Venerable Engineering Firm Opens Tyler Offices
By CASEY MURPHY
S&H, a 71-year-old facilities and infrastructure consulting firm that has grown to have 750 employees worldwide, continues to expand its presence in Texas with an office in Tyler.
The company was started in 1941 by three men -- Reynolds, Smith and Hills -- in Florida. The architectural, engineering, planning and environmental firm offers services in aerospace and defense, aviation, corporate, education, health and science, public infrastructure and transportation industries.
RS&H has been involved with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since its inception, Tyler office manager Dennis McAfee Jr. said.
"Everything you see on the ground at a (shuttle) launch is designed by RS&H," he said, adding that the company has been involved with every manned space mission NASA has done.
RS&H has an aviation team that designs new airports and redesigns runways and terminals. The firm also designs new highways and public infrastructure, such as water, sewer and natural gas lines.
For its sustainability projects, McAfee said an example of the firm's work is looking at a grocery store and assessing everything it is doing from an energy standpoint -- how it processes things and how much waste it is going through. They pull a program together for the store to reduce waste while producing a revenue stream, he added.
The Corporate, Education, Health and Science Department is an architectural group that designs banks, jails and other facilities. Once the design and environmental services are complete, RS&H offers construction services, such as managing a project.
McAfee said RS&H hopes the Tyler office will become a full-service firm and its goal is to have about 20 employees within the next five years. He said the office sits in the transportation and infrastructure group right now for energy related projects.
"Tyler is a growing city," McAfee said of why Tyler is a good fit for the company. "Smith County is growing."
As areas grow, there is more need for better transportation, as well as good water and sewer lines and electricity, he said. The energy industry has been in East Texas for a long time and is dealing with new technology, and there could be a possibility for rail to come into the area, he added.
"We don't want to just focus on one of those" areas, McAfee said. "We see Tyler as a growing area."
McAfee is an environmental specialist, As office manager, he is the RS&H's only Tyler employee here but he plans to hire two more people in about the next month.
McAfee, 41, grew up in the Richmond-Rosenberg area near Houston, attended Texas A&M University and graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in Forest Wildlife Management in 1997. He lives on Lake Tyler and he and his wife of six years, Sue, have two children, Ty, 12, and Elizabeth, 11.
After college, McAfee took a job at Espey, Huston & Associations, an engineering firm in Dallas, in 1998 -- the same year the company was bought out and became PBS&J. He worked as an environmental field employee before quickly being promoted to project manager. He focused mostly on energy related projects, such as oil and gas pipelines, well locations and coal mining facilities, he said.
In 2001, McAfee and a colleague put together a business plan to open an office for PBS&J in Tyler because they were spending so much time in East Texas for clients in the area. In March 2002, the company opened an office here, which has since grown to 35 employees. He said PBS&J, which was bought in 2010 by Atkins, provides environmental, cultural resources, GIS services, transportation engineering and construction services.
In October 2011, McAfee was working as office manager -- in charge of employees in Tyler, Shreveport, Dallas and Oklahoma -- when he left PBS&J to start work at RS&H.
In November, he started working for the company out of his home and opened the Tyler office Jan. 1. McAfee said RS&H is focusing on growing in Texas and he is part of a group of people that are strategically trying to figure out how to do that.
RS&H Chief Marketing Officer Joe Debs said since the company was founded in Florida, it has grown to a national and international status. The facilities and infrastructure consulting firm has 32 offices in 13 states and has practiced all over the country and done projects in 50 countries, he said.
The facilities and infrastructure consulting firm employs a multidiscipline staff of architects, engineers, planners, environmental scientist and technical support staff. RS&H is a privately held, employee-owned company.
Debs, who works out of the company's headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., said the company has a total of about 850 employees. He said RS&H has been in Texas for about 20 years and has offices in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
The Tyler office celebrated an open house April 25 for friends, family and potential clients.
Debs said when he was introduced to McAfee months ago, he instantly saw an opportunity for the company because of McAfee's background, which he said fit neatly with the type of projects RS&H does. Location was another reason why the company thought Tyler was a prime spot to open an office.
Debs said because of the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA), the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport and a number of potential private clients based here, as well as Tyler being between Dallas and Shreveport, Tyler became attractive to the company to serve new clients. He said they will also take advantage of the energy sector in the area.
"We are very excited to have opened the office in Tyler," Debs said.
McAfee said the company plans to be involved in the community.
"We're community focused," he said. "I live here and I want to be involved."