Several years ago when new construction and engineering projects were drying up and the economy spiraled into turbulent times, leaders at Braun Intertec, an engineering, environmental consulting and testing firm, looked to North Dakota to keep employees working. That was in 2008.
The result turned the $3 million market into nearly $20 million for Braun Intertec during the biggest recession since the Great Depression and has brought native North Dakotans back to the state.
Since then, Braun Intertec has been involved with many of the significant oil and gas projects in the Bakken Formation, thrusting the company into the middle of the globally-watched Bakken oil boom.
Like other companies working in the region, Braun Intertec not only retains talent, they continually have more job openings than skilled workers to fill their growing offices in North Dakota.
In recent months, the company opened two new offices in Minot and Dickinson, to complement its Bismarck and West Fargo locations. The Minot office is located in the Northern Plains Energy Park at 403-40th Ave. NE, and opened in late summer 2012.
The new Minot office supports about 30 staff members who provide services to address the oil and gas market and the infrastructure challenges resulting from the swell of workers and new residents coming into the state.
Additionally, the Dickinson office is primarily focused on addressing workforce and infrastructure-related projects, which also includes developing accommodations for retail growth. The office supports 12 employees who are working on projects in Williston, Dickinson and surrounding western North Dakota.
The company also has a mobile testing lab at Stanley.
"Braun Intertec is highly vested in North Dakota," said Steve Nagle, a Valley City-native and vice president at Braun Intertec. "We are committed to investing in our North Dakota communities and creating as many high-quality jobs in our industry as possible."
Nagle said one of the company's biggest focus areas is finding skilled workers who have roots in North Dakota and who are currently living in the state, or interested in returning. Because of the demand, the company has also had to look beyond the state to fill job openings.
"Construction has been down in the southwestern United States and many contractors have moved into North Dakota to fill gaps," said Nagle. "We've been fortunate to find people with the skills we need who have been born and raised in North Dakota as well as those willing to relocate from other states."
Nagle points to Braun Intertec employees Dustin Auch, who manages the Minot office and Joe Callaway, who works in the Dickinson office as prime examples. Auch was born and raised in Minot and Callaway has relocated from Florida so he could continue to support his family during the recession.
"We want to continue to grow our base of engineers who were raised in North Dakota. We also want to talk with engineers and technicians who are serious about a permanent relocation," said Nagle. "Braun Intertec understands the challenges in North Dakota and we're looking for long-term solutions to help address the needs."
The company has been established in the state for more than 20 years providing geotechnical engineering, construction materials testing, environmental consulting and nondestructive examination services on numerous projects ranging from transportation infrastructure projects and institutional structures, to more recently compressor stations, rail load out facilities, well pad design and plant expansions, oil and gas separation facilities, administration buildings and oil-field services projects throughout the area.
Braun Intertec, an employee-owned firm based in Minneapolis, first began serving the energy (oil and coal) market in North Dakota in 1981. After that energy boom subsided, the company established an office in Bismarck to serve projects in the transportation, institutional and commercial sectors. Later, the company expanded its footprint in the state with a project office in Grand Forks to help support the recovery effort during the record Red River flooding in 1997.
Since the 2008 Bakken oil boom, Braun Intertec has seen a significant increase in demand for its comprehensive base of services that extends through nondestructive testing, which is tied primarily to pipeline construction and compressor station work. It's this service, said Nagle, that sets the company apart from many of its competitors. Oil and gas customers have been relying heavily on this to make sure the pipelines meet the necessary code compliance, safety and quality control requirements.
Traditionally, North Dakota made up 10 percent of total overall revenues for Braun Intertec. That number is now up to 26 percent and the company is predicting it will grow to as high as 50 percent of total overall revenues in the next five to six years. After that, Nagle predicts that Braun Intertec's profile will shift once again to offer more maintenance type services for the new infrastructure.