W.H. Porter Consultants treats engineering like art

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 12, 2013

You might not recognize it as such, yet every day in Shelby County thousands of people pass by, or over, the work of W.H. Porter Consultants PLLC.

William Porter (left) with partner Matt Bingham in W.H. Porter’s conference room.

(Photo: Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

The engineering consulting firm has been in business since 1946 when William Porter, then with the Corps of Engineers and having just returned from Italy after World War II, partnered with W.S. Pigott to found Pigott & Porter Engineers. Pigott retired 20 years later and Porter’s son, William “Butch” Porter, took over the business in 1980.

The long history certainly speaks to the quality work handled by Porter and his team of engineers, but it’s the work itself that underscores the success. Porter calls it a “boutique company” that concentrates in civil engineering and surveying specializing, in part, in transportation engineering for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The HOV lanes on Interstate 40 was a 9.5-mile project with five interchanges.

The I-240/I-40 flyover is impressive as well, rolling up from the asphalt like a tidal wave to move travelers seamlessly in all directions. But it may be the more subdued, picturesque Wolf River Boulevard extension that Porter takes the most pride in. His company furnishes design services to local municipalities and this included the engineering and environmental work on that bucolic road through Germantown. It was recently designated a Certified Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International.

From Audubon International’s website: “The roadway is the first roadway in the world to earn certification in the prestigious Audubon International Signature Program. The goal for the Wolf River Boulevard project team was to design and construct the roadway to limit the impacts to adjacent aquatic systems and wildlife habitat, as well as to promote wildlife habitat connectivity.”

To hear Porter talk about the work done with its challenges and rewards is to hear someone at the top of his game describe the creation of nothing less than a work of art. “We worked on that a long time, but we finally got a beautiful road out there,” he said.

It’s a business of details and the engineers must complete their due diligence when they move into any area for construction. On a recent job of a new 1,000-foot bridge over the Loosahatchie River at Raleigh-Millington Road for Memphis and Shelby County, they had to conduct studies on the endangered Indiana bat.

“We did find out a secret: if you don’t have any scaly-bark hickory trees, you don’t have any Indiana bats,” he said. “So that saved us about a year.” . . . (read more)