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Congratulations, Joel, Mike H., and Cody!

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State College, PA - Recently, PennTerra Engineering promoted three team members in the Design Department. Congratulations and let’s take a few minutes to get to know them each a little better!

Joel Niemann, Senior Designer

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Originally from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Joel Niemann graduated from Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport with a degree in Computer Drafting Design after an elective course in high school piqued his interest in computer-aided drafting.

“I got into this line of work because I was always good at math, but then I took an elective in high school that was really cool. In the early 1990s, we had a state-of-the-art computer-aided drafting class where you could create a drawing and then actually watch the (computerized) pen draw your idea onto paper.”

After securing a job doing utility drawings for a local electronics company and meeting his future wife, Niemann had settled into Centre County.  When the company closed, he found his new work home with PennTerra Engineering in December of 2002.

“Civil was a new field to me, so I wasn’t sure at first, but the people that I work with and how everyone is so willing to help out – that’s what has kept me here 21 years later,” laughs Niemann.

Over the years, Niemann’s skills advanced and enabled him to work on a variety of projects, large and small, residential and commercial.

“Joel has worked on plans ranging from Sheetz convenience stores to residential subdivisions of over 100 lots and from downtown State College mixed-use student housing buildings to individual house site plans,” lists John Sepp, PE, President of PennTerra. “We can count on Joel’s experience to take on any type of project.”

“Right now, I’m working with Berks Homes on a lot of their residential projects and then on a commercial subdivision in Potter Township,” says Niemann.

“One of the hotels that I did was probably my biggest learning experience. When things don’t go according to the plan, that’s when you learn the most. That project taught me a lot about how to work with PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), contractors, wetlands, the cost of moving material, and how every project has a surprise – like an unearthed pallet of milk of magnesia bottles.”

As a Bellefonte resident, Niemann drives past many of the current and previous PennTerra projects that he’s worked on over the years.

After getting coffee at the Cheese Shoppe in downtown State College, Niemann drives past The Metropolitan on his way to PennTerra’s office.

“That was one of my first larger projects,” remembers Niemann. “I got to attend the client meetings and see things happen from start to finish.” 

The Metropolitan was the first high-rise, mixed-use building to be built in downtown State College that included student housing. Since then, Niemann has worked on several other mixed-use buildings like this, including The Edge and The Standard.

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With so many projects and lessons learned under his belt, Niemann enjoys training and assisting other Design Team members.

“I always try to explain the ‘why’ of something and not just give them a redline without an explanation,” Niemann notes. “I also try to design from practical, construction-minded, and aesthetic points of view. For example, a yard or bank that is too steep to mow might not be practical or might need to be landscaped.”

Outside of his design duties, Niemann is also the co-chair of PennTerra’s Outdoor Committee, which organizes outdoor-themed activities for employees to enjoy.

“I like to hike, trail run, and be out in the woods as much as I can,” smiles Niemann.

Niemann’s passion for design, teamwork, and the outdoors is an excellent addition to PennTerra’s team!


Mike Hagemeyer, Senior Designer

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Growing up in Mifflin County, Mike Hagemeyer watched his father excel at each job he took on, demonstrating the importance of effort, attention to detail, and applied learning.

“He’s a really intelligent person,” Hagemeyer nods.  “He can do anything he sets his mind to – just teaches himself.”

With this valuable foundation, Hagemeyer looked to continue his education after high school.

“In high school, I was good at art and drawing,” he recalls.

This led Hagemeyer to complete his degree in Architectural Technology at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

“I graduated on a Saturday and started at PennTerra on a Monday – Monday, May 17, 2004,” he remembers, taking pride in his work ethic and years with the company.

Thinking back to his initial time with PennTerra, Hagemeyer received training from some thoroughly seasoned team members.

“Rob [Kressler, Director of the Design Department] really worked with me and taught me a lot,” Hagemeyer says. “[John] Swanger used to work on a design in the morning and then hand it off to me to finish, polish up.”

Twenty years later, Hagemeyer has taken the design lead on numerous projects of all sizes and types.

One of his most rewarding projects was working on the First Quality Baby Products site in Mifflin County.

“The scale of the project was impressive,” remembers Hagemeyer. “It had to come together really quickly.”

“Mike puts a great deal of thought into his designs and takes pride in developing plans that are both cost effective, creative, and thorough,” says John Sepp, PE, President of PennTerra. “Mike brings this approach to every design, is always open to take on challenging projects, and will help others on their projects.”

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As a team player, Hagemeyer is equally dedicated to client satisfaction and helping his fellow co-workers. So, meeting tight deadlines for a client and helping another co-worker think through a solution is routine for him.

"Mike's many years of experience and attention to detail allow him to produce high quality, fully thought-out plans,” says Evan Heiser, Design Manager at PennTerra. “Mike is a team player who can always be relied on to give feedback or offer help to other designers."

These days, his recent projects have included a country club, hotel, auto dealership, and Arize Federal Credit Union’s new solar-powered headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.

Aside from his technical prowess, he is also a fully vested employee-owner. In 2023, he served for a year on the ESOP & Benefits Committee.

When he isn’t working diligently on a land development plan, you can find him racing go-karts with his son, Jake, attending a recital for his daughter, Saige, or taking his wife, Ashely, out hunting.

Cody Whitebread, Designer

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After graduating from Penn State in 2020 with a degree in Biological Engineering – Agricultural Engineering Focus, Cody Whitebread joined PennTerra Engineering’s Design Department during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a strange time to start a job,” Whitebread remembers. “I couldn’t even come into the office right away.”

With the isolation of the pandemic fading into history, Whitebread is taking full advantage of the social aspects of PennTerra’s company work culture.

“Probably my favorite part of working at PennTerra is the team-building that we do,” he says. “Going to [Penn State] hockey, volleyball, wrestling - those are really fun to do with your co-workers.”

Working alongside civil engineers, environmental engineers, and land surveyors in a firm of land development professionals, Whitebread’s inclination toward this type of work began at an early age.

“I grew up taking things apart, putting them back together, and wondering how things work,” he remembers. “Since ninth grade, I knew that I wanted to be some sort of engineer. We had an elective class that covered Revit, CAD, and Inventor – basically, anything you could imagine could be put onto paper.”

Now that Whitebread has realized his dream of working in an engineering firm, he enjoys seeing the fruits of his labor.

“Working here, I get to see everything that I work on be built,” he smiles. “When I drive past it, I know that I had something to do with that project.”

After working at PennTerra for four years, Whitebread has had the opportunity to see the multi-year land development process run its course a few times.

“A self-storage facility has been one of my most rewarding projects so far,” Whitebread states. “I was able to see that project from start to finish, from basemap to bids. I got to see how the whole project came together.”

"Cody has worked hard to expand his design skills and can work on a variety of projects,” notes Evan Heiser, PE, Design Manager at PennTerra. “He's always looking to learn from others and to improve his skills so that he can do even better with each successive project he takes on."

 Lately, Whitebread has been working on a mix of projects.

“A couple of local subdivisions, the Casa Bella project in Altoona for Jeff Long, Jake's Fireworks, and an auto dealership,” lists Whitebread.”

“Cody has really advanced in his design skills over the past year and is now working on large residential subdivision and land development designs,” says John Sepp, PE, President of PennTerra. “Cody brings a can-do attitude to new projects and we look forward to him continuing to progress in his abilities.”

As his technical skills progress, Whitebread is also working on his team-building skills. He serves as coach of the PennTerra Silt Sox co-ed softball team, is a member of the ESOP & Benefits Committee, and routinely represents the company at career fairs.

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“I am excited to take on this new role as designer and to continue to expand my knowledge in land development,” Whitebread says. “I am also looking forward to continuing my growth within PennTerra Engineering.”

So are we!

To learn more about our employee-owned firm of land development experts, headquartered in Happy Valley since 1976, please visit

Congratulations, Joel, Mike H., and Cody!
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Posted by Irene Wetzel on 05/03/2024