- November 23, 2012
When the government creates a regulatory mess, it can often spell opportunity for smart entrepreneurs.
Consider Josh Evans, a 38-year-old entrepreneur who spotted early how the flood map changes could create massive headaches for property owners on the Gulf Coast.
Evans, a water-resource engineer, started J.R. Evans Engineering in August 2010. He seized on the fact that the federal government was proposing to put most of Collier County into a flood zone as part of its national plan to revise the country's flood maps.
The move would have put thousands of acres and buildings into flood zones, devaluing the land because it would deprive the owners of the ability to build. So Evans called on Collier's largest landowners, successfully appealing for the exclusion of their properties from the new flood zones. “They all signed us up,” he says.
Besides helping these landowners preserve the value of their land, Evans also saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars of flood-insurance premiums. “In retrospect, I probably would have charged more,” Evans chuckles, declining to share financial details for competitive reasons.
But Evans, an alumnus of former engineering powerhouse WilsonMiller in Naples, says the effort on behalf of landowners generated plenty of goodwill. “It's opened up the door to get a lot of civil engineering work,” he says. When he started the company, Evans says all of his work was related to appealing flood maps, and today 60% of his company's work consists of development-planning work for homebuilders.
With a $50,000 letter of credit from FineMark National Bank & Trust, Evans launched his business in an executive suite in summer 2010. He expanded to an office in Estero when the flood-zone work increased, and the company staff now totals eight people. “I didn't realize the scale it turned into,” he says. “I thought when I started I'd have two people.”
But Evans, the son of a Kentucky apple farmer, plugged into the network of people he knew when he was a top executive with WilsonMiller and later as an executive with Pulte Homes overseeing the development of roads, sewers, water, golf course and parks at the town of Ave Maria in eastern Collier County.
Evans considered buying an existing engineering firm, but he was reluctant to take on debt to do that and instead started his own company. “The only way to compete is without debt and with minimal overhead,” he concluded.
While Evans is continuing to pursue other flood-zone cases (he says that business could triple), he's spotted another opportunity courtesy of the federal government: A new mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency to test large underground fuel tanks for leaks. To pursue that work, he formed a subsidiary two months ago called KMF Environmental Consulting with business partner Kris Fields.
Using the same strategy that brought him success in the flood-zone appeals, Evans pitched this new service to a large Texas-based operator of gas transmission lines called Boardwalk Pipeline Partners. To move natural gas around its transmission system, the company owns hundreds of large underground fuel tanks at numerous pumping stations along its lines.
Fields earned special qualification to conduct the testing for these large underground tanks, and Evans says the contract with Boardwalk Pipeline potentially represents a year's worth of revenue for his young firm.
If he's identified other niches, Evans isn't sharing. But he's planning to double the size of his office in Estero. And after years working for others, he loves being an entrepreneur. “I've never felt more alive,” he says.