PORTAGE, WI – In today’s society, it’s not hard to locate engineering firms to conduct business with. In recent years, firms seem to have popped-up everywhere; however, it is extremely difficult to locate firms in the state of Wisconsin that have been in existence for 100 years and have continuously served some of the same clientele for over 50 years.

To endure a century, a firm must change and adapt its services and expertise to meet the ever evolving needs of clients. General Engineering Company (GEC) of Portage, Wisconsin understands just that. The century old firm, which was established in 1912 by H.V. Tennant, saw the rise and fall of many engineering consulting firms over the years. GEC understands the attributes that are necessary to meeting the needs of its clients, while distinguishing itself with superior customer service.

In 1912, the company originally began providing various surveying services to surrounding communities, as well as water supply, and agricultural-based engineering services such as farm drainage/tile systems. These types of services were enormously prominent in the early 1900’s because it opened up additional land for agricultural use throughout early farming communities.

“At this time in GEC’s history, rural Wisconsin was much more ‘rural’. Our expertise matched the demand for services by helping the agricultural community to expand its production base. Earthen dam and farm drain designs were an important facet of GEC’s work,” recalls General Engineering Company President Jerry Foellmi.

During the early 1920’s, automobiles became increasingly widespread throughout Wisconsin, and along with the use of automobiles, people soon began reporting more and more motor vehicle accidents. Mr. Tennant possessed the scientific engineering principles that were necessary to conduct vehicle accident studies and soon began assisting clients with the collection of evidence for accident cases. H.V. Tennant eventually mentored a young engineer in the company, Mr. Harold Vik. This service continued to be provided to clients for the next 50 years by Mr. Vik.

Also, in the early 1900’s, State and Federal Governments were looking into ways to control the flooding of major waterways. Much of the initial work involved mapping of floods and flood prone areas. The insurance industry was also in its infancy regarding national flood insurance programs at this point. GEC was very involved in collecting field data and establishing early flood maps to assist in this nation-wide effort.

Portage Levee circa 1912The City of Portage, circa 1912, is displayed above. During this time General Engineering Company first began offering various services to surrounding communities in the Portage area.

By the time the 1930’s hit, there were two milestones that had been reached. The first was the partnership between H.V. Tennant and Vernon S. Hamel. This was the first time GEC began operating as a partnership and it expanded GEC’s engineering presence in the area. The second involved the United States in a resilient fight against the Great Depression. Nonetheless, General Engineering Company held steadfast during this time and began offering another set of services to a growing service sector, municipalities. Today, Municipal Engineering still continues to hold a strong presence with the firm.

To help celebrate GEC’s 100 year anniversary, you can look for additional articles about the firm’s 100 years forthcoming throughout this year! GEC is also celebrating this notable occasion by hosting an Open House/Business After 5 event on Tuesday, May 8th from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. at its 916 Silver Lake Drive office location in Portage, WI.