Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Increased attention to securing America’s borders and monitoring emergencies has resulted in business opportunities for Key Engineering Group Ltd., which recently moved from Cedarburg to downtown Milwaukee.
The firm also is poised to capitalize on a 20-year debate on where the nation should store its spent nuclear fuel.
Key Engineering, which is now headquartered at 735 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, is currently performing engineering and wetland delineation for a new border crossing station that will be built near the Minnesota and Canadian border.
D’Arcy Gravelle, operations manager of the firm, said this work is necessary because the US government wants to increase the size of this border station by about 10 times, but an innovative design is needed because of wet soils.
"They’re trying to build it on a swamp," Gravelle said. "There is an existing station there, but they want it to be larger. It will be able to X-ray rail cars."
Gravelle and Kenneth Wein, president of Key Engineering, said the firm has not been given specific information about exactly where the potential site is located. But that isn’t all that unusual when working on a government project, they said.
"They only let you know enough to design," Gravelle said.
Key Engineering has been able to participate in government projects because it was awarded an environmental services contract with the U.S. General Services Administration. This contract allows Key to bid on projects that fall into the parameters of its contracts.
Those parameters include environmental planning services and documentation, environmental compliance services, waste management services and software, and remediation services.
Due to Key’s contracts with the GSA, it was called when the agency was placed in charge of expanding and updating the nation’s border stations, and ultimately awarded the contract for the environmental assessment there. Gravelle said the agency had told Key it was hoping to begin construction on the border crossing station this spring.
Both Wein and Gravelle said the firm was hoping to be involved with the construction stage at the border station, but did not know if it would be. If Key were to get involved, Wein said the firm could move toward one of its strategic goals.
"The goal is now to take it into the other border stations, to help build and develop them all," he said.
Key also is planning to bid on another intensive government project, which will have connections in the Midwest.
Debate over the Yucca Mountain site in southwest Nevada has been ongoing since the late 1970s, when the federal government announced it wanted to house a long-term storage area for spent nuclear fuel and weapons material there. The U.S. Department of Energy is now applying to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to construct the repository there.
The storage site sits on federally protected land within the Nevada Test Site.
Railways have been proposed to transport spent nuclear fuel to the site, and with Chicago, the nation’s largest rail hub, so close to Milwaukee, Wein said his firm could make a significant contribution to the project.
Key Engineering has a division named Key Railroad, which specializes in consulting, design and construction management of rail systems – and that specialty makes the firm a natural bidder on any rail work in the nation connected to the Yucca Mountain project, Wein said.
"We have a group with the rail (division) that will meet with the Department of Energy and the team will go after
the Yucca Mountain project," he said. "One of the main hubs will likely be Chicago, and we will be
in a good position to help them
with our position because we are one of a few small businesses that can do rail engineering and design."
The Yucca Mountain project has been estimated at $80 billion, including its rail transportation system. The rail system would include a new separate track across the country just for transporting toxic waste. Wein said his firm may get a chance to design and engineer that rail system.
"We are offering (ourselves) to the government to get the opportunity to work on interesting and long-term projects for the growth of our company," he said. "(Projects of) that kind of scale can help firms in Wisconsin put out a name for ourselves."
Key also oversaw the redevelopment of the command center, conference/
command room and the deputy secretary’s conference room for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in December 2002. That project, performed in Washington, D.C., provided new monitoring equipment installed in all facilities, along with new multimedia facilities in the conference areas.
The command center is where the federal government manages emergencies including terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks and severe storms.
Key Engineering employs about 29 workers in
three offices. The company also has offices in Green Bay and Washington, D.C. The company completed a move of its main offices from Cedarburg to downtown Milwaukee this summer.
"Seventy percent of our clients are in a 10-block radius," Gravelle said. "We have a lot easier access to our client base."
Wein said having the business based downtown makes meetings with clients from out of town much easier.
"A lot of our work is in Illinois and from a travel standpoint, it makes more sense to be downtown," he said. "And when we travel to (Washington) D.C., it’s a lot closer to the airport. And it’s a lot closer to Madison."
Location: 735 N. Water Street, Suite 1000
Web site: www.keyengineering.com
Employees: 29 in three offices
in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Washington, D.C.
December 10, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI