Founded in the garage next door to where its Spokane Valley office now stands, Simpson Engineers Inc. has operated as a family-run business for over 75 years.
Today, brothers Aaron and Ed Simpson make up the third generation of Simpsons running the company. Ed is president and Aaron is vice president.
Located at 909 N. Argonne, Simpson Engineers provides services that include general civil engineering for commercial and residential property development, land surveying, and public works.
Current projects the company is providing land-development engineering services for include Douglass Legacy Park, which is located on the West Plains, and Playfair Commerce Park, in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood.
The company also has been involved in work in the Mirabeau Point area of Spokane Valley, including for the Affinity at Mirabeau retirement complex and the Tru by Hilton Spokane Valley hotel, Aaron Simpson says.
Additionally, Simpson Engineers is involved in numerous other multifamily and subdivision projects, he says.
While most of the company’s work is in the Spokane area, Ed Simpson says it also works on some projects in North Idaho.
“We’ve always done sporadic projects over in Idaho, but recently it’s been a lot more, and it’s mostly just servicing our existing clients that have expanded into North Idaho,” he says.
Though the brothers decline to disclose the company’s revenue, they say Simpson Engineers has remained busy, even through the pandemic.
Simpson Engineers currently has 12 employees, four of whom are licensed engineers. Ed’s wife, Lesa, is the company’s office manager.
Simpson Engineering was founded by Clarence Simpson in 1946. Seven years later, he built the two-story office structure along Argonne Road, where the company is still located.
Clarence’s sons, Dick and Chuck Simpson, joined the company in 1969 and 1970, respectively.
Clarence stayed involved at the company into his 80s and died in 1986.
Chuck, father of Aaron and Ed, lives about a half-block from the office. He’s still involved in the business at 83 years old. He says Dick died about 20 years ago.
Today, Aaron and Ed run the company, though they don’t put much emphasis on titles.
“My dad and my uncle both had their things that they did—their own specialties,” Ed says. “I feel that my brother and I are the same way.”
Aaron says he handles more of the commercial work and Ed focuses more on the multifamily residential work, although there is plenty of crossover.
Chuck says that Aaron’s and Ed’s working relationship reminds him of his relationship with his own brother, when they led the company together.
“I come over here a couple hours every day because I enjoy it,” he adds.
He says that the engineering industry has changed a lot since he first started at the company.
“When (Dick and I) started out, there were no computers,” he says. “You didn’t even have a calculator that you could take out in the field.”
Chuck, Aaron, and Ed all say they realized at fairly young ages that they would become engineers.
Aaron says, “Sometime in high school, I started working during the summers, and I liked it. It was the only job we ever had.”
Both Ed and Aaron worked other engineering jobs before settling down at the family business.
Ed worked at Simpson Engineers for two years after college, and then worked for another company in Issaquah, Washington, for a couple of years before coming back to Simpson Engineers in 2001. Aaron worked in Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas for a while before returning to Simpson Engineers in 2006.
Ed says, “I think we just liked the whole family aspect of it.”
Aaron has some old photos in his desk of him and Ed as children playing on a tractor with hard hats on and climbing around in ditches at the company’s job sites.
Chuck says that the earliest memory of working with his dad was at 12 years of age on a road project in Davenport, Washington. He would mark the road with chalk for the grading work that Clarence was performing.
“I thought I was really something,” Chuck says.
The focus on family, Ed says, has also shaped the brothers’ leadership styles.
“We treat this as just a big family operation,” Ed says. “That’s how we try to treat everyone. I think our employees reciprocate that as well.”
He says that turnover has always been low at Simpson Engineers.
All three agree that the most challenging time for the company was during the Great Recession. Chuck had to help fund the payroll just to be able to keep every employee, he says.
Ed adds, “That was not an easy time for any civil engineering firm.”
Ed and Aaron both say that they don’t have any plans for growth or expansion.
Aaron says, “Our goal is to always keep repeat clients and keep them happy.”
Aaron is 47 years old, and Ed is 50, so they say they have many years left in their careers. As for continuing the family legacy, they aren’t sure yet if any of their children will follow in their footsteps.
Aaron has 13-year-old twin daughters. “They think what I do is boring,” he says.
Ed says his daughter, who just finished her first year of college, doesn’t seem interested in engineering. He says it’s too early to tell with his 16-year-old son.
“He’s still got a lot to figure out, but he seems to like it around here,” Ed says.
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