BY CASEY MURPHY
Since starting out as a small engineering firm in Tyler 40 years ago, Estes, McClure & Associates has completed more than 4,000 projects for schools across Texas.
What became Estes, McClure & Associates Inc. (EMA) was started in 1974 by Jim Estes. James McClure later joined him in the company. The men worked as engineers for an aerospace company in Fort Worth before going out on their own.
Estes developed engine/aircraft design for engine compartment ventilation.
McClure became a recognized specialist in problem solving of issues with the F-111 aircraft. His work included designing the first ever fire/explosion sensing/suppression system for a weapons airborne laser aircraft.
Estes designed a solar energy collector to produce hot water from the sun’s energy. It was developed into a patent and the forming of Solar Systems Inc. in Tyler. Estes and McClure were shareholders and investors in the company, which eventually shut down as the market disappeared, according to “The Making of Estes, McClure & Associates,” written by McClure.
In 1974, Estes formed Estes and Associates in Tyler and began providing mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) services to architects and industry. In 1977, McClure started James D. McClure, P.E. & Associates in Arlington.
In 1983, Estes and Associates Inc. became EMA. McClure became an employee, moved to Tyler and shut down his other business. In 1985, McClure became a shareholder. Estes stepped down as president in 2000 and McClure took the helm. Estes continued as project manager and principle until he retired in 2005. McClure retired in 2011 and turned the reins over to Michel Clendenin, 40, who serves as the firm’s president and chief executive officer.
During the first years in the engineering consulting business, EMA remained small but after about a decade, began “taking off” consulting for commercial businesses, Clendenin said. EMA provides MEP engineering and consulting services, designs HVAC air conditioning systems, electrical infrastructure and internal plumbing systems for new buildings.
Their first school project included renovations and additions to John Tyler High School. Clendenin said nearly all of their work today is done with school districts, charter school systems and colleges.
For the first 20 years, EMA had fewer than a dozen employees and now has 57 workers in Tyler, as well as at a branch in Austin. Clendenin said a lot of the company’s growth is due to technology advancements in computers and software programs designed to be more efficient.
“We grew like crazy,” he said.
When he started doing draftsman work, drawing blue prints for engineers, in high school, Clendenin said it was still all done by hand. Now they construct the buildings as a true model on their computer before they build them in real life, he said.
Advances in printers also have been a huge boost to their productivity, he said. A thick set of drawings that once took all night to print now takes a couple of minutes.
“The design process, it probably was cut in half from 20 years ago because of the technology,” he said.
Stacy Sanders, 29, marketing coordinator for EMA, said the company has completed more than 4,000 projects for 590, or more than half, of the school districts in Texas.
Clendenin said they range from small renovations for a few thousand dollars to brand new high schools worth a $100 million.
Recent local school projects include Tyler’s Boulter and Moore middle schools, Dixie and Rice elementary schools and its Career & Technology Education Center.
A project like the Career & Technology Education Center takes about five people and three months to design. They also are involved with the construction process.
The firm also has worked on several projects in Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, as well as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Virginia.
Their largest project was the Duncanville High School. The existing 50-year-old high school, which was 11 separate buildings, was renovated, adapted and expanded into a new 884,479-square-foot high school. When completed, it was among the top five largest high schools in the nation.
Clendenin said during the design, a lot of coordination goes on with architects. While the architects know how they want a project to look, he said they know how it has to work. “It’s a give-and-take-process as a team,” he said.
He said they also work directly with school districts, providing energy consulting, technology upgrades and renovations.
A new service EMA added in the past five years is commissioning.
After a building is constructed, they hire EMA to test everything, find the bugs and fix them before they move in, Clendenin said, adding that making it more efficient can save the client quite a bit of money.
The firm also can do retro-commissioning, testing a building’s systems after five to 10 years to make recommendations to improve energy efficiencies.
Clendenin, 40, grew up in Tyler and began working at EMA in 1994 while attending Tyler Junior College. When The University of Tyler started its engineering program, he was in the first class. He continued to work as a project manager through college and graduated in 1999. He became a licensed engineer in 2003.
He said EMA tries to hire most of its employees from the area and out of 20 licensed engineers, 13 are UT Tyler graduates. He said licensed engineers do the majority of the work, which improves their quality, technical expertise and allows them to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies.
EMA plans to grow its services in Houston and Austin, where it has sales and project management offices. Growth in Tyler, where its main production is, will be to support the growth in other cities, he said.
There are 14 shareholders of the company, with three majority shareholders and managing partners. They include Clendenin, Gary Bristow, engineer; and Jimmie Taylor, certified public accountant. Bristow joined EMA in 1985 and serves as senior vice president and Taylor became chief financial officer of the company in 2005.
EMA has several events planned to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Clendenin said the main objectives of the events are to give back to their clients, continue to build their brand name and to thank their employees.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here for 40 years,” he said.
EMA is having its 40th birthday party lunch today. To kick off its anniversary, the company is holding a drawing for a stay at the Gaylord Resort in Grapevine.
EMA is adopting a class at Dixie Elementary and will volunteer one hour per week to tutor students or assist with any classroom supplies. EMA also is working with Dallas ISD’s Education Foundation to provide 40 backpacks for 40 children.
Throughout the year, the company also is giving back to its employees and clients by giving away gift cards through random drawings. It also sponsored lunch for the 68th Annual Texas Association of School Business Officials conference in February.