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The Larkin Group Inc. gives shape to Civic Park project

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

The Larkin Group is helping plan one of Springfield's more visible projects the new Civic Park, which will be built in the city's downtown area. Civic Park is just one of the jobs being undertaken by this growing consulting engineering firm.

The company also worked on Springfield city projects including the Sunshine and Campbell intersection and Republic Road.

"Right now, we're working on phase I, which is developing and refining the basic concept for the park," said Randall K. Brown, associate engineer, who manages The Larkin Group's Springfield office. "What's really nice is that our interest goes beyond the professional. We all live here in the community and have an interest in the project."

Since it was founded in 1946, the company has acted as an extension of the engineering and planning departments of many municipalities in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Formerly known as Larkin Associates Consulting Engineers, the company changed its name to The Larkin Group in 1999.

The new name signaled the first of many changes for the company. The Larkin Group, which has its headquarters in Kansas City, originally focused on structural engineering projects. In the 1950s and 1960s, it rode the wave of municipal pool construction. From there, the company expanded into other areas, such as road design, stormwater management and water and wastewater engineering.

Under the leadership of Clark Thompson, who took over as president in 1993, the company increased its focus on municipal projects. Thompson developed an aggressive five-year plan, and revenue went from $5.5 million in 1994 to $10 million in 1998.

In 1994, The Larkin Group opened an office in Springfield. Other satellite offices were added in Albuquerque, N.M., and Russellville, Ark. in 1996.

Approximately 75 percent of the Springfield office's business comes from municipal engineering projects. Many of these projects call for the expertise of an engineer and a planner.

One of The Larkin Group's eight employees is Planner Steven M. Bowen. Bowen advises municipalities in the area on such issues as zoning, land development regulations and long-range plans. Probably the most difficult and expensive issue these officials face, however, is improving their waterworks systems.

Just as the company rode the municipal pool construction wave, it is now taking advantage of tougher environmental regulations that have increased the need for better water treatment plants. In addition, engineers from The Larkin Group have helped with other engineering and wastewater issues, designing everything from sewer systems to water towers.

In Stockton, engineers from The Larkin Group used duckweed to prevent the overgrowth of algae, which had been a persistent problem at the city's wastewater treatment plant. The city saw an immediate savings of nearly $200,000, Brown said.

The company also is emphasizing sharing information. In the past two years, The Larkin Group has spent more than half a million on new software and computer equipment, Brown said.

Using the latest computer technology has not only increased internal communication, it has enabled each office to share its workload with other Larkin offices. If one office is overloaded, it can ship the work electronically to another office. The result: Down time between projects has decreased and efficiency and productivity have increased.

The Larkin Group also is working to improve client communications. In 1998, an independent company surveyed The Larkin Group's clients and gave the company feedback on ways to improve communication and services.

Indeed, communication plays a vital role in many municipal projects particularly if they are funded through a referendum issue. Engineers at The Larkin Group not only communicate with city officials, they have to communicate the issue to residents of the community so they can understand the importance of the proposed project.

The company also is working to attract top-notch engineers. In recent years, The Larkin Group has beefed up benefits, incentives and is providing more training opportunities, Brown said.

The future of The Larkin Group looks promising. In fact, Brown predicted net sales for the Springfield office will grow from an estimated $550,000 in 1999 to $1 million by 2004.[[In-content Ad]]

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