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An Employee-Owner Mindset

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Left to right: Jon Houser, Josh Parkes, Mike Hagemeyer, Cody Whitebread, Sandy Telegraphis, Evan Heiser, Irene Miller Wetzel, and John Sepp.

The members of this year’s Employee Ownership & Benefits Committee at PennTerra Engineering are excited to get to work!

“We have a dedicated group of committee members,” said John Sepp, P.E., President of the employee-owned civil engineering firm that is headquartered in State College, Pennsylvania. “Their ideas and initiatives will help to further improve our company – benefiting both the employee-owners and our clients.”

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During a typical workday, these co-workers are collaborating on local land development projects like the community healthcare center in Toftrees that Mount Nittany is building and the various student housing projects in downtown State College.  In a committee meeting, the focus shifts internally.

One of the ongoing challenges of being an employee-owned company is keeping employee-owners informed and knowledgeable about this unique benefit.

“As we learn the ins and outs of the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), we can more effectively pass along that information to our co-workers,” explained Sandy Telegraphis, Office and Human Resources Manager. “By helping others to understand the ESOP, we can be more successful as a company.”

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When the annual stock valuation is revealed, the hope of every employee-owner is that their shares have continued to increase in value. That is the personal, monetary reward. To achieve this goal, team members strive for excellent customer service, sound business practices, and a supportive work environment all year long.

“Everyone is motivated and willing to help one another,” Cody Whitebread, a member of the Design Team, elaborated. “As an employee-owner, everyone wants the company and all of our fellow employees to succeed.”

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Jon Houser, ASLA, IT & CAD Manager, sees the positive relationship between improving internal processes and providing both increased customer value and company value.

“I would like to work on the project workflow process to improve communication for the project team and overall efficiency,” Houser noted. “Improving the workflow process will help us to create better designs and bring them in under budget.”

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The committee will also provide feedback on employee benefits. This aspect is especially appealing to Mike Hagemeyer and Evan Heiser, P.E., two members of the Design Team.

“I'm looking forward to examining the company benefits and updating the company handbook,” said Heiser, a Design Manager.

“I volunteered for the ESOP Committee because I wanted to have an opportunity to positively contribute to the way the company operates,” Heiser continued. “I think employee ownership should give employees a feeling that they have a direct stake in how well we do and it should make them want to invest more into putting out the best work possible.”

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The committee’s efforts have a direct path to company leadership. The committee’s chair is also a part of the company’s Board of Directors – keeping an open flow of communication between the two. This year, that position is filled by Irene Miller Wetzel, Director of Business Development.

“Our firm is growing and we know that our team members are the reason for this,” Wetzel stated. “PennTerra’s team members provide both an excellent work product and a welcoming work environment, which is no coincidence. These two things are inextricably linked.”

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During work hours, team members are frequently found brainstorming on project particulars. After work, there is robust attendance at team outings to see the Spikes play or to socialize at JL Farm & Cidery.  Employee-ownership is certainly a through line.

“Being an employee-owner, I know that my benefits are directly affected by the effort that I put into my work,” summarized Josh Parkes, S.I.T., Survey Manager. “Every employee-owner wants the company to do well.”

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To learn more about PennTerra Engineering’s employee-owned team, or apply for open positions, please click here.

PennTerra is proud to be located in Pennsylvania, second only behind California in the number of employee-owned firms with headquarters inside its boundaries. To read more about employee-owned companies within Centre County, such as Restek, Avail Technologies, Ameron Construction, and Your Building Centers, please see this Town & Gown article by Karen Walker.

An Employee-Owner Mindset
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Posted by Irene Wetzel on 06/13/2023