Lighting the Way

Electrical engineering firm delivers positive impact in Southeast Louisiana and beyond

Fifteen years ago, in an effort to compete on a national level, three St. Tammany residents who were already shining in the electric utility industry launched Ampirical Solutions, LLC. The Covington-based company now comprises nearly 300 employees and a portfolio of electrical transmission and distribution projects that spans the entire country.

“We focus on the high voltage electrical grid throughout the U.S.,” saysMatthew Saacks, the president of Ampirical. “So, if you think of all the transmission and distribution of lines and substations, we design and engineer any kind of services or projects associated with that.” 

Ampirical has engineered, managed and supported more than 2,000 substation projects, 1,000 transmission line projects and 500 distribution line projects. They use 3D technology to devise the appropriate designs. 

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In addition to handling the engineering, Ampirical helps with procurement, cyber security, project management and construction management—all while emphasizing the importance of employee health and safety.  Saacks says the most exciting aspect of the job enjoys the diversity of challenges and troubleshooting it requires.

“We like seeing how different utilities throughout the country did their designs—what was different about them, what was unique—and then being able to offer those ideas to customers we came in contact with,” Saacks says, noting how Ampirical encounters numerous geographic impediments while moving from coast to coast.

Matthew Saacks 1
Matthew Saacks, President of Ampirical

“If we were going to build the transmission line down here, you have to know what a marsh buggy is and how to build a line through a swamp,” he explains. “But then if you go out west, the soil is very different; it’s very rocky, mountainous and hilly, and you’ve got wildfires.”

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But the company has proven that they can find solutions to the most pressing problems, and as a result, they have continued to expand their client base.

“Part of it,” Saacks says, “ is convincing utilities that they can trust you to work on their system.”

GNO, Inc. has helped to facilitate Ampirical’s growth by highlighting the benefits of state incentives, “including a brainstorm session as well as educating them on incentives that the company doesn’t currently use,” says Michael Hecht, GNO, Inc. President and CEO.

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Understanding tax credits was especially helpful when it came to hiring new employees, says Saacks.

 

“As you can imagine, growing from three (employees) to 300 in 15 years, all that growth takes a lot of investment right back into the business—whether it’s facilities, a new office building, or computers and software,” he says. “The incentives are helping us plow some of that money back into the business to accommodate that growth.”

Although Ampirical boasts a national reach, the impact of their success is most palpable right here in Southeast Louisiana.

“Ampirical brings sophistication and innovation to our region’s economy,” Hecht says. “As a result, it means that top-tier companies from around the country are using services designed and deployed by a company in Greater New Orleans, and in parallel, it means that next-generation talent is being trained and attracted into the market.”

Saacks says GNO, Inc.’s workforce development efforts have helped to match Ampirical with qualified locals, yielding even more benefit in a region where several technical colleges and universities offer engineering, drafting or construction management programs.

“GNO, Inc. makes sure we’ve got talent coming through, because the biggest constraint in our industry right now is getting sufficient talent,” says Saacks. 

Drafting 1
Ampirical employee receives drafting plans from plotter.

He notes that Ampirical must also contend with the fact that Louisiana is situated between Texas and Florida—two massive states with the power to attract and retain talent. Atlanta, Georgia also appeals to young professionals. 

But GNO, Inc., says Saacks, has helped them to compete with prosperous locales, to recruit talent from outside the region, and to reframe how transplants view opportunities in the Greater New Orleans region. 

“They come down here and they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, this is not anything like I imagined it.’  And they see the quality of life, and the family ties—and how much that’s a part of our culture—and they fall in love with it.”

And although Ampirical is situated in Covington, Saacks says that being plugged into a community of local businesses has enabled Ampirical to work with resources spread throughout multiple parishes. 

“I think it’s nice to see an organization that’s committed to taking that regional approach, and realizing that all of us working together is what’s going to allow us to compete, whether it’s for other companies, whether it’s for talent, or other kinds of business opportunities,” says Saacks. “I think that’s what we need to do to cast a bigger shadow than if we were trying to go it alone.”

Transmission
Ampirical colleagues discuss transmission and distribution line changes.

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