Engineering firm seeks foothold
It was during Josh Weaber's fourth Creation Festival in Mt. Union when he decided he wanted to start a company that provided quality engineering to everybody while remaining a faith-based company and providing discounts to the faith community.
And so Chrisland Engineering was born. The name comes from the names of his two sons, 11-year-old Christian and 8-year-old Landon. When combined, the firm’s name means “Christ’s land.”
Weaber’s Christian faith is strong, as is his interest in civil engineering.
A graduate of Cedar Crest High School, he went to Villanova University, where he earned his civil engineering degree. He worked for his father’s family business, Miles T. Weaber & Son, until 2003, then for Steckbeck Engineering and Surveying in Lebanon until January. That’s when his wife told him there would “never be a perfect time to start a company. You just have to do it and have faith,” he said.
On Jan. 30 Chrisland Engineering opened its doors. Weaber recently landed a contract as the municipal engineer for West Lebanon Township, and has a few other prospects in the pipeline. As the company’s only employee to date, Weaber will rely on third parties to handle tasks like delineating wetlands and developing traffic surveys.
The relationships he built over the years working for family and Steckbeck, as well as his membership in the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, are helping him make contacts and build trust.
From the beginning, Weaber knew that he wanted to offer a discount to Christian churches and nonprofits, because he knows their margins are tight. He said the land-planning portion of a project can eat up a large chunk of the budget, while providing no physical improvements. The reduced fees he offers, 25 percent to 35 percent off the total cost, are designed to allow the organization’s money to be spent directly on the new church, addition, or other improvementa they are making.
The approach appeals to Bishop Richard Mininger of the Harrisburg District of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
He oversees four churches in the greater Harrisburg area. He said, “Most churches want to use their funds to help people, not develop infrastructure.” While his churches do not have any immediate need for an engineer, he said “the discount is certainly attractive” for future consideration.
One organization with a real need for an engineer is the New City School in Harrisburg. The Christian elementary school is housed in the Second City Church on Verbeke Street. Andy Phillips, executive director of the school, said that within the next three to five years it hopes to knock down walls to expand classroom space and redo the bathrooms. Both projects will require city permits and an engineer.
When asked if he would consider hiring an engineering firm that espouses Christian values, he said, “Quality and value, of course, are the most important considerations, but if those things are equal, a firm with Christian values would resonate.”
Advertising a discount to Christian churches and nonprofits is rather unique for an engineering firm. Weaber is not aware of any other firms that directly offer them, although some specialize in church construction. Other engineering firms in Central Pennsylvania said they give back in other ways.
“We view it as part of our professional duty as engineers to support the communities where we live and work,” said Jim Rodgers, director of marketing for Dawood Engineering Inc. in Hampden Township, Cumberland County. “Being a profitable, successful business allows us to do that with monetary support. But we also do that through pro-bono work for community organizations, like we recently did for the Hampden Township Veterans Recognition Committee for their new memorial park.”
Chrisland Engineering is just starting, but Weaber hopes to develop a nonprofit arm that can work directly with churches to create funding opportunities to offset the engineering fees even more. By the end of 2017, he hopes to have at least one other engineer or draftsman on board. Within five years, he would love to have five to 10 employees located in one or more branches of the firm and to expand its geographic reach beyond Central Pennsylvania.
That vision seems realistic. According to Rodgers, “New development projects in the nonprofit sector are reflective of the overall climate of development, which we see as increasing across Pennsylvania.”