Bob Edmunds says civil engineers tend to be shy people too hard at work to talk about projects that often go unnoticed or are misunderstood, but it is that work, Edmunds adds, that makes civilization possible.
Jones Edmunds has been doing its part for 40 years on projects in transportation, the environment, solid waste, water, utilities and construction for clients in industry and governments from local to federal.
The Gainesville company’s work has provided the water that cooled the launch pad during space shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center and cools nuclear submarines at Charleston Naval Shipyard. Closer to home, it has worked with Gainesville Regional Utilities to treat waste at the Kanapaha Water Reclamation Facility and the ongoing project to reduce nutrients and restore the hydrology of Sweetwater Branch and Paynes Prairie.
From its founding in May 1974, Jones Edmunds has grown to more than 150 employees in six offices around the state, including more than 50 at its Gainesville headquarters on Waldo Road.
Dick Jones, one of the founders of Environmental Science and Engineering, started the company with co-worker Larry Olson following ESE’s acquisition. Edmunds joined in 1975 after serving as manager of plant design for Black, Crow and Eidsness, which became the environmental engineering arm of CH2M Hill.
Jones’ background is in the chemical and biological process of water and industrial waste streams while Edmunds’ expertise is in designing pipelines, pumping stations and treatment plants.
“We used to joke that together we made one good engineer because he could do the process side and I could do the rest of it,” Edmunds said.
The firm’s early clients were mostly industrial companies, including about half of the citrus processing firms in the state. Jones Edmunds would expand into city and county work, including water and wastewater projects, and today its clients include about half the counties in Florida, dozens of cities, as well as state and federal agencies, Edmunds said.
The company gradually expanded services over the years to address client needs and brought on engineers with new expertise.
Jones Edmunds started working for NASA in 1992 on an industrial waste project, which grew into a continuing contract that now involves upgrading the space center to handle heavier rockets.
The company gets many of its employees from the University of Florida and University of Central Florida engineering programs, and teaches additional technical, business and management skills through its Jones Edmunds University.
“Dick and I have always felt that we could be in different roles very easily and the people that work for us we could be working for, so we’ve always tried to treat people that way, and we have tremendous regard for the people in this firm,” Edmunds said.
Jones, 75, and Edmunds, 72, serve as the board of directors after turning over daily operations to Rick Ferreira in 2011.
Jones described his ongoing role as quasi-active.
“I’m the guy that says yes and no,” he said. “You better have the right yes and no or you don’t stay in business 40 years.”
Ferreira started with the company as a project manager at its Jacksonville office in 1999 and was named chief operating officer in 2004 before his promotion to president and CEO.
“They’re phenomenal people first,” Ferreira said of the founders. “Both are world-class engineers. Their skills are certainly what the company is able to move forward on. They’re wonderful role models and mentors for us in terms of culture and how to do business in a positive way.”