A minority business making major strides
By Roberta Codemo
Michael Sutton, president and CEO of Infrastructure Engineering, Inc., sees opportunities in Springfield. The civil engineering firm opened its Springfield office in March 2013 in the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce building using office space provided by Timothy Rowles, executive director of the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce.
Sutton purchased Infrastructure Engineering, Inc., in 1997. It was founded in 1986 in Chicago and has offices in Indianapolis, New York, Omaha, Peoria and Springfield.
The firm focuses on design engineering, program management, construction engineering and inspection services and is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by the State of Illinois. “These designations are important to us,” said Sutton. “We’re thankful for the programs.” His goal is to see the firm become successful through the support of clients and the community, eventually outgrowing the need for such programs.
Larry Ivory, president and CEO of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, introduced Sutton and Rowles. “We got to talking and Tim said, ‘Mike, would you like to open a business in Springfield?’,” said Sutton. “He made it happen.”
Market research was an essential part of the process. There are a lot of good engineering firms in Springfield and the competition is tough. The firm looked at the available opportunities and its competitors in the marketplace as well as community support.
“We found Springfield didn’t have an African-American engineering firm,” said Sutton. “We thought it was important the community have an African-American engineering firm. The community wanted us there.”
Sutton said being an African-American engineering firm is not their calling card. “We just happen to be an African-American firm.”
The firm believes in its core values: integrity, excellence and innovation. It provides quality service. “We work on being the best at what we do,” said Sutton. “We have experience and good people.”
The office moved to its current location at 806 South Eleventh St. in August and currently has two local part-time employees. Future plans include adding additional local employees. “It has been a process,” said Sutton.
Thu Truitt, a professional engineer with more than 18 years of experience, chose the new location. Search criteria included plenty of office space and parking, both of which the Eleventh Street location met easily.
The community came out to support the grand opening. “It’s really important to have community support,” said Sutton. More than 25 public officials, agency executives, community leaders and fellow engineering firms came out for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Clarice Lyons Davidson, vice president of marketing, has been with the firm for a little over a year. “We are open for business and are excited to be here,” she said. “We’re hanging out our shingle.”
Truitt oversees the Springfield office as the operations manager and the Peoria office. She is based out of the Peoria office, where she has been since she joined the firm two and a half years ago. She wants to hire a qualified local person to take over management of the Springfield office as the work load warrants. “We want to find someone to grow it,” she said.
“The African-American community is our biggest supporter,” said Sutton. “We wanted to be in that community. You can look out the window and see the Tenth Street Corridor.”
The office is currently working on two projects connected to the Tenth Street Corridor project. The firm has a long relationship with Hanson Professional Services, Inc., who is the lead engineer for the Springfield Rail Improvements Project. “We’ve been doing work with Hanson and Crawford Murphy & Tilly, Inc.,” said Sutton.
The office is inspecting the bridge at Tenth Street and Carpenter Street and is doing bridge design work at Nineteenth Street and South Grand Avenue. “We talked to a lot of people involved with the project,” said Sutton. Among the individuals instrumental in securing Infrastructure Engineering’s contributions to the Tenth Street Corridor project were Tim Rowles, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Alderman Gail Simpson, who was particularly helpful.
“We are committed to Springfield,” said Sutton. “There are a lot of possibilities to be involved with projects.” The firm is looking forward to working with the Illinois Department of Transportation Region 4 as well as the City of Springfield, Sangamon County and the public and private sectors.
“We are always interested in looking at ways to support the community and become engaged,” said Davidson.
Sutton said a lot of firms don’t do that. “We believe in being good corporate citizens,” he said. “That’s our distinguishing characteristic.” The firm wants supporters to be proud of the excellent work it does and its reputation. “We want to hear ‘We love you and we love the work you do.’ We want our clients to say, ‘We thought about hiring another firm but we thought you were the best for the job.’”
Roberta Codemo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.