Doug Smith, Operations Manager, brings his solid technical background in stream, wetland, and coastal restoration, as well as guiding the successful growth of engineering firms, to his role at Bioengineering Group. He’s a registered professional wetlands scientist trained in zoology and ecology who has an ace up his sleeve – an MBA. With over 15 years of experience in the field of applied restoration science in the US and abroad, Doug has also gained solid understanding of how to ensure the effective operation of rigorous and rapidly growing design and engineering programs.
With a real concern for environmental stewardship and a love for being outdoors, his decision to focus on wetland science was a natural career choice for Doug. “My career actually started with the Bioengineering Group back in 1992. That was at the very beginning of this company – I was the 3rd employee! I’m very excited to be back connecting with old friends and colleagues at a time when we face so many exciting new opportunities and growth.” In the early days, the firm, with Doug’s help, was promoting and using some highly innovative approaches. In order to succeed, Doug had the advantage of tapping his excellent, writing, public speaking, and workshop facilitation skills to help in the outreach process. He quickly became a much sought after resource for public meetings, trainings, and other events in the limelight.
After three years of work on small-scale and demonstration type projects featuring bioengineering methods and other restoration techniques, Doug opted to build his experience working on large-scale wetland projects. He worked on projects requiring the delineation of wetland areas greater than 100 acres, and even one 300+ acre site in the capacity of Wetland Ecologist for Beak in Buffalo, NY. These projects often incorporated wetland and stream restoration components in the final design.
With a passion for international travel, Doug was easily lured to Europe when presented with the opportunity to live and work in Hamburg, Germany, at the firm Bestmann Ingenieurbiologie GmbH. He worked closely with hydraulic engineers, biologists, horticulturists, and others to plan, design, construct, and monitor various projects that involved ecological restoration under rigorous engineering requirements. After cutting his teeth on some large reservoir shoreline stabilization and water quality buffer projects, some shipping canal re-vegetation sites, and other large-scale infrastructure jobs utilizing vegetation as a technical component, he was tapped to expand his horizons even further. Doug was invited to become responsible for business development for the company’s environmental restoration program in Southeast Asia. Traveling to the Philippines, Korea, and Malaysia and working in consultation with some of the leading academics, government agencies, and engineering firms to address critically important infrastructure and restoration jobs was inspiring. “Seeing the challenge and excitement of all the financial and organizational issues related to these jobs, I would say I was first bitten by the business bug.”
Doug eventually returned to the US, bringing his German wife and their first child with him. His depth of training and years of experience related to ecosystem restoration design and construction was recognized as a rare commodity and he was recruited to join KCI in North Carolina. He worked on a host of transportation mitigation projects and was involved with the earliest days of the state’s first restoration banking program. During this time, he gained an understanding for the planning and management of projects using expansive science and engineering teams, working on large sites, often over extended timeframes. Doug aspired to combine the most interesting elements of his skill-set in innovative restoration practices and his knowledge of large project issues, and to further build his project management experience.
“But, I wanted to have a greater impact and decided that helping engineering firms do their business better would help me achieve that objective.” Doug believed getting his MBA and immersing himself into the business management aspect would allow him to have more influence on environmental changes. Armed with strategic business skills and personal conviction, the transition from environmental science to business manager was a pivotal turning point for Doug. Upon graduating, he joined Buck Engineering, where he quickly advanced to a role successfully managing business operations.
At Buck, Doug played various roles over the course of time. One of his high points at Buck was managing a $3 million dollar federal contract to repair waterways damaged by the 2004 hurricane season (Ivan & Frances) which required completion of design, permitting, and construction all within one year, tapping many of his abilities all for one project. “It seemed impossible at first, but I helped break it into parts, delegate responsibilities, and keep the whole team focused on progress. We all celebrated when it was over – and we deserved it!” Doug led key operational initiatives for the firm as it tripled in revenue in just a couple of years. “I learned a lot about the sort of mistakes that can be made, the solutions to fix them, and the inevitable growing pains and joys that a firm experiences along that trajectory. After Buck’s successful acquisition, I found myself in a situation where I was contemplating my next step to where I would add that level of value again.”
Doug had kept in touch with the team at the Bioengineering Group over the years, trading technical information and keeping friendships alive, and he recognized a great mutual fit. The firm was expanding into the transportation markets throughout the Northeast, doing some interesting green design, and being called upon to work on various special projects overseas. “It seemed like an ideal mix of familiar and novel projects where I could share my abilities, and also keep learning. Most of all I knew I could share my operations knowledge to support the firm during a phase of exciting growth.” Doug jumped on the opportunity to return to his ‘alma mater’ and watched with great enthusiasm as new projects further energized the firm. “I can’t imagine a better mix of work coming out of Louisiana, jobs ranging from affordable and sustainable housing through Habitat for Humanity as well as hurricane protection tasks for the Corps of Engineers. I am grateful that both my past experiences and recent work with hurricane damage have prepared me to deal with the aftermath of Katrina. Being back here seems almost providential.”
The firm's management and Doug share a similar vision for the firm’s future: “My goal is to help this firm effect on a large scale, the dynamic and significant environmental changes that are so desperately needed for the restoration of the Gulf Region and for the sustainable development of our entire country. We are doing great things and getting more recognition for it year by year. Personally, I want to see the world do a better job of integrating natural processes with human environments. I feel very privileged to be here at Bioengineering Group where we make that a reality through each and every project. And I love working on a team with such talented and motivated people who share that sense of purpose.”
Doug lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife and their two daughters.