Friday, October 1, 2010

Stantec to close North Springfield operation

Stantec Inc., an engineering and consulting firm that purchased Springfield’s Dufresne-Henry Inc. four years ago, has announced it is closing its office and relocating most of its employees to other locations. Published October 1, 2010 in the Rutland Herald          Stantec to close North Springfield operation          By Susan Smallheer Staff Writer          NORTH SPRINGFIELD — Stantec Inc., an engineering and consulting firm that purchased Springfield’s Dufresne-Henry Inc. four years ago, has announced it is closing its office and relocating most of its employees to other locations.          Stephen Plunkard, principal of Stantec, said the North Springfield office had been losing money for more than a year.          Plunkard, a former longtime employee of Dufresne-Henry Inc., said it was a difficult but inevitable decision.          “This has not been an easy decision for us. We have been struggling for a year, losing money and trying to make it work. Finally, we said, ‘this is crazy,’” he said.          Plunkard said it was extremely difficult to attract young engineers to live in the Springfield area, with young employees seeking more of an urban or suburban location.          “Springfield is a great town, but we have had trouble convincing other people of it,” said Plunkard, a landscape architect who left Dufresne-Henry in the 1980s to start the Cavendish Partnership, and returned to Dufresne-Henry in 1998 when the two firms merged.          Plunkard said the North Springfield office has about 30 employees and most of them have been offered jobs in either the Burlington Stantec office or an office in Northampton, Mass.          He said there would probably be some layoffs, mostly in the administrative staff.          Plunkard said Stantec, a Canadian firm based in Edmonton, has more than 130 offices and 10,000 employees. It is the second-largest consulting firm in Canada, he said.          He said he would continue with the firm, dividing his time from his home in Cavendish and the Burlington office.          The Burlington office, which has 40 employees, has no trouble attracting employees, he said. “Burlington is rated one of the top 10 places to live and they have no trouble attracting people,” he said.          Alison Smith, a spokeswoman for Stantec, said the company expects to close the North Springfield office by Dec. 15.          The actual offices in North Springfield have been for sale for more than a year, Plunkard said, noting that Stantec does not usually own its office space.          The closing of the engineering firm is another blow to the Springfield area.          Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., said his first thought was to the firm’s employees, and he said he understood that most of the employees would have a chance to continue with the company — albeit in a new location.          But Flint said the firm’s closing was particularly sad since Dufresne-Henry, which once had offices all over New England, including six in Vermont, was founded by two Springfield engineers, Robert Dufresne and Walter Henry 56 years ago.          Flint said Stantec’s decision based on inability to recruit new employees is something he’s heard more than once.          “It was a challenge under Dufresne-Henry and it’s not the only company that has had that challenge,” he said.          “That ties into so many things, the social infrastructure, the quality of life. We have great technology, a great hospital, we have good schools in the area ... all these things intertwine,” Flint said. 

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