Western Heritage offers opportunity for young engineerWritten by Saige Albert
“A corporate mer-ger closed the engineering firm I helped to start in Grand Junction, Colo.,” explains Altenburg. “When the owner of Water Engineering and Bio-Resource Consultants sold the parent company, the buyers opted to not continue the engineering division, so that gave me the opportunity to start my own firm.”
At that point, Altenburg and his wife Rikki made an agreement to purchase and finalize the contracts from Water Engineering, and they started their company.
“Those contracts gave us a start,” he says. “It expanded from there, and it has been a busy year.”
From the beginning
Altenburg received his degree in agricultural engineering from Texas A&M University after attending Colorado State University in chemical and bio-resource engineering. The Wellington, Colo. native worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for five years, starting in Texas before transferring to Grand Junction, Colo.
Following his transfer, Altenburg left the USDA and helped develop the design firm Water Engineering, where he worked until 2011 when he started his current business.
Working in ag engineering
“Simply, we design access and infrastructure for land and natural resources,” explains Altenburg, adding, “It includes a lot of irrigation and water resources work.”
Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering develops or improves land by designing and planning access roads, structures, utility distribution and water systems.
“We can plan a whole property, or we can come in as a sub-consultant and design the irrigation system, pipelines and dams,” Altenburg continues. “If it has to do with raw water or surface water, we can design it.”
“Water is the heartbeat of the West,” says Altenburg. “We make its use more efficient and more useable with our designs.”
Altenburg also mentions that they are involved in the process from start to finish, beginning with design and permitting through completion and documentation of projects.
“Our specialties are natural and water resources, agriculture, irrigation and dams,” comments Altenburg. “We also work on livestock and equestrian facilities.”
He plans facilities that function properly, from pen placement to drainage.
“We also work with wildlife and wildlife habitat,” he adds. “A lot of our clients have a farm or ranch that serves as recreational property as well. They enhance their land such that they can get benefit from wildlife as well.”
As a certified technical service provider for the NRCS, Altenburg also provides technical assistance to the agency in Wyoming and Colorado.
Rikki offers administrative and accounting work for Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering and helps review projects.
Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering works primarily in Wyoming and Colorado, where Altenburg is licensed as a professional civil engineer, but he works nationally as well.
“We have some projects going in southern California in the Imperial Valley,” says Altenburg. “Most of our work is in Wyoming and Colorado, though.”
With clientele that also operate internationally, Altenburg recognizes the potential for developing their firm beyond the borders of the U.S., adding, “We’ll take care of our clientele here before we get too busy internationally.”
While Western Heritage Consulting and Engineering currently operates outside Casper, Altenburg plans to expand the business by hiring an additional engineers and building an office. They are currently seeking to hire an engineer.
Not an easy start
With experience as an engineer behind him, Altenburg still notes that there are a number of challenges that crop up in the agricultural engineering field.
“Engineering is a heavily regulated field,” he says, adding that obtaining the proper permits, insurance and registrations can be difficult, especially working in multiple states.
He also mentions that building a reputation is challenging.
“In Colorado, I am well known in the civil and ag engineering field. Since moving to Wyoming, I am working to build the same reputation up here and make the same ties,” comments Altenburg, “but with hard work and dedication, you can do anything. If you put your mind to it, work hard and do good, honest work, you will have repeat clients, and the business grows over time.”
Altenburg realizes that building a business doesn’t happen overnight, and he has continued to establish contacts and provide service to his clients to establish his reputation in both Wyoming and Colorado.
“I grew up on a small cattle ranch, and I always thought there was a better way to do things – a better way to open a gate, build a fence or irrigate. So I took that and ran with it,” says Altenburg. “I enjoy ag engineering. It’s a diverse field that applies numerous aspects of engineering and still has ag roots. Agriculture is where I came from and where I want to stay.”