Engineering Corporate Citizenship

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After 19 years, Scott retired from VAA at the end of 2016. He held many titles over the course of his professional tenure, serving as a Senior Structural Engineer, Partner, President and CEO. In his spare time, he became a pilot, a world traveler and well-versed in the French language. But as Scott bids us au revoir, what’s left between the lines of titles and hobbies? It is Scott’s dedication that has established VAA’s business development model and shaped the learning culture for employees to thrive in their roles.

Working to change VAA’s approach to the way we do work, Scott said, “We made a conscious effort to focus on a handful of clients, provide them with exceptional service and grow thoughtfully from there.” Rather than a project-specific focus, he championed a business model based on internal team building and outstanding service to clients, guiding VAA to exponential growth and development into new markets.

“It’s encouraging to build something and know you have good people ready to take charge,” Scott reflected. “I really trust and believe in the people I’m leaving behind to lead the company.” We are truly indebted to Scott for his lasting influence and wish him well in his next adventures.

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The buzz at last week’s groundbreaking event for Cargill’s new $19 million feed facility in Shiawassee County was felt among project partners and community representatives. Nick Hubbard and Jared McCabe attended the event on behalf of VAA to field questions about our track and structural engineering. A 3D video created by VAA gave attendees a glance at what the finished facility would look like. We are thrilled to be a team member helping make the first Cargill animal feed production facility in Michigan a reality and collaborate with the many moving parts of the project.

“It was a humbling experience to be a part of this event and hear directly from a number of local, state and federal representatives. This project has a ton of support from all of the above and everyone is very excited, happy and thankful for this project to be happening in Shiawassee County / Owosso, Michigan,” said Hubbard.

The unconventional flat storage feed facility will house 24 compartments able to hold a total of 135,000 cubic feet of ingredients. A front-end loader will gather the products that will ultimately be measured, conveyed, mixed and distributed. At any given time, the facility has the capacity to distribute 12 different end-products to support Michigan’s robust dairy economy.

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Whether you have a canine or feline furry friend, Fromm Family Foods (Fromm) serves you as a nationwide producer of quality pet food. In order to meet current critter demand, Fromm required faster speeds for their ingredient receiving and an increase in their storage capacity at their Columbus, WI pet food processing facility. VAA provided civil and structural engineering; industrial architecture; and general arrangement designs and worked closely with the project contractor, McCormick Construction. While the general arrangement team coordinated each discipline and contributed advice and designs from project start to finish, the two largest components were civil and structural engineering.

Operating within a small site footprint, the civil team provided a design that maintained employee and semi-truck parking spaces; allowed access to the existing truck receiving bays; and created a path to the new truck receiving and loadout bay. Planning for the facility’s future expansion, the structural team designed a basement to store additional processing equipment when needed. The basement addition required blasting through bedrock to pour the mat foundation over 16’ below grade. A de-watering system was running constantly to keep the pit dry during construction, pumping out approximately 300 gallons per minute. In spite of the project challenges, the Columbus facility remained operational throughout the year-long design and construction process.

Aligning with Fromm’s original vision, this expansion reduced truck receiving time by more than half and added nearly four million pounds of storage to the facility.

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Our Wellness & Community Outreach Committee organized an opportunity for VAA to participate in a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event. A group of volunteers raced the clock; hand-packing over 19,000 meals of raw products, dried vegetables and minerals into bags to be processed and shipped to children in Haiti. We are inspired by the reach around the world and dedication of this organization and can’t wait for our next FMSC event.

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As the latest ACEC Explorer Post, over 20 students joined us at our Plymouth, MN office in an exploration of industrial engineering. VAA’s activity created an assembly line that produced two Lego people (complete with tools). Participating as the machines throughout the line, students were asked to alter the process in ways that would improve the quantity and quality of the final product.

Led by industrial engineers who specialize in facility equipment layout, Brian Utoft and Hope Foley came up with this creative demonstration. “Industrial engineering has so many different facets; Hope and I both thought it would be a good idea to show a process similar to what we do here on a daily basis,” Brian recalled. “Once the students got going, they started to talk to each other as a team, to think creatively, to find solutions for the bottlenecks in the process – I think they got a lot out of it."

The Minnesota Chapter of ACEC organizes an annual Explorer Post event hosted by local firms in the consulting engineering community. VAA was proud to participate in this year’s program.