Portland, Oregon-based transportation engineering firm Kittelson & Associates Inc. is expanding its presence in Wilmington with a new office and additional hires this year.
The company is currently in the process of moving into about 2,000 square feet of downtown office space inside a building at 272 N. Front St., according to Bastian Schroeder, principal engineer of the firm’s Wilmington office. The structure is also known as the Self Help Building and the former Efird’s department store.
The company is moving from its smaller space on a different floor in that same building, he said, from suite 501 to 410. The larger office will allow the company to continue on its path of growth in Wilmington, said Schroeder.
Kittelson, a more than 30-year-old company, provides transportation engineering, planning and research services to government agencies, municipalities and private organizations. It has more than 200 employees at 24 offices around the country, Schroeder said.
The firm established a presence in North Carolina more than two years ago when it opened its location in Wilmington. It has since grown to two other locations in Charlotte and Raleigh, which opened in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“We really liked Wilmington. We as a firm, we are always driven by our people. In this case, I was located in Wilmington and we were able to make a case that we can be here and be profitable and find things to do here,” Schroeder said. “And so we always believe that we'll be more successful as a company if our staff are excited about where they are.”
And Wilmington has proven a success for the firm, he said, which is why it is making the move to a larger space, increasing the company's workstations from five to eight and adding two conference rooms.
Those conference rooms are important for the company, he said, because many of the meetings for projects are collaborative.
"We meet through video conference, web conference with folks from other offices and doing that in an open area, it's very difficult," he said of the current space. "So that's a big driver for us ... access to two conference rooms to really help us facilitate client meetings and all these kinds of things."
"It was time for a bigger space ..." he added.
The Wilmington office currently has four employees and is hiring two additional staff this year, with the first new hire set to begin in September. Kittelson also has one intern at its Wilmington office, one of 16 across all offices at the firm that is part of the company's internship program.
In addition, the transportation firm plans on growing its presence in the state, with additional hires in 2019.
Kittelson's Wilmington office has built local relationships with the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO), the city of Wilmington and N.C. Department of Transportation, Schroeder said.
And the company has federal clients, as well.
“We have a strong background in research and so we actually do a fair amount of work for Federal Highway Administration and the National Academies of Sciences that are also lead and staffed partly out of this office," Schroeder said. "So there's kind of the local, state and federal components ... but I do think the federal component does set Kittelson apart a little bit and it opens up some of the growth for us."
The firm is looking to further relationships with the WMPO and aims to grow its reach into the local transportation community. Kittelson recently held a free and open-invitation series of technical sessions on transportation topics, including roundabouts and protected bike lanes, and would like to continue hosting sessions in the future.
"It's open, really open for anyone and we'd like to continue doing those. We kind of have a framework plan for continuing to do that," said Zach Bugg, senior engineer with the firm's Wilmington office.
Schroeder said having local connections is important to the company and its "one-firm approach" to all of its projects.
"We want to continue to form those relationships and invest to market to local clients, build a local practice," Bugg said of the company's future. "We also want to continue to build our state practice, through NCDOT."