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LHB returns to Superior

Members of LHB and Chamber ambassadors smile Friday as a ribbon is cut in front of the new branch office for LHB. From left, cutting the ribbon are LHB CEO Bill Bennett, Chamber President Dave Minor, Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen and Pipeline Focus Leader Dan Heldt of LHB. The office is located in Suite 150 of 63 E. Second St. (Maria Lockwood)

After a 20-year hiatus, LHB has returned to Superior. The engineering, architecture and planning firm held a ribbon-cutting Friday at its new branch office in the Bayview Building at 63 E. Second St.

“It really is you’re just coming home,” said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County. “You’ve been a part of it; you’ve remained a strong asset to this community. And it’s nice that you do have a physical presence.”

The Duluth-based company had a branch office at 1419 Tower Ave. in Superior from 1989-1994. Gayle Taylor was office manager. Now a senior administrative assistant with LHB, the Superior woman is happy to see that connection rebuilt.

“I was really thrilled that we were coming back home,” said Taylor, who’s been with the firm for 25 years.

There were two main reasons for the move, said LHB CEO Bill Bennett. To do work for the state, county and city often requires a physical office in the state. Although LHB has had a hand in many Douglas County projects from building the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and new Northwestern High School to work on the Superior Public Library and Enbridge pipeline, rules required a partnership with a Wisconsin-based company to do the final design.

“This will open up that opportunity for us to continue to see those projects through,” Bennett said.

It will also allow the company to reach a broader workforce.

“We need to spread ourselves out in the state of Wisconsin, that’s our hope,” Bennett said. “It’s all about workforce; if we can’t find the right workforce, we can’t grow.”

Founded in 1966, LHB had grown to 180 employees in 2008. When the recession struck the company a year later, that number dipped to 165. Today, LHB has 250 employees at three offices — Duluth, the Twin Cities and now Superior. About 13 percent of those employees live in Wisconsin.

“We really feel like we never left because we’ve got people who live here and we’ve been so connected to projects in the community so we never lost those friends that we had,” Bennett said.

There have been a lot of changes in the community, and LHB has been a big part of that change over the years, said Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen.

“Bill said they are soaring to new heights and we are feeling the same thing,” he said. “We want to soar with them.”

On a recent trip to Madison, Minor noticed plenty of construction underway. Superior has a similar feel these days.

“If you drive around Superior today, there’s an awful lot of cranes and backhoes and trucks and everything moving and it’s really I think a very exciting time,” Minor said. He encouraged everyone to drive home along a different route to catch sight of all the work underway.

LHB is the second tenant in the Bayview Building. Their space, which takes up half the main floor, has room for up to seven employees as well as a conference room. D&S Development has offices on the top floor. The building, tucked beside Perkins Restaurant, may stand out more thanks to the new tenant, said Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn.

“It’s tremendous. It’s really great to have LHB back in Superior,” he said. “They were, from my perspective, a fixture for a long time and we’re glad they’re back and we’re glad they’re in this facility.”