commercial site design locally for both public- and private-sector clients, while the survey group includes 10 teams "running around town" performing property surveys for real estate transfers, topographic surveys for design jobs, and other construction stakeout work, Nemmer said. "We're probably the largest survey house in the area," he added.

The latter two businesses are also maxed out in terms of their workload, Nemmer said, adding that GPI has four or five unfilled engineering and technical positions, ranging from entry-level to senior roles.

"The real estate market has certainly returned to the region from its terrible downside a few years back, and that has certainly driven the land-planning and survey markets," he said.

Founded in the Village of Babylon in 1966, with initial contracts with the village and the state Department of Transportation, GPI has grown into a major East Coast engineering consulting firm with 47 offices and more than 1,400 employees in 20 states. Besides its core engineering work, the firm also offers design, planning and construction management services to government agencies, municipalities, institutions, industries, corporations, private organizations and developers.

Its projects locally have included work for Canterbury Woods Gates Circle, the Porter Avenue Bridge replacement, the Buffalo Zoo's Arctic Edge, exterior renovations to the Erie County Court Building, and structural repairs to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens. It's also performing survey work for Marrano Homes' Colvin Estates development in North Buffalo.

The company entered the Western New York market with its purchase of Pratt & Huth in 2000, followed by Abate Associates in January 2012. Those acquisitions included the Cheektowaga and Jamestown operations with 60 employees in all, and officials later opened a new office in Rochester "as things were going well," Nemmer said.

More recently, GPI acquired Hill Engineering in North East, Pa., although that's not part of the Western New York branch.

"As a company, GPI has recognized the value of the Western New York region and continues to invest in their presence in the region here," Nemmer said. "We're excited as a branch, and personally I'm excited to be part of that."

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