A tough economic climate, particularly in construction, has forced the 20-year-old Ruggles & Bohm to redirect some of its efforts and become more creative.
The firm does civil engineering, land planning and surveying, and landscape architecture.
The company started as Savoy Ruggles & Bohm in 1992. Ten years ago, it became Ruggles & Bohm when Tom Ruggles and Chris Bohm bought the shares of the Savoy brothers. Ruggles retired two years ago, and now Bohm is the sole owner.
“Honestly, for the first decade and a half, it was really, really great,” Bohm said. “There was a lot of demand … for our land planning and the surveying portions of the business.”
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That changed in recent years.
“With the recession … a lot of that work just ceased to come in the door,” he said. “We really focused our efforts on more of the classical civil-engineering-type work that we do, and luckily the surveying component fit into that quite well.”
Prior to the downturn, the firm had 25 employees. Now, through attrition and five layoffs, it has 13.
“That was very difficult, but it was necessary,” Bohm said.
Government work has been a mainstay for the firm.
“We have, since the day we started, done work for the city of Wichita, and they have been an outstanding client,” Bohm said.
That includes such things as arterial street design and some subdivision work. The city of Newton has been a recent client, as has the Wichita Airport Authority.
“That is very competitive,” Bohm said.
“We’ve noticed that’s been heightened by the recession. … Competition has escalated over the last three years.”
Bohm is a civil engineer, but he’s turned into the manager of the firm. He’s also become its marketing agent, “which has really become more and more of a need of late.”
He’s hopeful there won’t be as much of a need for marketing going forward.
“We’re hopeful that some of the private developers in town will really get back in gear as we move out of this recession.”
Bohm said some strategic planning the company did in the last half of last year is paying off.
He said it’s easy to “just go along full tilt, and you don’t take the time to stop and take a look at yourself and your firm and where you stand and where you’d like to go.”
Now that he’s done it, Bohm said it’s something he plans to continue to do.
“It’s been a terrific process and terrific motivator.”