When we started the hunt for our first “Engineering Firm of the Year,” we broke into cold sweats. Would we get any entries? Would they be any good? Would we not know any better and give the honor to a firm that would make us an industry laughingstock?

The whooshing sound you hear is the sigh of relief coming from our offices now that it’s apparent we dodged all those bullets. Not only did we avoid embarrassment, we selected a winner that does us and the industry proud. In fact, in the two and a quarter years since I’ve been editor of this magazine, no edition has made me prouder.

Read John Koski’s cover article about the winner, Estes, McClure & Associates, and you’ll understand why. This is a company that goes way beyond the call of duty. They are not only talented design professionals, but a prime example of how a consulting engineering firm should be run. They devote considerable assets to training, quality control and management systems. They remind us that consulting engineering is a business as well as a profession, and are a terrific role model of how to blend the two facets.

Deserving though Estes, McClure & Associates may be of this honor, we would be remiss not to acknowledge some of the tough competition they faced. Although we did not design this contest with official runners-up in mind, I would personally like to single out some other entries deserving of recognition. We would not be ashamed to put any one of these worthy contenders on our cover under the banner of “Engineering Firm of the Year.”

  • Schirmer Engineering Corp., Deerfield, IL. This fire protection specialist has exhibited exemplary professionalism for over 60 years. Although I was not involved in the judging (more on this in a while), I was personally most impressed with Schirmer’s client satisfaction assurance program, along with their deep commitment to industry and community service.

  • SSOE, Inc. Architects Engineers, Toledo, OH, is a full-service design firm with a track record spanning decades of service to Fortune 500 clientele. Relationships with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors go back more than half a century!

  • The Stanley Group, Muscatine, IA, is a diverse member-owned organization that has been around since 1913 and managed projects in 85 countries. Who could go wrong selecting such a company as “Engineering Firm of the Year.”

  • Brinjac, Kambic & Associates, Inc., Harrisburg, PA, has won a couple of other awards for engineering excellence and is another example of the best the industry has to offer.

    A word about our selection process is in order. Neither editorial director Julius Ballanco, nor I, nor anyone else on our staff had anything to do with naming the winner. We felt it best to rescue the PME staff in order to guard against any appearance of favoritism. For the same reason, we avoided recruiting judges with ties to our advertisers, industry trade associations or other organizations who could be accused of having a vested interest in the result.

    Instead, we turned to three prominent colleagues who are active in the Construction Writers Association. None of them has any direct ties to the plumbing engineering community, but they are all veteran construction journalists who understand the industry and the role played by our audience of plumbing, fire protection, piping, hydronic heating engineering specialists. We thank Marty McIntyre, David Wood and Shelly Hartnett for their diligent efforts in identifying some truly shining examples of engineering professionalism.

    And we thank all of you who entered for giving them such great material to work with!

    PME Milestones

    Thanks of another order are also in store to all of our readers and advertisers for your support. This edition marks the fifth year of publication for PM Engineer, which began with a prototype issue in September 1994.

    Launching a new magazine is a notoriously risky and laborious venture. USA Today, for example, took seven years to turn its first profit. It takes time to build reader loyalty, and more time for their interest to appear on the radar screens of advertisers and for them to work us into ad budgets. We knew this going in, and patience paid off. We’ve turned the corner and then some. Following several years of slow but steady increases, PME had a 46% jump in ad pages for the first eight editions of 1999. This makes us the plumbing industry’s fastest growing magazine.

    In keeping with time-tested publishing strategy, we kept costs in line during the first few years by putting out only 10 editions annually, skipping a couple of traditionally slow months. We upped that to 11 issues this year and are pleased to let everyone know that beginning in January 2000, we will come out every single month. We’re not afraid of any Y2K bug!

    Seriously, another sign of our growth and commitment was the hiring early this year of a second full-time editorial staff person. Managing editor John Koski does an outstanding job handling the day-to-day tasks of putting out this magazine. He has an extensive construction industry background and has already made his mark with numerous editorial improvements. I’m sure that those of you who have dealt with him have come away impressed by John’s professionalism.

    On behalf of our entire staff, I want to thank all of you for your support. Even more, I invite you to keep us on our toes with your continuing feedback. We want to hear your opinions whether they’re good, bad or ugly. Don’t worry, we pride ourselves on thick skin.