The addition of Votaw and McPhee will improve WSB’s capabilities and opportunities for staff and clients.
September 28, 2023
Design and consulting firm WSB announced the expansion of leadership within their company. Waymon Votaw has been hired as vice president of oil and gas operations, and Gordon McPhee has joined as vice president of digital solutions. The addition of these roles place WSB in a strong position as they continue to advance infrastructure.
“Bringing Waymon on our team to oversee operations will strengthen our Oil and Gas division immensely,” said John Gerlach, vice president of oil and gas. “Waymon has an extensive background in the development and asset management of water, energy and power infrastructure and his leadership skills are unmatched. I look forward to seeing Waymon’s positive impact on the Oil and Gas division and our clients.”
Votaw will focus on day-to-day work of the division, finding ways to improve efficiencies and better manage our system and projects. In addition, he will support the firm’s efforts to provide career development pathways and professional opportunities for staff within the Oil and Gas division.
“I was struck by WSB’s core values: bold, visionary, optimistic, passionate and authentic,” said Votaw. “I apply those qualities to my work, and once I saw them— I knew I wanted to be part of the environment they have at WSB. I am excited to support our clients and staff in this position.”
McPhee is another addition to WSB. As vice president of digital solutions, he will focus on creating, integrating and executing strategy and solutions to advance technology in all our service areas.
“Gordon has a wide variety of industry experience, and his broad background in engineering and knowledge in technology is critical to the growth and development of WSB,” said Jon Chiglo, WSB’s chief operating officer. “He is a valuable asset to our team. His capabilities will continue to strengthen our digital presence throughout our entire firm— improving the overall experience, results and value for our projects and clients.”
“I look forward to the challenge,” said McPhee. “Technology is the future and finding more ways to implement that into a company that is already leading the industry in that area is very exciting. I always want to work toward the next project, and I really appreciate that WSB strives to stay ahead of the curve.”
The fast-growing firm continues to expand its reach across the country. Through the hiring of multiple high-level positions, the firm has welcomed many new faces to leadership with innovative ideas to move business forward.
Waymon Votaw Vice President of Oil and Gas Operations [email protected] | 346.661.5360
EST’S STRONG FOOTPRINT SOLIDIFIES THE FIRM’S GROWING PRESENCE IN THE SOUTHERN AND WESTERN U.S.
September 20, 2023
WSB, one of the nation’s fastest growing Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firms, with 17 offices across five states, today announced an acquisition of EST, a comprehensive engineering firm based in Oklahoma City, Okla. The partnership represents progress towards WSB’s strategic growth goals and will strengthen the firm’s presence in the southern and western United States.
EST’s depth and knowledge in transportation, construction engineering and inspection (CE&I) and municipal infrastructure expertise complements WSB’s service offerings and expertise. EST also brings years of experience working closely with state departments of transportation and across the government market.
“WSB is growing from a position of strength,” said Bret Weiss, WSB’s president and chief executive officer. “We are strategically adding new capabilities that complement our existing service offerings and expertise. EST is an outstanding firm with a strong culture and entrepreneurial spirit. Together, we’re now able to offer our clients new services and even deeper expertise through shared learnings and best practices, reinforcing the value of a partnership with WSB.”
WSB has significantly expanded its geographic footprint, acquiring 19 offices across four southern and western states, and has grown its talent base, adding more than 350 employees. The combined strength now gives WSB 36 offices nationwide and more than 1,100 employees to better serve its clients in the government, commercial and energy markets.
“WSB and EST are an excellent match in many ways,” said Michael Vahabzadegan, EST’s president and chief operating officer. “Our cultures align significantly, and so do our business goals. Our operations will integrate well and will provide us with more access to talent, technology and approaches to better serve our clients and partners.”
WSB and EST will work together to develop a single go-to market approach as WSB in the coming months. This is WSB’s third acquisition in the southwest. In September 2019, the firm acquired Houston-based Nathelyne A. Kennedy & Associates, Inc., and Rogers Design Services in 2018.
GHK Capital Partners LP (“GHK”) completed a majority recapitalization of WSB in August 2023. This acquisition of EST is WSB’s first in partnership with GHK and establishes a scalable, national platform to expand across the US critical infrastructure consulting space.
September 18, 2023 By Behnaz Beladi, Director of Renewable Energy, WSB
WSB knows the importance of creating resilient and sustainable cities that prioritize the needs of its residents while preserving the environment. Smart cities that utilize technology to collect data and improve operations are crucial in advancing toward a more sustainable future. Renewable energy has emerged as a critical strategy in achieving this goal and is being implemented and managed in various ways across smart cities.
Here are several key benefits and challenges of implementing renewable energy in smart cities:
An important benefit of using renewable energy in smart cities is that it helps reduce carbon emissions. By using distributed energy resources such as wind and solar power, smart cities work towards reducing their carbon footprint to zero. This helps the environment and makes the city a desirable place to live and work.
One of the most significant benefits of renewable energy in smart cities is the potential for economic growth. Affordable and reliable renewable power can attract and retain companies, provide green jobs, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation through renewable business incubators.
Quality of Life
Public health and safety can be improved through emission free cities. Renewable energy increases the quality of life for residents, particularly those in lower-income households. Inclusivity is promoted by providing access to renewable resources and grants to help cover the costs for low-income residents. Furthermore, residents can be paid to redistribute excess energy back into the grid, providing additional financial support to those needing it.
Despite these benefits, there are still challenges to implementing renewable energy in smart cities. To sufficiently leverage renewable sources, a great deal of new transmission infrastructure is required. Power transmission infrastructure was built with large fossil fuel plants and nuclear plants in mind. This raises issues for renewable energy sources not located near existing infrastructure. In fact, some areas with little or no infrastructure, such as off-shore wind farms, are some of the best hopes for sources of renewable energy. In some cities, it may be more difficult to build power plants due to geography, regulations and policies, or issues with constructability. However, through technology and innovation, WSB helps cities find ways to utilize existing infrastructure while being incredibly cost-effective in the long run. This includes incorporating smart EV chargers into commercial buildings and condominiums, helping with solar needs for residential or commercial buildings, and designing wind and solar power plants for cities and utilities.
How WSB Can Help
Renewable energy is an essential component of any smart city. By reducing carbon emissions, driving economic growth, and improving the quality of life for residents, renewable energy is helping to create cities of the future. As more communities adopt renewable energy practices, WSB is here to help design and build new infrastructure or incorporate renewable energy sources into existing infrastructure.
Behnaz manages the multi-disciplinary renewable energy team in project and program operations. She is an accomplished academic, with a PhD of Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Vienna, an associate of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and has served on the board of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, advocating for policy and regulatory initiative’s that strengthen the industry.
The fast-growing design and consulting firm first established a presence in Baxter in 2015.
September 13, 2023
WSB, a design and consulting firm, announced the expansion of their office in Baxter, Minn. The firm has relocated to the Johnson Center located at 14275 Golf Course Drive. The 2,360-square-foot space represents WSB’s further investment in the central Minnesota region.
“WSB’s Baxter office is a vital part of our operations,” said Monica Heil, WSB’s vice president of municipal services. “Our Baxter team serves a large region of the state, and the infrastructure needs of the surrounding communities continue to grow. We’re excited for the opportunity to support the region, and our expanded office strengthens our presence and provides more visibility.”
WSB first entered the central Minnesota region in 2015 with the opening of their Baxter office. Over eight years later, the firm is proud to continue investing in the region. The strategic office expansion and location of the Baxter office is appealing because of its accessibility to local clients and staff.
The Baxter office will support the development of infrastructure for counties and cities in central Minnesota. WSB will continue to build their team and focus on project delivery in the area.
“We have strong existing relationships with partners and clients in the Brainerd/Baxter area,” said Paul Sandy, WSB’s municipal senior project manager. “This office space and expansion allows us the opportunity to continue working with existing clients while expanding our footprint in northern Minnesota to provide services to clients we may not have worked with in the past. In a place developing as quickly as Crow Wing County and surrounding jurisdictions, we are eager to continue building our resume in the region and providing our clients with cutting-edge solutions to support their infrastructure and asset management needs.”
WSB currently serves as the city engineer in the city of East Gull Lake and supports other cities in the area such as Brainerd, Baxter, Breezy Point, and neighboring jurisdictions throughout northern Minnesota. With geographic presences in St. Cloud, Baxter, Duluth, and Fargo, WSB services all northern Minnesota through collective office expertise.
Since moving to Baxter in 2015, more notable projects in the Brainerd/Baxter area include WSB serving as the lead design firm managing design and construction quality for the Highway 371 Design Build project from Nisswa to Jenkins, the College Drive Reconstruction Project from County Road 48 to Quince Street in Brainerd, and the newly constructed Lyman P. White Park located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Brainerd.
By Andi Moffat, VP of Environmental and Eric Zweber, Sr Renewables Project Manager, WSB
Solar energy is on the rise, and it’s not just about cleaner power – it’s also about smarter land use. In Minnesota, a groundbreaking community solar law passed earlier this year is spurring action, allowing communities to turn underutilized land more easily, including brownfields and contaminated sites, into thriving community solar sites.
This innovative approach not only benefits the environment but also boosts local economies and creates job opportunities. With new legislation making it easier to establish solar gardens, the future looks brighter than ever.
Here is what this new law means and how communities across Minnesota can take advantage.
Legislation Paves the Way for Solar Garden Expansion
Recent legislation in Minnesota makes it easier to establish solar gardens. The 2023 law increases the allowed energy production on a site from one to five megawatts of power. On average, it takes about 35-40 acres of land to produce five megawatts of energy. The increase in allowed energy production makes solar more attractive for investors which will help spur overall solar growth. While the law applies to regions whose energy is covered by investor-owned utilities like Xcel Energy, distribution generation projects can be created in other utility service territories.
Moreover, the new law requires that the garden must benefit at least 25 subscribers. Of those subscribers, 55 percent must be public interest (i.e., local government, school districts, certain non-profit organizations, etc.), and 30 percent must serve subscribers with low to moderate incomes. Communities looking to identify subscribers that meet these requirements can work with organizations like Fresh Energy.
Finally, this law increases community solar opportunities across the state by removing county-specific restrictions for solar development. This change reduces barriers for communities and organizations who want to develop community solar sites. As a result of this law, solar initiatives are expected to flourish statewide, creating a ripple effect of positive environmental and economic impacts.
Transforming Underutilized Land & Providing Opportunities
Many large pieces of available property, including brownfields, often wait decades for redevelopment. Community solar offers an attractive interim use for these underutilized spaces. Putting community solar on these properties can accelerate the return on investment for landowners, while also providing an immediate positive impact to the community.
Beyond the financial incentives for landowners or subscribers, transforming spaces into solar gardens creates opportunities for local employment, fosters economic growth and contributes to the state’s clean energy and electrification goals.
How WSB Can Help
If you are a community or large commercial organization looking to utilize land and take advantage of this new opportunity, WSB is here to help. We are a full-service solar development firm and can provide site design, help identify land for community solar sites or make connections with contractors. Furthermore, we help your community examine and update local ordinances to align with the recent change in state statute.
Andi is a Vice President with more than two decades of experience leading people and projects that include planning, environmental, energy, highway, natural resources, construction and development. She oversees our Environmental services and approaches her work with passion and positivity.
Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.
September 18, 2023 By Mary Gute, Sr Transportation Planner, WSB
Transportation grants are crucial to funding local city and county transportation-related projects. What can local governments do to stand out, score well and ensure they receive funding for their priority projects? Here is more information on the transportation grants and how to qualify.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Local Road Improvement Program
MnDOT’s 2023 Local Road Improvement Program solicitation is designated for projects that will be constructed between 2024-2026. A total of $103 million is available during this round of funding. The maximum dollar amount that can be awarded is $1.5 million per project. Applications are due December 8, 2023, and award announcements are expected March 29, 2024. There is no match required for these funds.
What projects qualify?
Each project must fit within one of three buckets that correlate to these MnDOT accounts: trunk highway corridor, routes of regional significance or rural road safety.
Trunk highway corridor projects must be on county, local, or township roads that are impacted by MnDOT trunk highway improvements.
Projects in the routes of regional significance bucket are for roads classified as A-minor collector roads or higher. LRIP funds can be used for road construction, reconstruction or reconditioning projects. This fund is also intended to fund projects that would have regional significance, could help reduce congestion or spur economic development along corridors.
Roads not classified as an A-minor collector or higher can also qualify for these funds by meeting a portion of the below criteria:
Classified as a farm to market route
Providing capacity or congestion relief to a parallel truck highway system or county road
Included in an economic development plan
Included as part of a 10-ton route or network
Connect to a tourist destination
Connect to the regional transportation system, trunk highway or county road
How can your locality increase its chances of receiving this funding?
If your project fits into one of these three buckets, how can you ensure your project receives funding?
MnDOT looks at eligibility, operations and safety, regional significance, support by relevant local governments including availability of other funding sources, lack of controversy, expected useful life of at least a decade and high impact. Projects will be weighted on a variety of factors including 25 percent for project readiness and 5 percent for complete streets consideration which focuses on safety and accessibility.
Furthermore, projects that stand out have a large positive impact on the community and are ready to begin construction. That means ensuring all planning documents are up to date and demonstrate how the project will contribute to the local economy, region and/or residents.
For communities with less than five thousand residents, it’s also important to secure a resolution of support from the local county before applying for the grant.
Finally, early coordination with MnDOT district staff, including the District State Aid Engineer and the District State Aid Assistant can be helpful to vetting potential projects and establishing projects to submit through the LRIP and other competitive funding programs.
Metropolitan Council Regional Solicitation Grants
The Metropolitan Council Regional Solicitation Grants distribute federal funding for a wide range of transportation improvements, including roadways and bicycle/pedestrian projects. While the start date this program has not yet been announced, this is the perfect time to plan ahead and prepare. It is also the time to ensure communities can secure the 20 percent required match.
What can I do to prepare before this program opens up?
Communities can determine if their projects qualify for the Regional Solicitation program and how competitive their project will be well in advance of the program opening up. This includes determining the application type that needs to be submitted and if the project is in alignment with the programs prioritizing criteria, which includes role in the transportation system and economy, equity, infrastructure condition, safety, project readiness and community engagement. These cross-cutting areas of emphasis are great opportunities for communities to augment their sustainability and resiliency efforts.
How can you increase your chances of receiving this funding?
Funding for eligible projects is very competitive so making sure your project stands out is critical. To increase the chances of receiving Regional Solicitation funding, projects should align with the Council’s planning documents. Projects that improve accessibility for low income or traditionally disadvantaged communities will also score better, like projects that focus on environmental justice (EJ) communities. To find out more, visit the state’s EJ mapping tool and other resources atEnvironmental justice | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (state.mn.us).
Collaboration and partnership are also key to setting a project apart. All jurisdictions involved should be supportive of the project and working with partners now across levels of government will demonstrate project readiness. Moreover, being able to demonstrate stakeholder engagement like public meetings or resident input specific to the proposed project can also elevate your project to the top among applicants.
It is notable that for the 2024 cycle, the Met Council has increased the weight placed on addressing fatalities on the transportation system, making this the highest valued criterion for many application categories.
How WSB Can Help
These grants provide amazing opportunities to help fund critical transportation projects. WSB’s experienced team knows how to make projects stand out and increase your chances of receiving funding.
Contact us for guidance on everything from project competitiveness to assisting with transportation grant applications.
Mary has 20 years of progressively complex transportation planning and project management experience, gained from working on a variety of transportation projects for modes including roads/bridge, transit, and trails. Several these projects have included environmental documentation considerations – either pre-NEPA, or through NEPA and/or MEPA processes.