Garver Engineering Firm Stresses Water Design, Plans More Growth in Northwest Arkansas

Within the last year Garver USA has lent its expertise to wastewater treatment plant projects in states like Arkansas, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Included on the project roster is the design of a $55 million plant for the University of Oklahoma. Garver also has been involved in a new $114 million plant that is nearing completion in Conway.

Garver, which specializes in engineering, planning and environmental services for transportation, aviation and water projects, has 15 regional offices in nine different states throughout the South and Midwest, so work is often done remotely. Project milestones, schedules, budgets and other details can be worked out via phone calls, email and video conferencing.

When it comes to designing the projects, however, there is no better approach than bringing engineers in face to face. That’s why Garver continues to grow its center for water design in Fayetteville with a goal of hitting 50 employees in that office by 2017.

It is there, on the third floor of Garver’s regional office on Joyce Boulevard, that the company brings together engineers from a number of disciplines to help figure out the best approach for each project. Getting process, structural, mechanical, electrical, civil and other engineers into the same room together on a project is critical to success, said Steve Jones, senior vice president and director of water services.

“When it comes down to the intricate design, there’s no substitute for the human interface,” Jones said. “The idea was that in order to execute complicated projects, involving a number of engineering disciplines, you need a center for excellence. You’re best served by having a resource center where you collect the brightest minds and bring them together in one place.”

“You can’t do it virtually. You need to be in one room as you work through all the intricacies of a complicated project together.”

Jones learned the approach during time spent working for international design firms during the first 18 years of his career. What Jones also learned from that experience was the importance of location in planning such a centralized operation.

Garver considered a number of options when opening the water design center in 2005. Fayetteville made sense for multiple reasons as Jones looked to expand on what he’d seen work in towns like Corvallis, Ore., and Gainesville, Fla.

Northwest Arkansas was growing and provided the design team relatively easy access to Garver’s other regional offices. The costs of living and doing business are relatively low in the region.

Perhaps most importantly, the town was home to a strong engineering school. Jones cited proximity to the University of Arkansas as a major selling point when Garver began scouting locations. Finding bright young minds to stock the company with is important and recruiting within a college town makes that prospect easier, he said.

Garver pairs those young engineers in each discipline with supervisors who have decades of experience.

“We’re recruiting for high-paying, high-technology jobs which everybody wants,” said Brock Hoskins, Garver’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. “We’re not only bringing young farm team folks in from the University of Arkansas, but also a lot of folks from other regions to northwest Arkansas.”

It’s an approach that has served the company well as it continues to attract new talent and new opportunities.

Consider the treatment facility in Tuscumbia, Ala., that earned Garver a Grand Conceptor Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies. There the company incorporated a pair of membrane filters — designed in Fayetteville — to help remove pollutants and minerals from the water supply.

Garver is working on projects with the Trinity River Authority at a plant in Dallas that processes 300 million gallons per day. In work with Siloam Springs the company helped the local treatment plant improve its phosphorous filtering and developed technology to not only meet the limit of 0.037 parts per million for plants that discharge into the Illinois River, but get it down to .025.

Work in Conway was done to design a new plant that will expand that city’s wastewater treatment capabilities as the city continues to grow. Over in Norman, Okla., Garver is designing a new plant that will allow for re-use of wastewater to irrigate the OU golf course.

Plus, the company is expanding on its partnership with the University of Arkansas. Garver recently donated $150,000 to help develop a Membrane Science, Engineering & Technology (MAST) research center on campus. This will be the third such center in the country, joining the University of Colorado and New Jersey Institute of Technology. Research will focus on filtering out pharmaceuticals from wastewater.

“There’s a lot of cool stuff being done and being done right here in Fayetteville,” Jones said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there. This design center is the horsepower to help execute that work.”