Fleis VandenBrink merges with Flint company

Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering Inc. has merged with Gould Engineering Inc. of Grand Blanc and Flint to further expand its engineering and construction management services in eastern Michigan.

Known informally as F&V, it is one of the largest civil engineering firms in West Michigan, with headquarters at 2960 Lucerne Drive SE in Cascade Township and satellite offices in Traverse City, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Midland, Lansing, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, prior to the merger with Gould.

Gould was founded in 1916 and employs about a dozen people at its offices in Grand Blanc and Flint, which will now be designated as Fleis & VandenBrink. Terms of the merger were not disclosed.

“We continue to have opportunities for expanding our work in eastern Michigan,” said Larry J. Fleis, president of the company. “We needed a local office to better compete for work in this key Michigan market. The Gould merger provides a local office in the area and brings to the firm some quality, local staff to continue to grow our business.”

Fleis said F&V had been “looking for the right opportunity to grow in the southeastern Michigan area and Gould is a very good fit for our needs. It’s pretty incredible that some of the Gould clients have been working with them for over 40 years.”

Fleis and Dave VandenBrink formed F&V in 1993. With the additional staff from Gould, the company now has more than 125 employees

“We’re actually having a record year,” said Fleis, noting the firm had recently added 10 or more employees before the merger with Gould.

Victor Lukasavitz, president of Gould, said F&V is a leader — “utilizing the best technology in our industry and providing a broad scope of services that we can now offer to our clients. I really like the things F&V is doing for their clients and I’m very excited about enhancing the service products we can provide our clients out of our office.”

“They have the same kind of values that we have at Gould. It’s no surprise that they received two recent awards,” added Lukasavitz. F&V has been named the 2010 Firm of the Year by the American Council of Engineering Cos. in Michigan, and also is on the list of West Michigan 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For. 

Both F&V and Gould specialize in providing engineering services on construction projects that range from wastewater treatment plants to urban beautification programs. F&V also performs engineering services for the Michigan Department of Transportation, private developers and local municipal agencies.

In addition to the various private and industrial clients, F&V has more than 150 cities, villages and townships as clients, according to Fleis’ estimate. The firm’s business is also built on its ability to assist communities in securing grants and low-interest loans. Last year alone, F&V assisted Michigan communities secure over $70 million in funding.

According to Fleis, his firm has particular strengths in civil and environmental engineering, transportation, architecture, landscape architecture, homeland security and Geographic Information System programs. An affiliate, F&V Construction Management Inc., provides further support in construction management aspects. These services will be expanded into eastern Michigan through the merger with Gould Engineering.

F&V has been more focused lately on public projects, “particularly in this environment, with the development work being down,” said Fleis.

Major projects under way include expansion of the wastewater treatment plant in Bay County, the I-196 re-build through downtown Grand Rapids, the $3 million street improvement project in Saugatuck and a $3 million road/utilities project in Berrien Springs. Last year, F&V completed work on a multi-million dollar wastewater collection and treatment project in Northport, north of Traverse City, and is now involved with an $8 million project for the city of Sturgis in southern Michigan.

F&V also did the design and engineering work on the new downtown streets and public landscaping in Muskegon a couple of years ago.

Fleis said 2009 was a very good year, despite the recession, and 2010 is shaping up to be even better. “A lot of it was the stimulus program. Our clients got stimulated,” he said, referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that allocated billions for public infrastructure early in 2009.

Private client projects for F&V lately have included the River House Condominiums tower built on the bank of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids by Robert Grooters Development Co. and the Waterfall Shoppes on 28th Street and I-96 in Cascade Township.

F&V also did the engineering for the $180 million renovation of the former Ottawa Street Power Station in Lansing, now on the National Register of Historic Places, as the new corporate headquarters for Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America, slated to open in the spring. Located on the Grand River, the power plant has been one of downtown Lansing’s most distinguishing features since it was built in 1939 by the Lansing Board of Water and Light. The Art Deco style power plant provided electricity and steam heat to downtown Lansing until the late 1980s.

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