Fred McMichael, McMichael Land Surveying

430 F.M. 306
New Braunfels, TX 78130
(830) 832-6259
Visit Fred McMichael's Website



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Veteran surveyor Fred L. McMichael, R.P.L.S., felt the timing was right to form his own firm, McMichael Land Surveying. The New Braunfels-based surveyor and father of six, who has honed his skills for over two decades working for local firms, has been holding his own since the company opened its doors in August 2003. San Antonio Construction News spoke with Fred to discuss the 25-year professional journey that brought him to this turning point.

Impatient with high school and eager to move forward, Fred requested and was granted permission to begin civil engineering studies at Texas State Technical Institute, Waco, TX, in lieu of his senior year in high school.

“TSTI is a school where the professors are people who were practitioners in their respective fields before turning to the classroom,” Fred explained. “I valued their practical perspectives. As a good math student who liked to be both inside and outdoors, surveying was a good match for my natural tendencies and gifts.”

After graduating in February 1975, Fred endured three months working offshore for a large Louisiana-based firm before opting for a job on dry land in west Texas, working for a small surveying company, W.H. Roome Surveying Co., in Ft. Stockton.

“It was oil field pipeline work,” he continued, “which was a bit boring compared to the offshore experience, but I enjoyed it. I applied myself to the tasks at hand and married my sweetheart. After one year, I was assigned a job on a 9,000-acre ranch in the Davis Mountains near the McDonald Observatory. I gained valuable experience, enjoyed the autonomy and considered it a mountainous training ground as I hiked and carried my equipment all over the ranch.”

After two years, Fred and his bride moved to New Braunfels, where he worked for engineer Ed Ford’s new company, Comprehensive Design. He remained there for two years.

“During that time,” Fred added, “Ed encouraged me to apply and take the test for my surveyors license. Because of its educational reputation, the testing board applied my school time at TSTI as credit toward my work-in-responsible-charge experience. I became a licensed surveyor at age 24.”


Fred spent the next 12 years working for Seguin-based H.S. Bettersworth & Associates, where he gained more practical experience and worked on a wide variety of jobs. While he liked his work very much, the company’s structure precluded further advancement and Fred’s head was turned one day when he received a call from his friend Ed Ford, now the owner of Ford Engineering.


“He approached me with an opportunity to spearhead and revive his survey department, which was abandoned when I left Ed’s employment the first time around,” he said. “We had remained in touch over the years, and I was glad to go back to work for Ed. Over the next twelve years I developed the department, which staffed up to three full survey crews.”


Time devoted to his management duties far surpassed his time in the field, which Fred missed. About three years ago he started to dream of the day he would set out on his own.


“My love for surveying took over my heart,” Fred admitted, “and I knew I needed to do this. I trained my replacement at Ford Engineering and started buying equipment.”


Fred initially invested in a robotic surveying instrument, which he outfitted with selected components, radio modems, a collector, a laptop and software. He converted his 1991 Ford XLT Club Wagon into a survey vehicle, which he said is extremely comfortable but gets poor gas mileage. His low overhead and depth of experience allows him to be competitive.


“I understand the value of the professional relationships I’ve developed through the years,” Fred confirmed. “They allowed me to survive thus far. Some of the surveyors and engineers with whom I have worked directly are now in positions to need my services. My experiences and capabilities are certainly a major component in the equation, but you won’t make it without a little help from your friends.”


In the final analysis, Fred’s goal is to take care of his family. As he began this dream to have his own business, part of the motivation was to include his youngest two children in the experience; not to impose it on them but to allow them to have a taste of it.


“My son, David, likes the computer side and my daughter, Emily, likes the outdoor, physical side. While it’s too early to tell if they’ll embrace the business, they do like the wages I’m paying.”


Although he hasn’t turned away any work, Fred prefers the tough and difficult jobs.


“In time, as my schedule becomes booked, I hope to become more selective in the work I accept. I love specialty surveying; the stranger it is, the better I like it! Working with the Department of Transportation, they discovered that I like the difficult jobs, so they funneled some tough jobs my way. I take pleasure in the challenge!”


As busy as the new entrepreneur is, he still reserves Sundays for his other calling. In the shadows of the past fifteen years, Fred has also served as the pastor of a small church.

 

(click here for an overview on the whole team)