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Statewide Engineering Firms Have Strong UW Roots

June 17, 2016
A staff photo of Martin/Martin Wyoming taken in the Enzi STEM Building at UW.
A staff photo of Martin/Martin Wyoming taken in the Enzi STEM Building at UW. (Martin/Martin photo)

Take a look at the large-scale engineering projects making an impact in the towns and cities of Wyoming, and notice how the University of Wyoming’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) played a large role in the development.

The CEAS produced engineers behind the current projects, some of which are administered by Nelson Engineering and Martin/Martin Wyoming. As two of the most notable firms in the state, each firm has strong UW connections. Both have hired numerous graduates of the CEAS, and the passion for the state’s only four-year university is evident.

“I felt the education and experience was really beneficial for my career path,” says Carla Hansen, a professional engineer and partner at Nelson Engineering. Hansen earned her degree in architectural engineering with a structural emphasis in 2001 from UW.

“I had sufficient training and classes and good interaction to prepare me for the real world. It wasn’t just out of the textbook. I gained the design experience and applied that in my first and subsequent jobs,” she says.

Founded in 1964, Nelson Engineering provides civil, structural and geotechnical engineering, along with surveying services. With offices located in Jackson and Buffalo, the firm is one of the largest and longest-tenured firms in Wyoming. UW graduate Bob Norton is the CEO, and the founder, Albert “Boots” Nelson, also is an alumnus.

Nelson takes on projects in the areas of water resources, transportation, surveying, energy development, solid waste, structural, geotechnical, construction and land development. Nelson Engineering also sponsors the UW Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers Canoe Competition.

Martin/Martin Wyoming (MMWyo), headquartered in Cheyenne, also has a UW affiliation. Various projects around campus come directly from that shop, including the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility, Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, College of Business renovation, Energy Innovation Center and the High Bay Research Facility under construction.

“We, as a company, take great pride in our ability to have UW graduates designing UW projects,” says MMWyo President John R. Shaffer, who graduated from UW in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

MMWyo has a focus on structural engineering services within the state and the university. Shaffer says the ability to work on UW projects has been a big draw when recruiting graduates from UW. In Cheyenne, the firm employs 10 UW graduates, while the Lakewood, Colo., office employs 12. Employees at Martin/Martin come from some of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the U.S., but Shaffer adds, “We have found the work ethic, knowledge and people skills of UW graduates are some of the best in the nation.”

Other MMWyo projects include renovations and improvements to facilities like the Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center, the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts, the Visual Arts Building, the Anthropology Building, War Memorial Stadium renovations and Wildcatter Stadium Club and Suites, Information Technology Center, Indoor Practice Facility, Coe Library, Arena-Auditorium, Indoor Golf Facility, Engineering Education and Research Building (in design), Rochelle Athletics Center 2.0 (in design) and the Arena-Auditorium Phase 2 (in design).

“We have been very fortunate over the years to be involved with numerous projects on campus, and I believe the success of these projects is directly related to the education our staff has received at the university,” Shaffer says.

Martin/Martin has locations in two cities in Colorado, one in New Mexico, one in California and a subsidiary in Cheyenne. Here’s another tidbit: The office in New Mexico is on Wyoming Boulevard, and the Cheyenne office is located on Laramie Street.

Nelson Engineering and Martin/Martin aren’t the only firms in Wyoming with UW ties, of course. But they serve as great examples of successful landing points for UW graduates, many of whom feel a real connection with the Cowboy State.

“We provide the public with engineering and design, and private entities with new systems,” Hansen says. “As a company, we enjoy working for both sectors. We all enjoy being outdoors, and bringing benefits and improvements to a place that everyone gets to enjoy.”

How are these projects relevant to the public? Currently, Nelson is involved in the construction of a reservoir to serve the Sweetwater County Joint Powers Water Board. At nearly 40 feet high and 900 feet long, it will feature more than 350 acre feet of storage. Additionally, the firm has ongoing projects in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, and a bridge over the Snake River in Teton County.

“Whether it’s ranching, farming irrigation and fish barriers, our projects serve the vast differences in the Wyoming economy,” Hansen says. “Our work deals with schools, housing, national park projects and the tourism economy. We service some mining and oil interests. As a company, we serve all the various economies the state has in their own specific needs.”

Hansen also likes to point to the fact that the state can employ homegrown engineers. The Lusk native worked in several states after graduation in various roles, but her ties to Wyoming made her strive to return home if possible. That opportunity came in 2007, when she was hired in the Jackson office. She became a partner in the firm in 2013.

“Jackson is a great place, and being back in Wyoming was important to me,” she says. “If I ever left Wyoming, I knew I wanted to come back. For young Wyoming engineers, it’s important to realize that you can do this job here.”

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