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Using Data to Decide on Space

Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI), first opened its doors as a civil engineering and surveying firm in Fargo, North Dakota, back in 1968. Since that time, the company has expanded its capabilities, staff and geographical locations. Today, HEI provides a full range of civil engineering, environmental, planning, and technological consulting solutions for clients across the United States.

HEI’s Maple Grove office was originally located in a single-story business center. As the office grew, it added space at that location until one day, its L-shaped layout was no longer efficient nor able to address the future growth. With nearly 50 employees commuting from areas across the metro and beyond, office space and parking space was at capacity and a limiting factor. With the lease coming due in the near-term, it was time to find a new location.

How It All Started
Cory Miller from Ackerberg had first called Bart Schultz, Office Manager for the Maple Grove location, in March of 2011. At that time Bart was able to add space and was satisfied with the location. Yet, the relationship continued to develop over the years between Bart and Cory.In the fall of 2017, Bart contacted Cory and indicated that the current office was not going to meet the company’s needs. He was ready to start looking, but a new space would have to fulfill three requirements:

  1. The company needed space to accommodate more employees to support growth. The current space was about 12,000 square feet and needed to be about 16,000 square feet.
  2. The new location had to be in Maple Grove, or the near vicinity, to maintain staff commute times and maintain proximity to a key client.
  3. The new space had to have an updated, and modern look, to attract new talent.

The Original Floor Plan

Searching for A New Space
The site search was in a small area of the metro and – with Cory’s help – two great locations were identified.

  • One location included a building update plus the addition of a workout room with showers, outdoor seating, a common area break room, and a once-a-week scheduled food trucks at lunchtime.
  • The second location was closer to the existing office thereby a similar commute for employees, closer vicinity to a key client, easier access and more visibility to the public.
  • Both locations had a more efficient square shape to the office layout and offered an opportunity to update the office image.
  • Both locations offered high ceilings, office space that was open with a lot of natural light, some re-useable build out, and a breakroom and training room that can function together as one or be separate.

Given the number of options to evaluate for each building, Cory recommended that HEI consider using a selection criteria chart methodology to help determine which building would best meet their needs.

HEI had a team of six employees from various functions within the company working on the selection process. The team members created a list of key criteria that were important to the company. When selecting a new location, they ranked the criteria accordingly, and being  an engineering company, they analyzed and charted the results.

Using the Data
The team ranked each building per the selection criteria in both a raw score and weighted score method. The rankings were totaled and the winning location had a slightly better percentage than the competing property. In the end, HEI selected a very good fit to meet their needs. The new property provided HEI several key upgrades:
  1. Large bay of open cubicles with the industrial office look including the painted open structural ceiling and new lighting
  2. Private offices were moved to the interior space allowing the natural light to flow into the open office space giving a spacious look and feel
  3. More collaborative impromptu meeting spaces for small employee meetings
  4. A wellness room
  5. Phone rooms for employees
  6. A larger updated break room next to the large training room. The training room has two large barn doors that can open and connect the two spaces when needed.
  7. A larger conference room and two smaller conference rooms near the entrance for visitor and customer meetings
  8. Expansion space to support growth for the next 10 years
  9. New office furniture to compliment the high ceilings and open concept
  10. New color logo signage on the building for more visibility to the public
  11. The office space finishes create a real “wow” factor and provides an atmosphere for today’s workplace where the space itself serves as a factor in employee hiring and retention

The New Floor Plan

Looking Towards the Future

Bart and the selection team succeeded in finding office space that creates a lasting impact to attract new talent, has a professional look, and meets the needs of a growing company. Cory’s persistence of staying in contact with Bart over seven years, resulted in an opportunity to help Bart and the selection team find and create a space that is truly beneficial.

“Working with a team to select the right business space is the trend today,” says Cory in retrospect. “HEI invested a lot of time planning for the relocation, and did it right, so the outcome proved to be well worth the time. The search process started early as the market for this type of space is very active. Bart’s forward-thinking and inclusion of a team resulted in securing the right space to achieve the company’s long-term objectives for the future.”

HEI staff are happy with the company’s new space. Bart explains, “The staff appreciates their space with modern features such as tall ceilings for a spacious feel, wi-fi in open and collaborative work areas, new technology to make their tasks easier and plenty of natural light as it energizes the staff.”

HEI is very appreciative for Cory’s efforts and support through a very involved process. There were a lot of variables in this process and the company relied on its own data and expertise to guide them to the right decisions.

Cory J. Miller, CCIM  |  |  612-924-6509

My focus is the small to mid-sized companies who need help with real estate leasing, marketing, investing or who just have a question about an office or industrial property. They receive sound solutions, workable strategies and a positive memorable experience. This level of service has 70% of my business now generated as repeat or referral based business. You can become one of my clients who experiences honesty, integrity and value, when you utilize my services.


















Danielle Gamble
Posted April 4, 2019

A person does not have to be behind bars to be a prisoner. People can be prisoners of their own concepts and ideas. They can be slaves to their own selves.