A Colorado-based engineering venture may be filling the void left by the shuttering of Lauren Engineers &Constructors.
Colorado-based Samuel Engineering Inc. is renovating the former Abilene National Bank building at North First and Willis streets to serve as offices for itself and its sister company, Samuel EPC Inc. EPC stands for engineering, procurement and construction.
Riddled with bad energy-related loans, ANB was closed by federal regulators in August 1982 and its assets sold to Mercantile Texas Corp. Banks, businesses and nonprofits sporadically have called the location home since then.
The Samuel companies have common private ownership, said Randy Barbee, director of business development. The Hawley native and former Lauren employee joined the new venture when it expanded its Texas operations last year with the opening of offices in Abilene and Tyler.
Samuel Engineering provides multi-disciplinary engineering and design services nationally and worldwide for multiple heavy industries, including mining and minerals, oil and gas, solar and utilities.
The move to Texas allows the firm to better serve the energy sector, especially midstream services and operations in the Permian Basin, Barbee said.
“They had been looking for something in Texas for quite some time and wanting to get into the direct-hire business where they actually hire construction workers versus using subcontractors,” Barbee said.
Fabrication and construction is the specialty of Samuel EPC, which currently is leasing space at the former 35-acre Lauren Engineers & Constructors production facility at South Treadaway Boulevard and South 18th Street.
Lauren Engineers and Constructors filed bankruptcy in April 2021, and its assets were sold at auction two months later. The moves followed the death of company founder and CEO Charles “Cleve” Whitener in a light plane crash that killed two others in February 2020.
A family business
Samuel Engineering is a minority woman-owned business headed by CEO Claudia Samuel, who started the firm in 1996 in Denver. Husband Everod Samuel is president.
“She started working out of her home, raising children and she’s an electrical engineer,” Barbee said.
Within four years, the company employed 16 people, according to its website.
Steady growth continued in the 2000s, with the move to an office building, addition of architectural services and inclusion in the “Inc. 500” list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S.
A Wyoming office was added in 2011, and employment surpassed 100.
In 2013, the company was voted among the top workplaces by The Denver Post newspaper. It earned the award again in 2021.
The company’s 20th anniversary was marked with the purchase of its leased building.
By 2018, Samuel Engineering had completed thousands of projects worldwide and employed more than 200 people.
“Samuel is a debt-free company. They were able to maintain all of their employees during COVID, and actually grew,” Barbee said.
Services in Abilene
In Abilene, Samuel EPC employs about 110 people, while about another 20 work for Samuel Engineering, Barbee said. The engineering staff has been working from home or in offices at the fabrication facility.
The company anticipates opening the new North First Street offices in a couple of weeks. Renovation work began in August and was valued at $1.2 million, according to city permit records.
“We pretty much completely gutted this building,” Barbee said while standing inside the front area.
Some architectural features remain, such as the stone columns along the front windows. The night-deposit vault embedded in the stone column by the front door is intact, as is the vault at the back of the building.
The west-side drive-thru lanes will be turned into parking.
Chase Bank continues to operate a drive-thru ATM on the other side of the building.
At the fabrication site, Samuel EPC builds large piping and other industrial modules that can weigh up to 280,000 pounds and be as large as 18 feet wide, 14 feet tall and 80 feet long. The modules are shipped via semi-tractor-trailers.
“We’ve got quite a number of projects in the fabrication shop. We’re starting to land more construction and engineering projects that are specific to this location,” Barbee said.
Some of those projects are related to recycling in Nevada and oil and gas operations in New Mexico, he said.
“We’re currently chasing some renewable energy,” Barbee said. “… We don’t try to pigeonhole ourselves into any market.”
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.