Barr Engineering still going strong

Luke Heaton, Senior Civil Engineer and office Coordinator, Joe Vespa, Senior Electrical Engineer and Barr Engineering Vice President and Jon Minne Senior Civil Engineer look over a set of plans in the Barr Engineering Hibbing office.

HIBBING — Customer service is the name of the game for Barr Engineering, an engineering and consulting firm with strong ties to Minnesota including an extremely successful branch in Hibbing.

Lisa Klaphake, senior communications specialist at the Hibbing office, said the personal touch offered by the local branch’s 78 full-and part-time employees and interns is the key to Barr’s success and longevity on the Iron Range

We are appreciative of the trust our mining clients have placed in us, and we’re looking forward to our futures together,” added Senior Civil Engineer Jon Minne.

Barr Engineering had established a solid history in Minnesota and nationally before taking up residency in Hibbing in the mid-1990s.

The company can trace its roots to the early 1950s when Doug Barr first contacted Adolph Meyer, a renowned hydraulic engineer, about the prospect of work in Minnesota.

According to a history posted on the firm’s web site, working with Meyer, Doug’s early projects involved hydraulic engineering and hydrology.

One of those was the Nebraska Mid-State Irrigation Project, which involved designing 23 reservoirs, four hydropower plants, flood-control channels and dams, and irrigation delivery systems for a 500,000-acre area.

Other early projects were at sites where Barr continues to work today and for clients with whom we have worked for decades.

By 1960, Doug Barr was established as a one-person firm and ready to take on his first employee, John Dickson, who stayed until his retirement in 1997. These early years saw continued growth of Barr’s business with mining clients on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, as well as expansion of our services in the areas of structural and geotechnical engineering.

Barr’s growth led to its incorporation as an employee-owned firm in May 1966. Officially named Barr Engineering Co., it had 16 employees. Several are still with Barr, including senior engineer Len Kremer and Al Gebhard, who succeeded Doug Barr as the company’s president in 1985 and served until 1999.

Doug Connell was named Barr’s president and CEO in 2000, and John Lee became Barr’s current president and CEO in 2013.

Today Barr engineering provides engineering and environmental consulting services to clients across the Midwest, throughout the Americas, and around the world.

The company boasts 750 engineers, scientists, and technical specialists that can “help clients develop, manage, process, and restore natural resources.”

The firm is headquartered in Minneapolis, but has offices in Duluth and Hibbing; Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Jefferson City, Missouri; Bismarck, North Dakota; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Klaphake said Barr established a presence on Minnesota’s Iron Range in 1994 by acquiring A. W. Mathews Engineering Co., a fixture in Hibbing since 1952.

“The mechanical, structural, civil, metallurgical, and electrical engineers of AWMECO brought to Barr expertise in areas such as the design of bulk-materials handling and processing systems, emissions-control systems, and taconite pellet plants – and a solid reputation with clients on the Iron Range for excellence and service,” she said.

According to Klaphake, the company offers integrated engineering and environmental services to help clients develop, manage, process, and restore natural resources, including assessment and remediation services for managing contaminated sites; environmental management services for complying with applicable regulations; engineering and design services for development of new concepts, design and construction of new facilities, and modifications to existing facilities; and water resources services for management, protection, and restoration.

“Barr’s project teams work with clients in industries such as mining, power, refining, and manufacturing, as well as with attorneys, government agencies, natural-resource-management organizations and others with complex problems,” she said. “Over the years, Barr has provided engineering and environmental services to every mining operation in Minnesota and many other ferrous and non-ferrous operations across the U.S. and Canada and around the world.”

Klaphake said Barr offers clients a single source for the full range of technical and regulatory services needed to take mining projects from conceptual studies and environmental assessments through facility design, construction, operations, and closure.

“We can help assess process, operations, and systems challenges; explore options for economical solutions; and identify improvements based on current requirements and future needs,” Klaphake said.

Some recent projects Barr has worked on for ferrous and nonferrous clients include engineering design of in-pit crushing systems, facility rebuilds, re-capitalizing old infrastructure at crushing/screening mineral processing facilities, dust collection system upgrades, and process improvements as well as tailings basin management and environmental permitting support.

And officials at the firm believe the future looks very bright for the mining industry.

“With advances in technology to extract taconite from lower-grade ore, we expect the mines on the Iron Range to continue to thrive for a long time,” Klaphake said. “The need for engineering services to retrofit the new equipment into existing facilities should provide ample work for Barr and other firms, as well as work related to maintaining and updating aging facilities and infrastructure, updating facilities for greater efficiency, and meeting increasingly stringent environmental standards.”

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