HOUGHTON - Tracie Williams has a lot to be excited about. While so many companies in Michigan have cut jobs or even closed completely, her business is actually bringing work from other states into Michigan.
Williams is the manager of a 20-person architectural and engineering office in Houghton that until this month was known as Hitch.
A Look Back
Photos courtesy of OHM
Above shows the staff of OHM’s Houghton office branch. A new sign outside the office marks the change to OHM.
Hitch started in Houghton in 1978 as an engineering firm, founded by Robert Hitch, a professional engineer and surveyor with a background in construction and civil engineering. Over the next 25 years, Hitch grew his namesake company to provide planning, architecture and engineering design services to clients across the upper Midwest.
In 2006, OHM, an engineering advisory firm headquartered in Livonia, Mich., acquired a majority stake in Hitch.
Hitch officially became Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. (OHM) on Sept. 1.
"We recognized that using the same name will make it easier for our clients and our staff members. It's simple - one company, one name," explained Williams.
Gerald Peterson, City Manager of Negaunee, sees the partnership as a good thing for the former Hitch. The city has used the Hitch/OHM team on five projects in recent years.
"Since becoming part of OHM, I've noticed a different level of professionalism and greater depth of capabilities. Combining that expertise with the local presence is key for us," Peterson said. "What really appeals to me is OHM's mission and public service orientation. The firm and its representatives really do seem to live it, to strive to do the right things for the communities they work in."
Since its founding in 1962, OHM has been committed to advising government and other public organizations on infrastructure issues. The company mission is "Advancing Communities."
One of the shared passions of the former Hitch and OHM is securing funding for community projects through grants and low-interest government loans. OHM teamed with the City of Hancock to secure $8.2 million in low-interest loans/grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program for water improvements and sewer upgrades in the city.
Now Engineers and Architects
Williams, a licensed professional mechanical engineer, is also familiar with educational funding programs and frequently works with school districts to secure funding for new facilities, additions and renovations. As Hitch, the company worked on more than 200 projects in 50 school systems in the state.
Currently, the team is designing major additions and renovations at two local schools: Lake Linden-Hubbell Public Schools in Lake Linden and Hancock Public Schools in Hancock.
John Hiltz, great nephew of the founding Hiltz and president of OHM, credits Williams with OHM's successful move into architectural services.
"Tracie's responsible for OHM's growth from a civil engineering consulting firm to a legitimate player in the Engineering/Architecture arena," Hiltz said. "We've gone from $0 to $30 million in architectural projects under construction."
One of the biggest projects to date is the result of OHM's multi-state offices combined with Hitch's architectural strength.
Architects, engineers and technicians in Houghton are designing 51,000 square feet - six new buildings and two additions to existing buildings for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Ft. Campbell, Ky.
"By joining forces, we've been able to bring work to people right here in the Copper Country," Williams said proudly. "That's a great feeling."
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