News Archives

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Gene Haldorson Retires as VAA's Longest Tenured Employee

After almost 38 years, Gene is retiring from VAA at the end of 2018. A mentor to the next generation and a foothold in VAA’s agribusiness projects, his influence on the firm’s culture has not gone unnoticed.

A graduate from Minneapolis’ Dunwoody College of Technology and a former VAA Partner, Gene’s career began at a design-build firm drawing grain handling facilities and feed manufacturing plants. Eventually he joined VAA’s then sister company, Grain Facility Design (GFD) in 1981. Pushing to establish GFD’s reputation in the industry, he helped propel the company into the agricultural spotlight. With the closing of GFD in 1990, he joined VAA to focus on facility design and process / equipment layout.

Respecting those who you work for and those who you work with is evident in Gene’s daily interactions. He is authentic – and the value he places on relationships is apparent with several clients that have been in place 30 years. “You meet a lot of people in the industry and you want to be in a career where it is not just about the work – it is about the people and the value of relationships you have impacting the work you do together. It is more rewarding when you truly feel you have accomplished something together,” said Gene.

A no-nonsense leader, a skilled project manager and friend. Gene set the tone of VAA at our roots through his clear commitment to the firm and steadfast display of integrity. Many employees appreciate his perspective, quality conscience “red pen” eye and continued guidance. We wish Gene well-deserved relaxation and enjoyment in his retirement.


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You Say Ugly, We Say Flammable (Sweaters)

VAA celebrated the season with an ugly sweater day and a Partner-served luncheon in the Plymouth, MN office. An annual tradition, the lunch is a way for our leadership to take a moment to engage with each employee and share gratitude for collective efforts throughout the year.

This sincerity is also paired with a light-hearted competition. Awards were doled out for Most Rash Inducing, Most Flammable, Most Creative and, of course, Ugliest Sweater.


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25 & Up Club: Gene Haldorson

Gene Haldorson is our final club member of 2018 and longest-running employee to date. After 37 years, Gene’s authenticity and no-nonsense leadership is as valuable today as it was when he joined the firm in 1981. We thank you for being you and congrats on this milestone.

How did you first learn about VAA?
Dick Van Sickle hired a gentleman who I worked with before he joined VAA’s sister company, Grain Facility Design (GFD), in 1980. After introducing me to Dick Van Sickle and Chuck Allen and several “get-to-know-each-other meetings,” I received and accepted a job offer in March of 1981.

What is the best piece of advice you received throughout your career?
Several come to mind that guided me throughout my career. Work ethic is important. Honesty, commitment and integrity earn the respect of those who you work for and those who you work with. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t. It is best to respond, “let me see what I can figure out and get back to you.” Finally, don’t forget to do what you say and follow through in a timely manner.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment / contribution since you started working here?
I am proud to have become an Associate and Partner of the firm and feel my biggest contribution has been developing VAA client relationships, especially those in place for 30 years.

Pick three words you feel best describes VAA. Why do they apply to the company?
Diverse – In our clientele, staff knowledge and project experience.

Committed – VAA is a devoted firm to its employees and clients.

Longevity – Being in business for 40 years, VAA provided me more than just a job – it was a career opportunity.

From your perspective, describe the biggest differences between when you started at VAA and the company now.
Design technology / resources and becoming a multidiscipline firm to include architectural, civil, structural, material handling, mechanical and electrical engineering capabilities. Also, the number of “high quality repeat clients” we are privileged to work with. We earned their trust by performing well technically to retain their business. I have also seen changes in the grain industry, particularly increases in the rates of grain handling both at the truck dump pits and loading 110 car rail shuttle trains on loop tracks.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
"Always do your best."

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Interested in the stories from our other "25 & Up" club members? Click on a name to read another Q&A session.


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25 & Up Club: Gary Nagel

Gary is celebrating 34 years with VAA and is our fourth official member of the 25 & Up Club. Joining the firm only seven years after its inception, he has quietly shaped the growth of VAA with his unshakable dedication to his work and his clients. We thank you for being you and congrats on this milestone.

How did you first learn about VAA?
I worked for an engineer located in the Wesley Temple Building in Downtown Minneapolis. VAA (formerly Van Sickle, Allen and Associates) along with several other architectural, mechanical and electrical firms were in the same building. The engineer I was working for decided to pursue other business ventures and I applied for a position with VAA.

What is the best piece of advice you received throughout your career?
Chuck Allen told me to value every project – big or small. Small projects sometimes lead to bigger projects and are the building blocks of relationships.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment / contribution since you started working here?
I have been fortunate to work with some very good clients over the last 34 years – some for many consecutive years and who trust me with their projects. My biggest accomplishment is completing projects where everyone looks forward to working together again.

Pick three words you feel best describes VAA. Why do they apply to the company?
Growing, quality and relationships. VAA has grown consistently in the time I have been with the firm. Much of the growth is attributed to the quality of work we provide and relationships we value.

From your perspective, describe the biggest differences between when you started at VAA and the company now.
We have far more resources now – in material and human capacity – than we did when I started. VAA offers people from different disciplines with diverse experience that allow us to solve problems and take on challenges we could not before.

Where is the nicest place you've visited for work?
Bonaire, Netherland Antilles. It was for a project in 2014. I have returned for vacation twice since the project – incredible scuba diving and great people.

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Interested in the stories from our other "25 & Up" club members? Click on a name to read another Q&A session.