Harvey Matheny, associate with the Memphis office of Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. and current president of the Memphis chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Tennessee, has seen plenty of changes in the local engineering market over the past several years.
“When I came here seven years ago, private development, particularly commercial office and industrial, was still very strong. But when the recession hit, those areas dried up,” Matheny said. “Now it’s starting to come back, and we are certainly seeing more opportunities there.”
As private commercial development projects dwindled, the firm turned to more municipal engineering projects including utility design and storm water analysis and design.
“Fortunately we’ve enjoyed a rejuvenation in public-sector opportunities after the downturn in the private sector. There will always be a need for infrastructure expansion and infrastructure rehab,” he said.
Matheny has spent the majority of his time during the past few years working on the development of an environmental impact statement for the Tennessee Department of Transportation that looks at a potential new crossing of the Mississippi River. The comprehensive, multi-state project got underway in 2010.
Early projections for the cost of a new bridge and the approaching roadways on either side of the river are between $1 billion and $2 billion.
“It’s a work in progress. We’ve been funded to do the first phases of the EIS,” Matheny said. “Currently the project is in a holding pattern as TDOT does some re-evaluation of some of its major projects across the state.”
Over the past few years, he sees regulations from the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation beginning to drive storm water regulations in a different direction.
“The newer regulations are forcing governments to look at how they manage storm water, with more emphasis on green infrastructure and low-impact development,” Matheny said. “There’s more emphasis on capturing rainfall and letting it infiltrate back into the soil for more a natural drainage design than we’ve had for many, many years. The sole purpose is really to try to reduce pollutants runoff into our streams and rivers.”
After graduating with his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Memphis in 1986, Matheny worked with a couple of consulting firms and then spent three years working for the city of Germantown.
Most recently he notched a seven-plus year stint with the town of Collierville, where he served as town engineer for five years and development director in charge of engineering, planning and code enforcement for two and a half years.
“We feel like there needs to be meaningful interaction with local, state and federal legislators and elected officials.”
Kimley-Horn and Associates; ACEC Memphis chapter president
He became familiar with Kimley-Horn when the firm was selected to develop a transportation plan for the town of Collierville, and he met James Collins, who had started the Memphis office for Kimley-Horn.
“Ultimately I decided it was a good time for me to leave public practice and return to private practice, and I felt like Kimley-Horn was a fantastic opportunity,” said Matheny, who has worked at Kimley-Horn since April 2005.
Last year, the company ranked 41st out of the top 500 U.S. design firms in Engineering News-Record’s annual list of the top design firms in the nation.
Kimley-Horn established its roots in transportation planning and roadway design during the 1960s, and it has grown into a multi-disciplined civil engineering firm that is also involved in aviation design and planning; land development; water resources including utilities, water sewage drainage and stream analysis; and traffic engineering. The company has more than 60 offices across the country.
“We operate pretty seamlessly amongst all of our offices and make use of all of our resources,” he said.
Matheny believes the demand for engineers will intensify in the years to come.
“When you look at the number of retiring engineers in the next 10 to 20 years compared to the number of engineering graduates in the pipeline coming into the profession, there certainly is going to continue to be a need for engineers,” he said.
As the current president of the Memphis chapter of the ACEC of Tennessee, Matheny works as advocate for more than 100 ACEC member engineering firms across the state of Tennessee.
“We feel like there needs to be meaningful interaction with local, state and federal legislators and elected officials,” he said. “As they put policies or legislation in place that might affect the health, safety and welfare of the public and the engineering profession, the ACEC wants to have a say in that process.”
The ACEC also promotes engineering across the local community, and Matheny is one of several Kimley-Horn team members on the Civil Engineering Advisory Committee at the University of Memphis.
Matheny’s two-year term as ACEC president ends on June 30, when incoming president David Bradford of SSR Consulting will take the helm.