Skip to content
<p><iframe allow="autoplay" frameborder="0" height="110px" src="https://player.acast.com/5a7367eb2219bdf808ec93f8/episodes/asset-management-advice-for-local-government-ep-122?theme=white&amp;latest=1" width="100%"><!--cke_bookmark_1226S--><!--cke_bookmark_1226E--></iframe></p>

Listen to Episode 122

Josh is joined by Seth Robertson, Director of Funding & Asset Management for WithersRavenel, to discuss improving infrastructure in our cities and best practices for asset management. 

Show Notes: 

Show Script:

Josh Peach  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

Hello Operate Intelligently, listeners. This is your host, Joshua Peach, and I am excited to have Seth Robertson from WithersRavenel from North Carolina, our neighbors. They've got an office in Cary and in Raleigh, and just really excited to get digging and talk stimulus during COVID and all things around it with my man, Seth. So, Seth, welcome to the podcast.

Seth Robertson  
Thank you, Josh. I appreciate it. Glad to be here this morning. 

Josh Peach  
Well, glad to have you. And so Seth, let's talk about who are you? What do you do and what are we going to cover, some of the things you want to cover here today?

Seth Robertson  
So my background is I'm an environmental engineer. But over the course of my career, I kind of moved from doing the hardcore engineering stuff to really being involved in funding, financing, utility management, that side of things. So I worked for about 13-14 years with the state of North Carolina, the Department of Environmental Quality, running the SRF programs, the State Revolving Fund program, that's the largest federal program that funds water and sewer infrastructure. And running that program and developing it over that time period, developing a number of other sort of innovative at least as far as other states are concerned and promoting asset management, coming up with grants to support this type things, looking at probably utilities, merger, regionalization, feasibility type grants. Really getting involved with some of the other organizations in the state. Everything from engineers to our local government commission, the treasurer's office trying to figure out how to make utilities more viable, more successful provide them the assistance that they need. And then a little over a year ago, I transitioned out of that. I'd done consulting before, had an opportunity to come to WithersRavenel, which is a really interesting and unique engineering firm in North Carolina and the fact that we have a dedicated team of people that all we do is funding work, asset management work, financial assistance for local governments in heading up that team there, now I'm the director of funding and asset management. We work very closely with local governments across the state of North Carolina. Everything from general fund issues to water and sewer issues to stormwater utilities, lots of different funding programs, state and federal that we help people leverage and use and navigating really the changing landscape and the hole that we've been in from an infrastructure standpoint.

Josh Peach  
It's interesting the hole that we've been in comment and so our audiences is a wide array, right? So we've got a lot of public sector team members on that list, we have a lot of education institution folks that listen, we've got just general business people that listen. So we talked about that whole, what is the public sector going through right now? COVID? Is this different? Is it new? Has there been a change over the last X number of years regarding their their finances and infrastructure and bottom line uncertainty?

Seth Robertson  
So I'm going to talk a little bit long term and kind of where we're at today over this process, kind of how we got here. So things are certainly unique in the short term with COVID. And a lot of uncertainty around town finances, tax incomes, a lot of aspects there. As far as utility income as well, we've got executive order in North Carolina, for instance, that prevents utilities from cutting people off, basically can't go after billing right now. So there's some potential issues for cashflow short term, but really, the problems are really really long term. What I tell people all the time is the great thing about water and sewer and even storm water kind of infrastructure is that it lasts a good 90-100 years. That's the great thing about it. The bad thing is a lot of our infrastructure is 90 to 100 years old, and it's underground. And people really don't pay attention to it until it starts breaking and failing. And when it tends to start breaking and failing, it can do that pretty spectacularly sometimes and cause a lot of economic damage, environmental damage in it really can kind of spiral out of control before you know it. And some of the biggest liabilities, that especially the small and rural communities that we have here in North Carolina and across the country, is that they have a lot of old infrastructure. We've never charged sort of a fair price for water and sewer. So we've never charged the full cost to be able to support the rehabilitation replacement of all this infrastructure. And we're getting to a really critical point where a lot of that's aging out, we don't have the finances in place. And there's really a lot of hard decisions to make about how to do that. Then you throw in really going back to the Great Recession. That was a moment where a lot of local governments really put the hold on tax rate, they put the hold on water and sewer increases. They've really helped cap for the last 10 years or so now, hoping for growth, some other things that we're not seeing, especially outside of our suburban areas in North Carolina. And realistically, even before COVID hit, you could see the trend being that expenditures were growing faster than revenues just from inflation, and other things that were happening, especially in the public market. You're talking about pensions and health care and a lot of other things that are putting pressures on local governments. So they were already in a bad situation, before then the temporary kind of short term stuff COVID is now hitting. Now COVID ads in the aspect of substantially reduced tax income which is a really big source, obviously for most of our local government's here as far as the general fund and normal activities. It's also at the state level, we're seeing that with their d. o t and other state agencies that they're really being hit hard from some of the changes in usage that's happening during COVID. And then you throw in, like I said, some of these utility things really a perfect storm right now, where they're really challenged, especially going into a budget year of what do we do? What choices do we make? How do we take the limited funds we have and make the best use of them?

Josh Peach  
Yeah, so I mean, listening to you, it seems to me like, you know, 10 plus years that we've been having challenges, COVID really magnified at what's already been there. It's definitely going to make it more challenging and difficult, but it's not like, you know, there's lots of different folks that say, Oh, well, everything was good and great. And business was fantastic. And unemployment was really low. And there were all these great things happening and they were, but there was really this this struggle has been going on for 10 plus years, and now it's just a magnification of it. It's not something that just all hit at once. And that's something sometimes we lose trust. We have this short term memory, where we just go, Oh, this all happened because of now it's COVID. We could have been the recession, what have you, but it's an ongoing thing.

Ready to get inspired about your work as a facility or operations professional? Join us at our annual maintenance and operations conference, Dude University in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 16th to 19th, 2021. Our four day experience for operations professionals is packed with education, training and networking opportunities you'll actually benefit from, it's our way of celebrating you so you can go back to your organization with renewed confidence and inspiration. Learn more and register online university comm dude solutions.com.

So you and I talked on Friday about this, about the local government commission. And I was really kind of fascinated by what it is its uniqueness. I think, if I remember correctly said it's only in North Carolina. Give me a little bit more detail on on that, what it is how it works. And then if you don't mind, I'd like to see how other programs or other things and other parts of the country so that it's not looked at as something well, I'm not in North Carolina, so that's not something that I that I can look at or think about. You know, give give some insight to that if you would.

Seth Robertson  
Yeah, so my tight involvement with LGC and the way they work came from working with the state the SRF program and working with what we have here called the State Water Infrastructure Authority, which they're also a part of. So what's unique is we have an entity that's established in the Department of the Treasury here in North Carolina that oversees all the financial aspects of every local government in the state. That involves annual audit reviews, they have to approve any debt that any local government takes on for any reason. They're looking at pension stability, all of those types of things. So that is very, very unique and to take that uniqueness to a whole nother level. Not only are they looking at these things and approving these things in North Carolina, the LGC has the authority to actually go in and take a town over, take their finances over and essentially take their checkbook away and say at least temporarily, we're in charge until we can get you back in good shape. Now, the benefit of that has been huge to some extent because we haven't had the issues that you've seen in some other states and some other large entities like the bankruptcy of Birmingham and some of those places. We generally haven't had any of those issues. All of our major local governments here are very highly rated, obviously for bond ratings because the LGC keeps them in good shape. The problem is, is that they're seeing that things are getting worse and worse and worse for some of our small utilities, some of our small local governments because that really goes hand in hand for smaller governments. So the great thing is they're out there, they provide a lot of assistance. You know, they're not really a regulatory come in and slap your wrist type situation, they're going to come in and provide a lot of hand holding. But we're getting to a situation where the local governments in, like I said, the rural small areas are getting such deep economic issues from a long term standpoint that there aren't good solutions to figuring out how to make them viable, long term. And there's a lot of discussion going on in North Carolina, from both the LGC and the Infrastructure Authority and DQ having to do with funding. There's a lot more discussion and recognition of issues in then there are answers right now, unfortunately.

Josh Peach  
That's interesting. And if they were to take over like you say, take over the checkbook temporarily, it sounds like they're more proactive than reactive. I think in other parts of the country it gets to this point where the pendulum swings so far over that it's so blatantly obvious anybody can figure out that a community or a local government entity isn't beyond dire straits. Is that an accurate statement that there's more proactiveness?

Seth Robertson  
It is. Like I said, we've never gotten to the point where, for instance, somebody's gone into bankruptcy. It's not like it get to that point, and then they step in to try to solve the problem. They see the trend, they see the issues. And then they step in before it gets so bad, before people are defaulting on debt, that type of situation. But I mean, they can do anything they need to do. They have the ability to come and raise rates. They've come in, they've essentially given a town's utilities away to a county before saying they can't afford it, they can't take care of it so they can kind of create those deals and situations to solve problems. However, what I'll say is, they would greatly echo this they don't have the staff to do this on a frequent basis much like all other government agencies, you know, it's something they can do, they can step in an emergency. Unfortunately, I know there's at least a couple of entities right now that have taken over, and they just really don't have the staffing to continue to do this. 

Josh Peach  
That's tough stuff. So let's kind of shift over to you personally some success stories that you might have or some examples of, you know, a challenging situation that got better through a program or something that you've got hands on experience with.

Seth Robertson  
And I think probably the two things that I've found the most interesting and the most beneficial that I've worked on, both from state level and now with Withers and working directly with communities. First thing is the asset management program. So the asset inventory assessment grants North Carolina set up I guess about five or six years ago now when I was there $250,000 over a three year period for water, $150,000 for sewer that you can basically get, and that lets communities try to start shifting their lack of planning they've often had for water and sewer to a much more progressive proactive planning to go ahead and take care of things before the problems occurred some cases. So the idea of asset management in this case is, first of all, what do you have? Where's it located? What condition is it in? Come up with some type of reasonable capital improvement plan of how are we going to take care of the deficiencies that we found and come up with best practices for long term operation and maintenance and making sure things lasts as long as possible? It is surprising and maybe shocking how few municipalities, especially when you get away from the very large one, meet any of those criteria. Asset Management really gained steam, probably somewhere in the last five to 10 years is where it became really a hot topic of saying, Hey, we need to figure out what the what the problems are instead of just reacting to breakd in lines to those types of issues. So, you know, we've really seen a big change in the way some of the utilities, especially sort of the mid size type utilities, where they have the financial resources to do something when they identify the problems. Now that they really realize what they have, the ability to plan over the next 10, 20, 30 years to get a better handle on things and to make sure that they don't get into a real non viability situation has been impressive for some and the information people find when they go out is shocking to me. We worked with a municipality, it's when I was with the state we were funding it, but we were working with somebody in sort of Piedmont part of North Carolina. Pretty well run system, good size, when they went out and actually we're doing GIS work and location work and putting that into a system they found out they had 50% more sewer line than they thought they did. You know the answer is is how can you manage something if you don't even know what you have? So you know, just letting people get a grasp on the situation is just a huge, huge first step. And that's probably the biggest thing that we've really done here in North Carolina. And some of the best things that I've been involved with over the last five or so years is really helping communities start understanding what they've got, what the needs are, taking that information and making it very clear to local leaders, you know, like to politicians, that's a lot of times where the disconnect happens is that utility staff understands they've got really old pipes, they understand there's a lot of things that need fixing. How they kind of capture that and provide really good data based solutions to their problems and information to the local government councils and commissions to understand the need and to get their support to raise rates and do those things. A lot of times that's the disconnect and asset management can be a huge tool in helping fill that gap to get the support they need.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, well you know what's interesting when you talk about, you know, the staff knows, they absolutely know. I think the biggest challenge is they're chasing those leaks and those breaks. And you know, the sad reality of the state we're in, we never have the news showing the water and sewer flowing nicely through the pipes with no problems, but we sure as heck, we'll have the frontlines story as a water main break that takes out, you know, half a city block and floods it and show all the workers you know, putting the hard work and effort in it. So, you know, that's one of the challenges that they're constantly fixing broken things then it's hard to get that that grasp on it. And the other pieces that there just about every community, even if they're pretty well funded, is most likely understaffed. I haven't  really like I haven't in my career of 23 plus years in public sector sales work, gone into a sales call and someone going, man, I got all the staff I need, life is good and we can charge what we need to charge, do what we need to do in next year's looking even better. It's always been too much, too many, do more with less, which I hate that saying, you know, I love that program. So, you know, let's talk about North Carolina and then maybe just a broader statement nationally, if you're a local government utility, local government center, you know, what are some best practices that they could take away right now? Like get off this podcast and say, All right, let me let me see if this this and this are in place or maybe I should consider looking to this program to get a good handle on, make sure that I don't have 50% more sewer. What are some best practices or good takeaways that our listeners could work with?

Seth Robertson  
And that's a really good question, Josh. And obviously, there's a lot of different things out there but you know, the basics of asset management are applicable to any system, at any size. So you know, do we have an asset inventory? Do we really somewhere know everything we have, how old it is, what it is the size the materials? Getting that basic information, like I said, you can't manage something if you don't know what you have. If you don't know what your system consists of, no one can do a good job of managing and planning and doing those type of things. So that's a really big first step, because that's going to lead into doing much better Capital Planning. And that's also somewhere offsets a piece of asset management, you can do it without it. But again, doing a capital plan without knowing your capital needs is very, very difficult. So the more you can inform that, the better. The other thing is to not get bogged down in knowing everything. You know, this is not a I think when we started doing this, there was a really bad terminology. We called it like doing an asset management point. And that makes it sound like something that you do want and you come up with and there's an answer and it's in a nice binder. And it's done. And the answer is it's not really an asset management plan. It's starting an asset management program because it never ends. You're finding more data about your system every day you're out there operating every day, you have a break, you've just learned something new about the condition of a pipe in your system. So you need to come up with a process of collecting data just as part of your day to day operation. The great news is, we have a ton of tools these days that can make that a whole lot easier than it ever was before. You know, handheld GPS unit, there's tablets people take out in the field and can record information. There's a you know, a number of services, obviously, Dude Solutions has some fantastic services that, you know, we work with clients with every day to help them keep up with all of that data and figure out a way to use that in a meaningful way. And there's a lot of really inexpensive solutions. They can start with a spreadsheet. You know, a lot of times people get bogged down in the big picture. Oh, I can't afford to do you know all of this. Well, that's fine. I mean, start with a little bit of it and build it as you go. At the end of the day, you want make informed decisions. So the more information you have, the better informed, you're never going to know everything. No one's going to go out there and TV, every line in their system every year to know every single thing that's going on. So the more you know, the better. So the better you can plan, the better position to put you in to make sure that you're spending limited resources in the best way possible. It's always going to be an issue for for public entities, local governments, there's never going to be enough money at the end of the day. So how do you make sure you're spending that limited fund on the thing that needs it most? And that's really what asset management gets to at the end of the day, is trying to figure out doing the right project at the right time. So there's an order, there's a priority, you know, you start looking at risk, you know, you can develop these things as far as you go. And that's nationwide. I mean, we we've all probably seen the reports that you know, Society of Civil Engineers puts out it's kind of fallen on deaf ears at this point. You know, we all know that you know, infrastructure for you know, sewer and water or whatever. Okay, well what does that mean? When the answer is it's not in good shape, we're not spending enough money, there's not federal funds there, there probably aren't going to be, you know, free funds that drop in your lap tomorrow to help you fix all the problems in your system. So you better figure out how you're going to do it yourself the best way you can. And you know, that's probably the best thing I can say is try to start getting proactive in your management little piece at a time, take those steps. EPA has free resources, there's a lot of free resources out there to help you. And obviously there's a ton of people that are out there doing asset management in the field these days that can provide much more advanced things, but do what fits your system. You know, there's not a one size fits all and every system is in a different place. And you know, some people have great GIS, they really know where things are some people have nothing. Some people have done other things, so figure out what fits for your entity, and just kind of start building on it one step at a time as you do your daily operations. As you do all the things you normally do, capture that information in a way that's useful. The other thing that we've seen that's a huge driver of this is just like in all sectors, we're seeing, you know, a level of experience that is now retiring. And especially in the public entity where there wasn't a lot of data, there's not a lot of good information. You know, Joe knew where every pipe in that system was. He had been there for 40 years. And he was the guy that you asked for everything. Well, probably Joe retired two years ago. So now nobody knows where anything is. So you better start utilizing those people you have to capture the knowledge they have as soon as possible before all gone.

Josh Peach  
Yeah. I'll tell you what I as someone that was a student of many Ds, I might my answer was always very good to my parents, which was it's not an F, which is true, and you could be worse. But a couple of takeaways on that I that I think that in my talking with folks, you know, one of the things absolutely we have D ratings on bridges, we have D ratings on on water and sewer, we have dDratings on schools. That's depressing when you look at it, and it can be overwhelming, because the idea is that you want to be an A. And I think that one of the things that my takeaway for listeners is, that's worked for me is work to get to be a D plus, and then work to be a C minus, you know, look at it. And it's like trying to lose weight, you know, we all want to lose X number of pounds. And that's what we look at opposed to looking at one pound at a time. It's harder to do, because it's a whole bunch of one pounds at a time opposed that one 60 pound deal. But, you know, for motivational purposes, set realistic goals, I think is a great as a great add on to that. Because I was listening to you, and I'm just sitting here going, man, if I heard this, and I was in that public sector side of the world doing this and we're at D, Well, I'll never get to an egg at five years left. But what if you would if you were here today and you had a D and you're retiring to four or five years, and you could leave it a little bit better. Like that's what you should work at and don't overwhelm and overburden yourself with things. And you're absolutely right on the last thing, and it's not this isn't meant to be a Dude plug by any stretch of imagination. What I will say is one thing, that's a great takeaway out of COVID, we have all been forced to be away from each other. We have all been forced to not be in an office together, we've all been forced to find new creative and innovative ways to still get the work done because the country still runs day in and day out. And we have really, I've seen such an opening of minds, to start to look at new ways of doing things. And I think that's one of the things that we've been stuck in, especially with the fact that you're talking about I know the statistic in public education is about 50% of operations and maintenance staff is going to retire I believe, in the next five years. So when you look at that, and that means that they've been around for 25 to 55 years. I had one maintenance person that was 87 years old before he retired. So you know, they've got a long history of data and information in their heads that we need to get on paper at some capacity, even if it's an Excel spreadsheet that's better than nothing. And the last piece that that you really touched on that really hits home with me is the capital plan. So often, you know, people are going to get an assessment done, whatever that is, pipes, buildings, what have you, they'll get a binder, they'll get it on a spreadsheet, they'll get it on something. And it's just like you put your hands up. It's like, Yes, I've got it. It's not over. It's just beginning. It's a long list of work that's going to need to get done. It's an awareness of what you have and what you have for what we used to call it your threat radar, and you need to be prepared for it and it's ever changing. It's not something that's going to stay static and just not doing it's gonna be changing all the time. So you need to be on your toes even after you start getting some of this work done. And then the last thing that I really caught was prepare yourself to do it on your own. I think that's pretty powerful stuff. I think that, you know, if you can plan to do things on your own, then you know, anything that you get outside of your own is just a bonus. And if you do that, then things don't look so bad. So let's talk about how do people get ahold of you? What can they get from your services as far as help assistance? Where are you? Are you on social media and any next steps or anything that you could suggest to them?

Seth Robertson  
I want to hit a couple things really quickly based on what you just said. Super fast. So one of the things you said is we're Ds in a lot of areas and you know, a lot of the areas you just talked about are also areas that are all falling under local governments, in a lot of cases. So that's part of the catch, they've got this perfect storm of you know, they have infrastructure issues for water and sewer, but they also are dealing with issues with fire protection and police departments and all these other things that are in the streets situation. And, you know, it's not just their water and sewer fund, it's their general fund, it's everything. These are perfect storm that while they're managed in separate enterprise funds, at the end of the day, you know, as a resident, I don't really care if I've got five fees going up all that cumulatively affects me at the end of the day, and my tax rate and everything else. And, you know, there's only so much they can do to make that happen. The other thing I'll say is, you're perfectly right about like D trying to go to an A place. So one of the things we do a lot is we talk about levels of service. So understanding that, you know, there's different levels of service and it means different things, and it's not necessarily a wrong answer. It's just understanding what you're going to get for that, you know, if you operate at a level service C, see you're going to have this many breaks a year, you're going to have this many issues. You know, maybe the hospital loses water for a day, you know that you need to make that, once again, it's an informed decision that this is where we're going to operate. Because you know, no decision is a decision of its own. At the end of the day, if you decide not to do something, that is a decision, and you're going to live with the results of that. So it's important to understand those results. And I agree entirely, the idea is coming up with a plan to get to where you want to be, it's not going to happen this year, it's not going to happen next year. There's a lot of needs, you plan over the next 5, 10, 15 years to get to where you ultimately want to be. And I'm also going to call out engineers since I am one. One of the biggest problems we do as engineers with capital planning is we're fantastic at coming up with this huge laundry list of projects that you need to do. What we really are not good at is sitting down. This is where the finance piece comes in. This is where rate studies come in is okay, how do we take this list of needs and come up with something that's practical, something that we can actually implement that we can get the political support for so it doesn't just get thrown on a shelf and be like, yep, man, I wish we had 100 million dollars, but we don't, so we're not going to do anything. Instead, it's like, okay, well, what can we afford this year? What can we afford the next five years, the next 10 years? What are the rate impacts? What does it really mean? How do we start setting up annual rate increases to get us to where we need to be? You know that that's the step a lot of times that we miss that, you know, I enjoy doing that. That's the hard part. But it's also the fun part to me is sitting down with local governments and really having those hard decisions, those long council meetings of really talking through all this to get everybody on board and understanding. You know, I had a seven hour council meeting not long ago, basically trying to get an entity to understand the magnitude of rate increases they needed for water and sewer and for their general fund for taxes to take care of all these things that they said that they needed to do, and they're unique. They've got a lot of issues. They're small town, but we got there, but it was a very long, detailed, answer a lot of questions, make sure everybody's on board, how do we communicate it to our rate holders? You know, there's a lot that goes into that thing. So reasonable plans is something engineers are not great at. They're a lot better at the asset side than the management side.

Josh Peach  
Yeah. I tell you what, well, you you hit something that I just absolutely love, and I don't see enough of it. Maybe you see plenty of it, because the way that you said it, but I would love to see more explanation and understanding, you know, we have to dumbed things down for our taxpayers, our stakeholders, you know, I don't see it nearly enough. I've seen it a practice a couple of times, where, where a team that represents a town, city, municipality, local government will go in front and say, Hey, guys, timeout, here's what we have. And based on what we have, this is what you can expect for a level of service. That's all we can provide. Right? Because everybody wants to drive a Cadillac, but we can't, you know, you can't afford it. So It's like, but that awareness, it's just it's not said enough. And I think that that's huge. I think that's so impactful, where if you go and you say, look, here's all the numbers and that comes with that comes with the whole thing about, you know, you can't measure what you can't manage. If you don't have the information to back it up. Nobody's gonna believe it. But if you have all of this information, you say, Okay, I've got this pool of money, I have this pool of needs, pick which ones we do. And then the other stuff, I can't promise you it because there's an unrealistic expectation of work to be done that can never be met based with the pool of money that anybody has right now today. I mean, that's the whole thing. I mean, I look at the, you know, if we were to take the backlog of deferred maintenance, just in schools, just to get them up to level it, that number increased exponentially, you know, it's probably at a trillion dollars, but in 1996, it was like a couple hundred billion but I mean, it's a huge amount just to get the level. And then you got to go to work again tomorrow. So I think that that's a very interesting, you're the first person that's kind of put it that way and a long time. And I've only heard it a handful of times. And I think every community could use someone and something in a service that says, Okay, let's work on communication and outreach to your community and your stakeholders so they understand what they're in for based on what we have. Because you can't get blood from a rock, and you're not going to get more outside help. And we need to be realistic with fees. And people don't understand what those fees and taxes go to. So you almost have to educate people. I love it. I love it.

Seth Robertson  
Like you said, You picked up the right point earlier to plan to do it yourself. What I've always told people when I go in looking at, you know, trying to help them figure out how to pay for something is first of all, say, you know, start with your own rates, because that's the thing you can definitively control after that plan for a loan because there's plenty of loan programs out there and hope for a grant. But you know, you better plan for the long term, figure out how you're going to pay for it with your rate, and then hope something else comes along because it might, I'm not saying you're not going to get a grant for some of this work. But you know, so many people out there that their whole plan is they're going to get free money. And realistically, we're just not in an environment right now where that money is out there, not the federal level, not at the state level and pretty much across the country. So you better figure out what you can afford yourself and how you're going to do it with your resources. 

Josh Peach  
That right there, if you take anything from this 30 minutes,  that right there. You know, work with the fees, go with the loan and hopefor the grant is a is a great way. Great way to go with. So listen, we're going to wrap this up, because I know we're a little bit of time time crunch here. So how do people get ahold of you? Where do they find you? And are you just doing North Carolina or is your company do nationwide work too?

Seth Robertson  
So right now we are North Carolina focused. We're interesting in the fact that we've been around for about 35-36 years now. We started really almost exclusively, really at the best possible time for the triangle in the area we're in. So we're out of triangle North Carolina, our headquarters is in Cary, but a Raleigh office as well, we started in private development work. So our founders, Sam Ravenel, and Tony Withers, you know, they started at the right time and the right place for a big boom. And what we've seen in the triangle in North Carolina. Coming out of the recession, which was hard on us, and everybody else, especially in private development work, is when we transitioned into public work, we had this utility group, we had a storm waters group, you know, we had people that could do this, they were doing it and support a private development. Okay, why don't we leverage this? And then we brought in a funding group about three years ago, which is now what I really direct to take that to the next step, because that's obviously a big difference in doing private work which, the money's usually there. That's not the issue on the private side. A lot of that time deliverable and speed. On the public side, the issue is having to pay for it lot of times, so bringing in that piece has been what's really kind of merged everything together for us. So, right now we've grown to six offices across the state. We are North Carolina focused and we are kind of looking at some other opportunities. So the answer is, is we're certainly looking at other adjacent states, we're in growth mode, even with everything else going on. We're definitely in a growth mode right now. We're very lucky to be, we've had a lot of positive things, you know, we went 100% employee owned this year, we've made a lot of really good structural changes. Once again, I'm going to shout out to our founders that several years ago decided it's time for them to transition out and they made the decision to then sell the company to the employees at the end of the day. So all of that has led to a ton of success and put us in a good position. But at the end of the day, most everything we're doing is in North Carolina, we've done a little South Carolina, I think we've done a little in Virginia, we do have some staff in Tennessee, so we're definitely located in those type areas. So I'm going to say I've taken a little bit of a social media sabbatical as a result of kind of everything going on in the world. I felt like this was a good time. I was like, okay, it's time for me to step back a little bit. But you can always find me on LinkedIn. I'm there. WithersRavenel has a substantial social media presence, you know, Instagram, Twitter, everything you can think of WithersRavenel is there and you can always get in touch with me through those resources as well. You know, we're always more than willing to come in and see how we can help. There's a lot of different things that we can do from the management side, that I can do from the finance side to try to not just solve your problems that also kind of help you figure out what your problems are. A lot of times that's the hardest thing is we know we have issues, we're just not sure what our issues are much less how we're going to solve them at the end of the day. And we work with tiny communities to huge communities in the state we work across basically all engineering services, like I said, stormwater, water sewer planning, development, park you know financing and grants. You know, you name it we pretty much do it if it's a local government type thing.

Josh Peach  
Very good and I will put your we'll put your contact information on the on the show notes which will be on the on the podcast channel. Absolutely be sure to follow Seth and his company on LinkedIn and on social media there's a lot of great content that and best practices and thoughts without having to buy anything that companies are putting out there. I think that these guys do that. I did a little bit of homework over the weekend. And just really appreciate you sitting down with me here and give me a little bit of your time and insight and knowledge and keep up the great work. I think you know, you know I think that a lot I don't want to say a lot of goods going to come out of this but I think some good is going to come out of this I think we're going to work better I think we're going to know better. And I think we're going to get better and we just need to we just need to weather the storm for a little bit longer hopefully, and start to figure things out and how to how to do things not new normal, how to do things do things right. 

Seth Robertson  
Hopefully better than normal.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, yeah. And that's possible. Although I want to be doing these in person without Plexiglas between us and I really liked my little podcast studio they put in the office down in Cary. I could have had you come down and have a cup of coffee and that part I miss, I can't wait to get back to it. But I do appreciate you my friend. I look forward to hopefully doing another one of these with you in the future and keep up the great work.

Seth Robertson  
Thanks, Josh. And I look forward to seeing you in person sometime soon.

Josh Peach  
Absolutely. And that will do it for another episode of the Operate Intelligently Podcast. We've got some more coming out here that are related to the current situation of COVID. Be sure to listen, share, comment, like. let us know how we're doing. Got any feedback or insight please be sure to contact us and let us know. My email is josh.peach@dudesolutions.com. I would love to get any feedback suggestions, even guests. Always looking for new guests to share their knowledge and know how. That'll do it from here, have a great day.

Thanks for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions.com and check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Interested in learning more?

Request a demo Talk to an expert
Back to top