Dale Barrett, a land surveyor who joined HLB & Associates in 1986, has amassed a treasure trove of maps, plans and institutional knowledge from countless North Coast projects dating back to the 1970s.
As he approaches retirement, Barrett is helping transition HLB’s operations to S&F Land Services, a Portland-based firm that has taken on his team of coastal surveyors.
HLB was originally founded in Manzanita by Colin Handforth and Ron Larson in 1975 as Handforth and Larson Surveying and Engineering.
Barrett, previously a county surveyor, joined the two in 1986, creating HLB & Associates. In 2006, the company merged with Portland-based design, planning and engineering firm Otak Inc. to form HLB Otak.
Otak recently gave HLB notice that it would be pulling out of the partnership, Barrett said.
“They were just not that interested in the coastal market,” he said. “They want big-city stuff. Their primary focus is Denver, Portland, Seattle.”
Otak reached out to S&F, an emerging small business formed in 2016 by Christopher Sherby and Matthew Faulkner, a former employee of HLB, about taking over the surveying team. This month, S&F took over all of HLB’s accounts.
The company’s survey projects range in size from small residential property line disputes and municipal contracts to large commercial projects and the reconstruction of the system of jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River. S&F is able to provide cost-effective surveying locally because of the copious records and institutional knowledge from HLB’s 43-year history, Sherby said. Former employees of HLB have also taken up many positions with local municipalities.
“Dale’s been taking me around to introduce me to all the agencies, and everywhere we go, it’s usually someone who’s worked for Dale,” Sherby said.
HLB had more than 50 employees and offices in Manzanita, Gearhart and Long Beach, Washington, when the merger with Otak occurred in 2006. But during the Great Recession, Otak cut the staff down to fewer than 10 and closed the offices in Long Beach and Manzanita, Barrett said.
“All the work is still here,” he said. “The possibility of growth is really good. The struggle is to find the staff.”
With a staff of around seven, the company has been inundated with work so far and is looking to add more surveyors on the coast, Sherby said. Like others, it faces a lack of affordable housing that makes it difficult to bring in new people. But for those who join, Sherby said, S&F provides a high-quality, family wage position.
“We’re trying to provide a full, lifetime career,” he said.