By Natalie R. Schrimpf | Photo by Doug Khrenovsky
Although she spent a significant portion of her career as a practicing civil engineer, for some two decades she has been an entrepreneur as majority owner and president of KS Associates, Inc. in Elyria. The professional services firm provides civil engineering and land surveying solutions to private and public-sector clients. Its scope of work includes projects relating to site development, transportation, government services, coastal engineering, and land surveying.
Since starting the company in 1987 with her business partner, Mark B. Skellenger, Miggins has continued to expand the firm — which originally had a staff of 17 — to 31 full-time and five part-time employees.
“The part of the engineering business that I really enjoy now is helping my clients achieve their vision,” she says. “Instead of figuring out where the pipes go and how the pavement should drain, I’m now figuring out how our team can help clients accomplish their goals.”
She also takes satisfaction in providing a desirable workplace for her employees. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of folks come and stay with us for a long time, and we think that we’ve created a very positive environment,” she adds.
But for as much as she enjoys being a small business owner, the experience has not been without its share of challenges. For example, there are a lot of changing government regulations that must be met.
“Whether you’re U.S. Steel, Ford Motor Company or a small KS Associates, the same rules apply. As a small business, we don’t have teams of lawyers and teams of financial analysts to deal with compliance issues, whether it’s environmental or human resources compliance,” she says.
Prior to the recession, Miggins was able to hire experts to assist her in these areas.
“As we went through the contraction of the recession, I had to go back to putting those responsibilities onto my plate. So being a jack-of-all trades in a changing landscape is another big challenge.”
And there’s the added challenge of being a female entrepreneur in a predominantly male field. But Miggins also sees advantages.
“Sometimes I stand out in a crowd, and people remember me when I’m in a group of engineers,” she says. “Because I’m a woman business owner, I’ve been asked to serve on a lot of nonprofit boards, and that helps me broaden my network of professional associates. I also gain satisfaction in giving back to the community.”
There has been a high demand for her company’s services due in part to Northeast Ohio’s aging infrastructure, Miggins says.
KS Associates recently contracted with New York-based James Corner Field Operations to provide a comprehensive topographic survey of Public Square. The project involved surveying all four quadrants of the Square and surrounding streets, and presenting a detailed base map of the area, which will guide the Square’s proposed redesign.
Miggins’ company was chosen in part for its 3-D laser scanning capabilities, she says. Unlike traditional surveying — which measures a target’s distance and height one point at a time — the 3-D laser technology scans 360 degrees from the ground, up to the sky and back down to collect millions of points simultaneously that are stored in a data point cloud.
This not only saves manpower and time, but projects are easier to complete because the details are provided up front, Miggins says. The data captured can be accessed and utilized in the future. And safety has improved for projects in high traffic areas, as workers no longer have to close down traffic lanes to collect information.
The company’s client list includes organizations such as the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Ohio Department of Transportation and local municipalities.
While growing up in Pittsburgh, Miggins was greatly influenced by her parents. Her mother, who was home full-time, was always there for her and her three younger siblings, she says. Her father was employed in the highway products industry selling aggregates and eventually became president of his company. “My dad was my business model and my mom was my personal model,” she says.
Miggins experienced firsthand the challenge of juggling career and family when she and her husband started their family 30 years ago. What helped her was locating a reliable and caring nanny who remained with them for years.
She advises parents to discuss job flexibility with employers. “Something as small as a little flexibility in your schedule could make a huge difference to you,” she says. “If you work for the right kind of employer, get these issues on the table because there’s a good chance they’re going to want to make accommodations to keep good workers happy.”
Miggins has received numerous awards over the years, including YWCA of Elyria Women of Achievement; National Association of Women Business Owners Cleveland; Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note; and Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management Weatherhead 100.
She holds a master’s degree from Baldwin Wallace University and a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from University of Dayton.
For more information: ksassociates.com