Shannon & Wilson

Senior vice president and Seattle office manager: Gerard Buechel

Specialty: Geotechnical engineering and environmental services

Year founded: 1954

2002 revenues: $15 million (Seattle office), $30 million (company-wide)

Projected 2003 revenues: $15 million (Seattle), $28 million (company)

Largest current projects: Geotech on the Monorail Green Line in Seattle; geotech on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge; geotech and environmental on planning for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement; geotech on the new federal courthouse in Seattle

The slumped economy has Shannon & Wilson waiting for work to pick up.

"At least one of our biggest challenges is keeping a high-quality professional staff busy during the funding woes of some of the municipal governments that we deal with," said Seattle office manager Gerard Buechel. "Clients expect you to put your staff on hold to wait until they get funding. Then they want the same high-quality staff without missing a beat.

"That's what we're facing now. It's not new, but it's exacerbated by the funding woes of the states."

The Seattle-based geotechnical engineering and environmental services firm peaked at about 130 employees in 1998. Then with the passage of the tax-cutting Initiative 695 and the recession after that, both of which slashed transportation funding, "we got leaner and meaner," Buechel said.

Employee count went down to 90 and since has "held at about 90 to 100," Buechel said.

Those 90 to 100 each do more than their share of work, but the firm won't turn on new hiring until it has more certainty that the economy will start heating up, Buechel said.

The firm operates offices in Seattle, Richland, Portland, St. Louis, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Denver. The Denver office opened about three years ago to work on a revamp of Interstate 25 there.

"A large percentage of our work comes from transportation projects," Buechel said. Some of that may increase soon; the Washington Department of Transportation has said a half-dozen of its projects may get going soon.

Buechel said the department selected Shannon & Wilson to work on at least two of those: as a subconsultant to HDR Engineering on a widening of Highway 18 between Interstate 90 and Hobart Road; and subconsultant to Parametrix on Highway 522 from the Snohomish River Bridge to U.S. 2.

Shannon & Wilson works on private commercial developments, too, but "that has been dead," Buechel said.

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