Land design firm celebrates 20 years

Thomas and David Spencer

According to their new website, the company “specialize(s) in a broad range of planning, permitting and civil engineering services” for clients ranging from private landowners to major shopping center developers. CivilNW projects are usually concerned with land development outside of a project’s building footprint, David said.

The website, part of the recent rebrand, offers examples and instructive videos for various potential clients. One project highlighted there is the Alan Webb car dealership.

“This was a turning point project for us,” said David. “We used to be primarily residential. Right around the time we purchased this company in 2006, residential new construction dropped off significantly. We had done large-scale commercial development in our previous work, so we were able to use our skills and contacts in that area to transition from primarily residential to more commercial and industrial.

“This came right at a time when other work was in decline, and that really saved the company,” he added.

To stay competitive, David credits Tom’s business sense. Tom credits “staying true to our niche, which is private land development.”

Unlike many civil engineering firms, Tom said, the Spencers have done very little work for public agencies.

“Though we did one project near the Marshall Center for the City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation,” he noted.

Looking to the future, the firm is counting on a strong web presence to reach potential clients, including residential, commercial and industrial.

With their workload having noticeably increased in the last few months, the Spencers are optimistic.

“We’re still diversified,” David said. “We are starting to see the residential work come back, and the commercial projects are remaining steady.”

Nonetheless, the firm occasionally feels the frustration of preparing exhaustive proposals, and not being awarded a project.

“This is quite a competitive field in this region,” Tom said.

Though they offer diverse services, like many small businesses they face the challenge of feeling over-diversified in their day to day operations.

“We have to be the accountant, bill collector, marketer and service provider. We have to do it all,” explained Tom.

Both men attended Clark College, and went on to earn civil engineering degrees from the University of Washington. 

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