In development circles, the color green is often associated with money. But it has a different connotation for Indianapolis-based Williams Creek Consulting-an environmental one.
Launched in 2002, the firm aims to help developers minimize disruptions to the natural features of a construction site, co-founder Neil Myers said. It specializes in strategies to manage stormwater runoff.
"We improve a project by integrating the building into the natural environment," Myers said.
That means doing more than digging a series of retention ponds throughout a development-the more traditional approach. Instead, Myers and partner Ted Blahnik look for ways to use the site's existing features.
For example, Williams Creek incorporated existing wetlands into a Holliday Properties development plan, designing the site's grading and drainage systems around the natural feature.
Project Manager Mike Long praised the consultants' efforts, saying developers benefit by being able to make better use of the site-and ultimately make projects more profitable.
Even so, the natural approach is still relatively new in the Midwest, Myers said. He and Blahnik, who has a master's degree in coastal ecology from Louisiana State University, decided to try it out when they were working for a wetlands consultant in Indianapolis.
"We just saw a chance," said Myers, who has a bachelor's degree in finance from Butler University. "It has been extremely challenging but rewarding."
The two started the business on the proverbial shoestring. They funded it out of their own pockets and operated out of Myers' home initially. And it wasn't easy. "Our biggest obstacles were that we didn't have any money, we didn't have any clients, and we didn't have any infrastructure," Myers said.
They did have good connections to potential clients, though, thanks to their previous occupation.
"Our network was strong," he said, and they complemented that by cold-calling potential customers.
The first year, the partners didn't pay themselves a salary.
How things have changed. Williams Creek now has 21 employees and a second location in Columbus, Ohio. A third office is in the works, probably in another Midwest state.
"This kind of business is not regionally dependent," he said. "The same approach works as well in California as it does here."
Although Williams Creek started out by taking pretty much any work it could find, more recently the company has been narrowing its focus to stormwater management. Its general project-management work spun off in 2004 to a sister company called Williams Creek Management.
Clients appreciate the company's innovative approach. Take customer John Pearson, who had a tricky runoff issue at his Pearson Ford auto dealership. His Michigan Road business straddles the Boone County-Hamilton County line, and Pearson wanted to put in a stormwater retention feature on the Boone County part of the property that would serve all the property in Hamilton County.
Pearson said Williams Creek created a wetlands area with plenty of plants and trees that fit the bill perfectly. In addition, it made both Boone and Hamilton counties happy as well.
"[Williams Creek] really came in and turned the tide," he said.
Williams Creek Consulting owners Neil Myers, left, and Ted Blahnik spun off a second company in 2004 to handle general project-management work.