Mike Travis and Larry Peterson have two things in common: a sense of adventure and an entrepreneurial spirit. These are prerequisites when your mission is to transport time- and temperature-sensitive materials from all parts of Alaska to big-city laboratories. Oh yeah — potentially contaminated materials.
They’re prepared and willing to use whatever it takes — boats, snow machines, vehicles, airplanes — to get the samples delivered successfully. The Travis-Peterson duo know the fate of their customers’ projects depends on it. The chances for failure are great, and the window for success is narrow. They pride themselves on “threading the needle” to success.
Both Travis and Peterson are Alaskans by choice and graduates of the University of Alaska Fairbanks with backgrounds in engineering and earth and environmental sciences. Working in the environmental services field for a variety of large corporations brought them to the realization that large contractors are limited in their ability to provide such services to smaller companies, and they saw the potential for a smaller, locally minded environmental services firm.
“Large corporations have high overhead costs that require pursuing big federal and state contracts,” co-founder Mike Travis said. “We identified the need for an environmental services company that could nimbly provide cost-effective services to small businesses, miners, contractors, tribes and Native corporations.”
The pair joined forces in 1998 to form Travis/Peterson Environmental Consulting Inc. Today, TPECI specializes in working with smaller construction firms to help them secure environmental permits and maintain compliance. Permits include wetland permitting, storm water management, spill prevention, hazardous materials management, spill response and contaminated site remediation. They also perform environmental site assessments and provide documentation to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act.
“With our offices in Fairbanks and Anchorage, we can quickly access most parts of Alaska. Many of our customers only require a specific permit or remedial services. We pride ourselves on our ability to quickly solve their problem and get them back to work,” Travis said.
To accomplish this mission, TPECI employs eight full-time year-round employees including biologists, engineers, geologists and environmental scientists. It operates across the state in both rural and urban environments, from Ketchikan to Barrow, Adak to Kotzebue, and points in between. “We have supported construction companies along the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay and down the Alaska and Richardson highways,” Travis added.
Like all companies that bridge the rural-urban divide in Alaska, TPECI recognizes the unique challenges in the state. Travis said No. 1 among them is logistics.
“Safely getting our people to and from very remote sites is a huge challenge,” he said. “Many times, our people have to carefully transport environmental samples of contaminated materials to Anchorage and Fairbanks while keeping the materials within tight temperature requirements and laboratory holding times.
“Transportation is expensive, and usually our client’s fate is determined by the condition of our samples. We only have one chance to do this right and can’t screw it up; we are immensely proud of the herculean job our people do to protect their samples and get the job done right the first time.”
A commitment to providing excellent environmental services to many different clients across the state has paid off over the two decades that TPECI has been doing business in Alaska. One longtime customer, Anchorage-based residential builder John Hagmeier, owner of John Hagmeier Homes LLC, said he has contracted with TPECI often, and enthusiastically recommends its services to others.
“Mike and company executed the most knowledgeable and professional service available and within the required timeframe,” he said. “We have worked with them on wetlands and subdivisions, and I personally hired them for an environmental cleanup on a piece of family property in Juneau. I recommend them as a contractor to anyone requiring environmental services.”
Since its inception, TPECI has been an active member of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska and fully recognizes the benefits of AGC membership.
“Our relationship with AGC has been good for our company,” Travis said. “We value the networking, training and group advocacy. On more than one occasion AGC has interceded on our behalf with commissioners of state agencies and helped us develop cost-effective solutions for contractors.”
TPECI has done its part to give back to the organization as well, writing position papers on behalf of AGC regarding proposed environmental regulations and providing other member companies with contractor training — especially storm water management.
Like many Alaska small businesses, TPECI has been hit by the state recession triggered by the oil price collapse. As a result, the company was forced to shrink its full-time workforce by about 30 percent. Nevertheless, Travis is encouraged about prospects for the future and pleased to be expanding his seasonal workforce to meet the needs of the busy summertime construction season.
“We believe the future in Alaska is good for our company and the services that we provide,” he said. “As environmental regulation becomes increasingly more complex and restrictive, contractors will continue to need our help to remain in compliance. We are proud to provide the best service possible to benefit our customers and maintain the environmental quality of the great state we all call home.”
Susanna Orr is a freelance writer who lives in Anchorage.