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Superior engineering firm celebrates 15 years, business growth

In 2006, Isabella native Craig Jouppi and Duluth native Chad Scott started their own engineering firm in the Twin Ports.

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AMI Consulting Engineering owners Chad Scott (left) and Craig Jouppi pose outside their Superior offices recently. They were just awarded their fourth National Parks Service contract and opened a new office in Florida last year. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
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AMI Consulting Engineers in Superior celebrated its 15th anniversary Feb. 28. Over that time, the small engineering firm has grown by leaps and bounds while still staying small and rooted to the Twin Ports.

In 2006, Isabella native Craig Jouppi and Duluth native Chad Scott decided to branch off on their own. The two partners, who had been working together at a local company, started their business in the Lake & First Building in downtown Duluth. AMI outgrew that space just three years later and decided to build their own office space in Superior, right on the lake.

“We do a lot of coastal engineering and shoreline engineering, so it was natural for us to want to go from the office building downtown to something closer to the waterfront,” Scott said.

AMI got its start with projects around the Twin Ports, such as the Hallett Dock 8 rehabilitation in Superior and providing construction documents and specifications for the Zeitgeist in Duluth. AMI was even hired for their expertise to work on the Pier B Resort project.

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Shown is Pier B Resort nearing completion in 2016, with the concrete silos from the former Lafarge Cement terminal in the foreground. (File / News Tribune)

Sandy Hoff is president of FI Salter Real Estate Services and one of the managing partners of Pier B Resort.

"It was tremendously valuable to us to be able to team up with someone who had such a high level of understanding of how our entirely engineered pier was constructed back in the early 1900s, what the current condition of the pier was underwater and above ground, as well as the condition of the silos," Hoff said. "So there was not only value but comfort in finding a firm right here in the community that has that level of understanding and expertise. It was a real benefit to us."

Hoff said AMI was chosen because of Scott's expertise in diving and considerable knowledge of the pier structure as well as the structural data on the silos from previous work done in the area.

Scott said while the firm still continues to do work around the Northland, such as the Minnesota Slip rehabilitation, the moving of the William A. Irvin and Pier B Resort, they’ve begun to work on national and worldwide projects.

FILE: Irvin on the move
The William A. Irvin squeaks through the opening between the upright spans of the Minnesota Slip Bridge late Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. AMI Consulting Engineers was contracted to help with the move of the Irvin and for the engineering work on the Minnesota Slip. (Bob King / 2018 file / News Tribune)

AMI was just recently awarded its fourth National Park Service project. AMI has worked on the trail system in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, provided underwater inspections of three reservoirs at Mount Rushmore and did coastal work on Isle Royale National Park.

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“When we started doing more work with the National Park Service, they demanded a much higher level of coastal design, so we expanded our coastal department and now we do full coastal engineering and sediment transport,” Scott said.

AMI, which stands for architecture, marine and industrial, provides a wide range of services including marine, coastal, mechanical and industrial engineering. The firm has worked on dams, ports, harbors, buildings and waterfronts. They also offer specialty services, such as underwater inspections.

According to Scott, his partner, Jouppi, is the lead structural engineer and Scott handles the marine side of the business.

“I’ve always been a marine civil engineer, and Craig has been our main structural engineer at the company and does everything from commercial, residential and commercial buildings all the way to the big heavy structural component that you’d see in an industrial complex,” Scott said. “So between the two of us, we kind of covered the two sides of the heavy structures, whether it be marine or buildings.”

The business has grown over the years, the partners realized they started to spread themselves too thin.

“So over the last couple of years now, we’ve really refocused the company on doing what we do well, and that's structural, mechanical, marine and coastal engineering,” Scott said.

By pulling back and refocusing, Scott said AMI has been able to fit in well with larger companies and fill in the gaps where the larger companies are lacking.

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AMI Consulting Engineers provided structural engineering in the design of elevated platforms, stairs, railings and ramps at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. (Photo courtesy of AMI Consulting Engineers.)

AMI is a business of just 35 people and four offices with their headquarters in the Twin Ports. Scott said their headquarters will always remain in Superior, and they hope to eventually grow the business to about 100 people.

The other three offices are located in Virginia, Minnesota; Vadnais Heights, Minnesota; and Pensacola, Florida. AMI opened its Pensacola office just last year, which Scott said got a little more complicated with COVID-19. The office was strategically chosen to handle the firm's contracts in the Gulf Coast and the East Coast.

“I’ve been watching way too much of ‘The Curse of Oak Island,’ and they always said they need boots on the ground, and there is some truth to that,” Scott said. “So the growth of that Pensacola office is really so we have boots on the ground so that we can get out to these sites faster.”

Scott said none of the growth AMI has seen over the past 15 years would be possible if it wasn’t for the support of people in the Twin Ports.

“You just never know, until you actually get started, how much support you’re going to get from people,” Scott said. “But we’ve always had overwhelming support from these local companies and industries and government, from the cities to the counties to really help us get our company going and that’s just been phenomenal.”

Related Topics: SMALL BUSINESSSUPERIOR
Adelle Whitefoot covers K-12 education in northeast Minnesota for the Duluth News Tribune. She has been covering education in Minnesota since 2014.
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