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Greenville Business Magazine

Professional Engineering Associates celebrates 40 years in business

By Cindy Landrum

If repeat customers and referrals are a sign of success, Greenville’s Professional Engineering Associates has had a lot of it over the past four decades.

“The fact that they are asking us back means we are providing quality service,” says Richard Kapp, founding principal for the firm, which lists Furman University, the Veterans Administration, Renewable Water Resources, Michelin, GE, Clemson University, and BMW as customers.

Kapp had worked at R.S. Noonan, Inc. for seven years when he decided he wanted to spend less time on the road and more time with his family. When he told his boss, C.F. “Tad” Boland, that he was leaving, Boland said, “Why don’t I go with you?”

PEA opened for business on Jan. 1, 1979, in an office that had a single wall phone for the entire floor, forcing Kapp and Boland to rush down the hall to answer it when it rang. 

The firm became profitable within three months and started hiring employees. At one point, it had to enlist the help of contract employees and 125 employees of a local engineering firm. It is licensed in 30 states.

From its humble beginnings, PEA’s project list now includes some of the most unique and well-known buildings in the Carolinas, including an observation tower on Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest point at 3,553 feet above sea level, that opened in April. On a clear day from the top of the tower, a visitor can see up to 50 miles and three states—South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Although up to 70 percent of PEA’s business is in the industrial sector, the company also works on projects for hospitals, religious institutions, local governments, and schools, including Furman. PEA worked on the university’s Daniel Chapel and the Place of Peace, the 2,400-piece Japanese temple that was assembled without using a single nail. It was the first Japanese temple ever to be dismantled and reconstructed in America. 

“We have a knowledge base of those clients and we use that to their advantage,” he notes.

The firm is also working on plans for an expansion at The Woodlands at Furman, a senior living community adjacent to the university, Kapp says. 

In addition to its industrial, health care, education, and municipal and wastewater work, PEA has also done residential work, from $12 million homes to small houses where the contractor has a problem he can’t solve within prescriptive codes.

While Boland has retired and Kapp now runs the 18-employee firm with three partners, Jim Pearman, Jeff Barrett, and Alan Lumpkin, the PEA founder says the goal is still the same—to become a trusted source for engineering services by providing consistent dedicated service, expertise, and quality workmanship.

“We want repeat business and referrals,” Kapp says. “That’s what tells us we’re doing a good job.”