True North Geotechnical Services was birthed in the summer of 2017 as a part-time venture, but a year later, it became a full-time geotechnical engineering business that has served small local clients, with about 75 percent of clientele originating in Clark County.
Married couple Tim and Ewa North are the owners and joint operators of the company, and in January of this year they were able to hire their first non-family employee, an engineering student that works as a part-time intern doing field and office work.
“Tim was connected with this young man while doing a guest ‘Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering’ lecture to undergraduate engineering students at Portland State University in a freshman engineering class – something he’s being doing for a few years now,” Ewa said. She goes on to share that Tim has worked in the field since 2003 and is a licensed professional engineer in Oregon, Washington and California, and believes firmly in both client customer service and helping develop engineers that are just starting out.
Geotechnical engineering relates to soils and the company primarily focuses on residential projects. Tim investigates foundations, designs retention walls, completes pile design for reinforcements of existing foundations for older homes, reviews risks of landslides and does infiltration testing, which is something that Clark County requires for many sites that are under development.
Tim said that there was a steep need in Clark County for geotechnical services.
“While there are many bigger engineering firms that also do geotechnical work, there are few smaller practices willing or able to turn work around quickly, while delivering a high-quality product for individual homeowners or smaller developers,” he said. “This business is our livelihood and we pride ourselves on delivering quickly, efficiently and exceeding expectations.”
As a family owned business, Ewa said that there are many advantages, but there are also sacrifices to be made, including learning how to balance work and pleasure.
“Owning our own business has had many advantages, but the greatest has certainly been the opportunity to be more flexible with our time to spend more with our two little kids,” she said. “We often do work after our boys go to bed in the evening so that we can make it to preschool performances and school activities. We can also be flexible about scheduling our vacation time, but it is an adjustment that going on vacation means the entire business is on vacation. So, we find that Tim often takes phone calls on family trips, answers emails from the beach or takes a few hours out of a vacation to make sure clients are taken care of. He rarely takes a day to really unplug, but that is the price of flexibility.”
Tim explains that one of the most wonderful things about being a family owned business in downtown Vancouver is the ability to network and establish relationships with other businesses that are family centric, even in their neighborhood.
“Our insurance broker, our accountant and owners of companies we do business with all live within a few blocks and have children at the neighborhood school,” he said. “It’s also great to get support from others that have also started businesses doing what they are passionate about while searching for flexibility for their families.”
The future of True North Geotechnical Services is firmly rooted in positivity. Tim shares that they hope to grow, but not to the point that it sacrifices quality.
“Our goal is to have one or two full-time employees someday, but we don’t have our sights set on becoming a big engineering firm,” he said. “We hope to continue to increase our ability to give back to our community and work with friends and neighbors on growing Vancouver and Clark County in ways we can all be proud of.”