Toledo’s SSOE expands with addition of 200 positionsWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
SSOE Inc., one of the nation’s largest architecture and engineering firms, is growing dramatically here in Toledo, across the country and around the globe as far away as China.
“SSOE grew by 30 percent in 2006, compared to 17 percent growth in a growing industry. The firm increased business in every market segment driven by growth in the biofuel, chemical, food and industrial markets,” Tony Damon, SSOE president, said. “We have good market and geographic diversity that has driven our growth.”
Due to that business increase, SSOE recently launched a nationwide recruitment effort to hire 200 employees in 2007. Fifty of those new hires are expected to be based at the company’s headquarters in Downtown Toledo.
Damon said much of the architectural and engineering work done for projects in the Great Lakes region and across the country is imported into the Toledo office.
The openings include positions for architects, engineers in all fields and support staff. The average annual salary for professional architectural and engineering jobs is $60,000.
“There is a significant shortage of process engineers, especially in the bio, chemical and energy fields,” said Vincent DiPofi, senior vice president, who heads up the agri-fuels business unit at SSOE.
“We have already hired a large number of engineers, many from the University of Toledo — bright, energetic young engineers who want to stay in Toledo with SSOE and travel across the country and around the world working on projects,” DiPofi said.
He said SSOE has a good partnership with UT to hire top engineering graduates and student interns. The firm employed 55 student interns last summer and plans to hire more this summer.
Damon said SSOE is contributing to the “brain gain” for the Toledo area. The firm employs more than 500 professionals at its Toledo headquarters and an additional 300 in 15 satellite offices.
The company recently hired a top recruitment specialist, Matthew Roose, to support efforts to hire the additional staff in 2007. Roose has 10 years of technical recruiting experience for Fortune 500 companies.
SSOE is adapting the skills of existing employees from the Rust Belt area into new technologies such as biofuels and alternative energy, DiPofi said. The company is working with Dow Chemical on development of high-purity silica for solar cells and control panel design and fabrication for First Solar of Perrysburg.
Biofuels and other alternative energy fields are one of the firm’s biggest areas of growth. SSOE is working on eight bio-fuel plants that are currently in the design or construction stages.
The firm has set nearly a $5million revenue goal from biofuel business in 2007. About 50 employees are actively engaged in biofuel work at this time, DiPofi said.
SSOE is working on projects for two local clients, designing facilities for American Biodiesel of Oregon and Rossford’s Buckeye Biopower. It also contributed the engineering design for Go Ethanol’s plant in Lima that is under construction.
The company helped design the first plant to produce biodiesel fuel in Iowa. It has designed additional facilities for ethanol and biodiesel production in Iowa, Hawaii, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota.
SSOE has a partnership with a construction firm, NewMech, to provide the biofuels market with design/build solutions. Another partnership with a processing company, CoreVentures, combines efforts to offer turnkey project delivery for ethanol and biodiesel facilities.
“We provide economies of scale by selling a whole plant to customers that don’t have experience in engineering and project management. We think there are a lot of advantages to that,” DiPofi said.
SSOE also has a patent pending for a biodiesel process that will save space and energy in the production of biodiesel fuel, Damon said. Since the process will not water wash the biodiesel, it saves the energy needed to dry the biodiesel along with the space and cost of the dryer.
Engineers at SSOE are now using computer design technology to create drawings for projects such as the biodiesel plant in Lima. Once their clients, contractors and partners have the same capabilities, they can reduce costs by reusing design technology for that industry, DiPofi said.
The company is expected to invest more than $1 million in new equipment and technology at its Toledo headquarters in the next few years. It modified its existing facility at a cost of $450,000 to create space for additional production capacity.
In order to create the additional space, the firm moved its executive and administrative management personnel to 13,750 square feet of offices space in the Hylant Building. SSOE was located in the former LOF Building before its headquarters at 1001 Madison Ave. opened in 1976.
SSOE was awarded a 60 percent tax credit from the Ohio Department of Development for a six-year term to expand its facilities and purchase additional equipment. The value of the tax credit is estimated at $1 million over the term provided the company maintains operations at the Toledo location for 12 years.