Olson Engineering creates positive environmental change

The company has been at the forefront of development, change over the last 51 years

Olson Engineering staff photo
Courtesy of Olson Engineering

Clark County has seen significant development and change in the last 50 years, and Olson Engineering, Inc. has been right at the forefront.

The company offers professional services in several disciplines, employing experts in civil engineering, land use planning, landscape architecture and land surveying. A small group specializes in small water systems, and after acquiring staff and assets of The Resource Company in 2017, they are now able to offer wetland creation, enhancement and maintenance, both as a professional service and as a contractor.

Jerry Olson, founder and CEO of the company, launched Olson Engineering five decades ago. His father owned a small sawmill and he was raised to be business minded, so starting a business as an adult seemed like a good fit. After working as an engineer and traveling for a bit, Olson settled in Clark County and his business began to take shape.

“I thought of different fun places to relocate, but I realized that the economy had to be robust to own a successful business,” Olson said. “My love was land surveying, I was a Registered Professional Land Surveyor, and that was the start. My office was on a drafting table in the kitchen of the apartment I shared with a roommate, and my employees would show up there. There was some surveying equipment and a truck, and that was my overhead. Computations were with a rotary calculator and a book of trigonometric tables.”

Over the years, Olson Engineering has adapted to the fluctuating economy, but it has always been successful.

“The land development and homebuilding sector of the economy have always behaved like a yoyo,” Olson said. “Olson Engineering, Inc. started with one employee, grew to 27 in 1979, dropped to six in 1981, grew to 70 in 1990, dropped to 39 in 1992, grew to 65 in 2006, dropped to 20 in 2008 and grew back to 50-plus today. We have maintained a corps of professional employees over the years, with many lasting 30-40 years.”

Today, the business operates as a C corporation and is owned by 13 existing employees, with Olson being a minority owner. It was incorporated in 1983, allowing for stock transfers, which has been an ongoing process ever since.

Olson credits the company’s success to several factors. These include treating employees fairly, staying on the leading edge of technology and insisting on quality, while adding value to each client’s project as if it were your own. Looking ahead, he believes that the future of Olson Engineering, Inc. will be one that sees a lot of transformation.

“The next 25 years will have more changes than the previous 51 years,” he said. “The next generation of leaders will have to be visionary and flexible, schooled in the business practices that will be necessary to survive, learning from the near misses of the past. They will need to stay up on technology without being reckless and use careful analysis before innovation. I hope the next generations enjoy the journey as much as I have.”

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