Case Studies

Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates Inc.: A Trusted Partner for Community Enrichment

  • Written by: Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates Inc.: A Trusted Partner for Community Enrichment
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Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates Inc. (WSN) is a multifaceted architectural and engineering services firm based in Minnesota. Founded in 1975 in Crookston, Minn., by three engineers, WSN now employs approximately 180 professionals, including engineers, registered architects, environmental scientists, land surveyors and support staff. WSN has eight offices spanning Minnesota and North Dakota that allow the WSN team to build the partnerships necessary to strengthen development throughout the Upper Midwest. WSN has worked for nearly 40 years to design the structures and systems that keep life moving along smoothly in the communities of Minnesota, North Dakota and the surrounding states, and its capabilities have been the result of its dedicated people.

For example, David Kildahl has been with WSN for over a quarter of a century, and even after 26 years he remains just as dedicated to building a strong foundation for every project. “I’m not ready to retire yet,” says Kildahl, vice president of WSN. “I have a reason to get up every day. I’m still challenged and enjoying it so I don’t know why I’d want to retire.”

Kildahl holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in engineering. He is also an Army Corps of Engineers veteran, having served four years of active duty. Kildahl is just one member of the highly skilled, experienced team at WSN, which strives to preserve the quality of life of its region and to make communities safer and better places to live, play and work through listening to clients and clearly translating their needs into public and private facilities and infrastructure.

WSN values its employees, fostering a belief that the firm’s strength lies in its team of professionals. Owned and operated by employees, WSN succeeds because every member of the company takes an active role in both their personal profession and the company’s proactive management. Each employee brings their own talents, years of experience, and skill set to the table, which allows for comprehensive, coordinated services. Using efficient, effective, technologically sound design solutions tailored to each client, and led by Tim Moe, president of the company, the WSN team nurtures its valued client relationships.

“Good roads. Clean water. Safe bridges. Vibrant buildings.”

Although the majority of the company’s projects involve municipal structures, WSN takes pride in on offering a wide range of engineering expertise in all areas needed by the nearly 100 communities it serves. As Kildahl explains, “There are four primary divisions: architecture, engineering, land surveying and environmental.” WSN’s offices, all of which include multiple disciplines, provide an umbrella of services and knowledge in the industry, offering experts in fields such as mechanical, electrical, structural and civil engineering; architecture; landscape architecture; land surveying; environmental services and water resources.

The company’s skill sets vary, and so do its projects. While there occasionally may be the need for specialties that are subcontracted out to trusted strategic partners, WSN holds the in-house capabilities to coordinate everything from designing beautiful, state-of-the-art medical facilities to controlling floodwaters. The architecture division is versed in multiple sectors, including education, housing, commercial, industrial, office facilities, public spaces and houses of worship.

Meanwhile, the engineers have experience in airport layout and design, drainage, industrial and municipal wastewater collection and treatment, industrial park layout and design, site evaluation, streets and highways, plus water storage, treatment and distribution. Electrical and mechanical engineers augment these capabilities, performing audits and designing energy-efficient power, lighting, access/security, telecomm, control, HVAC, air quality and plumbing systems that take advantage of alternative energy and aid in LEED certification.

One recent undertaking at WSN is the 43,000-square foot Essentia Health St. Joseph’s-Baxter Clinic, an outpatient clinic in Baxter, Minn. This high-profile project involved every part of the WSN team. Teamed with Minneapolis-based HGA (which drove the programming, schematic design and interior design), WSN provided architectural support, structural, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering, landscape architecture and land surveying. This facility, which includes a varied materials palette, stands as an important landmark in the Baxter community.

WSN recently received recognition for one project the firm executed for the City of Brainerd and Crow Wing County, Minn. The Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers named the Riverside Drive/County State Aid Highway 20 reconstruction project one of the “Seven Wonders of Engineering,” and the project received the Grand Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies/Minnesota’s Engineering Excellence Awards. WSN, teamed with Gale-Tec Engineering, was recognized for applying significant safety, storm water runoff and roadbed improvements to a challenging segment of aging road perched on a bluff, while preserving as many trees as possible by incorporating a 2,950-foot-long vegetative-faced reinforced soil slope into the design.

Structural soundness and pollution prevention/clean-up plans go hand in hand at WSN. WSN’s extensive, well-versed team is committed to providing good roads, clean water, safe bridges and vibrant buildings to the communities it serves, approaching a wide variety of projects, such as water supply treatment and distribution systems, surveying for cellular communications towers, balancing wetlands permitting and preservation with the creation of filtration/outlet systems for flood-prone areas. In addition to highly technical, infrastructure-strengthening projects (including railroad bridges and environmentally resilient building superstructures), the WSN staff also takes into consideration aesthetics and community integration. For instance, WSN helped create Whipple Beach, a newly renovated public recreation site, which includes a pavilion with restrooms and outdoor showers, ample parking and a large playground area, all of which blends into the surroundings.

A Foundation of Understanding

WSN operates on three core principles: innovation, creativity and determination. Operating on these founding principles, WSN strives to provide communication, efficiency and satisfaction to the rural towns and agricultural communities that are the company’s primary focus. Part of that focus means supporting local organizations. WSN annually contributes to organizations such as the United Way, Rotary International, YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and the local Humane Society. The WSN belief is that success is built by forming genuine partnerships throughout all communities in which the company is active.

Although WSN experienced the financial pinch of the recession, the firm managed to survive by slightly scaling back its employee base to about 140 people. Since that challenging period, however, the company’s future looks increasingly brighter, according to Kildahl, who explains, “We’re back up to about 180 employees. We’re seeing an uptick, I’m pretty optimistic about that.”

Nurturing the client satisfaction that determines true success, Moe and Kildahl expect to see further growth in the near future, and Kildahl predicts that WSN will employ more than 200 people in the next couple of years. Poised to enter a steady growth cycle, Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates Inc. will continue to reinforce the framework upon which many communities are built.

Published on: April 1, 2013

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