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Engineering consulting firm settles into new Fargo digs

Steve Burian, right, is CEO of AE2S. Eric Dodds, left, is operations manager of the engineering consulting firm's Fargo location. Dave Olson/The Forum1 / 3
Anna Cunningham, an engineer in training, demonstrates how the electronic controls work on her standup desk at AE2S in Fargo. Dave Olson/The Forum2 / 3
Daron Selvig of AE2S works in a room that allows the company's Fargo location to communicate with other AE2S sites. Dave Olson/The Forum3 / 3

FARGO — Steve Burian was a graduate student at the University of North Dakota in 1991 when he and a business partner, Charlie Vein, formed Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services.

Burian said they worked out the business plan for their civil engineering consulting firm sitting around a kitchen table, but the business grew quickly.

By 1995, the Grand Forks-based company opened an office in Moorhead and in 2007 the firm, today known to many as AE2S, opened a Fargo location.

The Fargo operation has moved around a bit and in November it landed in a much larger facility at 4170 28th Ave. S.

AE2S now has 300 workers in 17 locations spread across North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Utah.

About 32 people work at the Fargo site, which has room for about 20 more.

It might be said water is AE2S's bread and butter because the company decided early on that H2O was the way to go, Burian said. "The wise thing we did was to specialize in water and to work our butts off to chase water."

The company's project history bears that out.

Its relationship with the city of Fargo is one example and it's a big one. AE2S has helped the city with several major undertakings, from sewer system upgrades and lift stations to a current project that involves a major redo of Fargo's water treatment infrastructure.

The latter was sparked, in part, by the expectation that Fargo will need to deal with increasingly salty outflows from Devils Lake via the Sheyenne River, said Eric Dodds, operations manager of the Fargo AE2S site.

Burian and Dodds said the recent news coverage of problems Flint, Mich., has experienced with its water supply underscore the importance of a daily necessity that is often taken for granted.

Dodds said that although the situation in Flint is tragic, the scrutiny it is placing on water quality is a positive.

"When we can get some attention to the importance of drinking water, we generally feel like that's something we should embrace," he said.

In addition to the work it does specifically for the city of Fargo, AE2S has been instrumental in recent years in helping governmental bodies work together on the planning for and building of a proposed flood diversion around Fargo-Moorhead.

AE2S's new Fargo facility is designed to help the company continue on its present course by providing workers with more room and amenities that aim to make the work experience more pleasant.

Among them: clear-walled office spaces that let natural light from windows permeate the building, and workstations outfitted with standing desks that can be adjusted for height with the push of a button.

"We want them to be modern, we want them to be bright," Burian said of the building's work spaces.

In addition to the physical amenities, AE2S offers a variety of benefits aimed at attracting and keeping employees.

"We do provide full family health insurance for all of our staff, even as those costs have spiraled," Burian said, adding that a robust wellness program is also available.

All of which, he said, may help explain the firm's success over its first 25 years.

"When you couple hard work with intelligent folks with an emphasis on client service, that makes a pretty good trifecta," he said.

Dave Olson
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