Scott Murphy said he wants his company to go unnoticed.
Murphy, the regional manager of Macon-based ESG Operations, Inc., Hinesville’s new public works and utilities provider, said that invisibility means it is doing its job - one he said is among the most important in the city.
"What this staff does touches every person in Hinesville every day. We handle their drinking water, keep sewage moving, keep the streets clean and grass cut. There’s so many things that go on behind it," Murphy said. "It’s kind of an odd goal for an organization. We recognize that if we do things perfectly no one will know that we’re here."
ESG Operations replaced CH2M Hill on Nov. 1 after outbidding CH2M. Members of Hinesville’s city council voted to accept ESG’s $5.9 million bid for 2017 after CH2M proposed $6.2 million. Both proposals were lower than the cost of CH2M’s 2016 contract, according to Hinesville public relations manager Brittany McClure.
Hinesville isn’t the only city to switch from CH2M to another provider in recent years. Richmond Hill also opted to pick another public works company in 2015.
But ESG has ties of sorts to CH2M, which has provided services to Hinesville for nearly 30 years. Started in 2003 by Dan Groselle and Clay Sykes, both former regional vice presidents for CH2M before deciding to venture on their own, ESG now has 21 project sites — 17 in Georgia.
Ray Richard, Hinesville’s public works director, said the company is the fastest growing utility operations and public works management company in the country with more than 700 employees.
Richard was the project director with CH2M in 1997 to 2003, and started working for ESG in 2011.
"The focus is that we as a company are one team, we as individuals on a projects are one team and we’re on one team as well with the client," Richard said. "Team members work together and part of that is when you need help you ask it. Like on a football team, one person gets injured another comes in for the game. It’s kind of what we do here."
The company differs from CH2M, he said.
"When we were working with CH2M and needed off-site support, the project manager was accountable for those costs, with ESG that’s not an issue. Back then it discouraged projects from asking for off-site help because the budget was affected," Richard said. "At ESG it’s considered an overhead cost and we are encouraged to get off-site support. And often times that off-site support is the difference between success and failure."
ESG also has a "strong, proactive maintenance program" Richard said, where crews attend to different tasks before a problem arises, such as clearing a drainage ditch before it floods or reporting a pothole instead of waiting on the street department or public to notice.
Richard said they may not catch everything but are trying to integrate being proactive into the employees’ daily routine.
Murphy has been in Hinesville lately helping with staff training and other projects involving landscaping.
"Last week my job was to pressure wash downtown so we can get it ready for the parade. We were really happy to do that. We had a great group of people out there with us those nights," Murphy said. "We were happy to contribute to the event for the community. It’s not many jobs where you do something and see and immediate impact."
Murphy said ESG takes a different approach and teaches the science behind landscape management, such as herbicide, fertilization and selection of plants.
"We like to appeal to a number of the different senses in a landscape. We like to have both color and texture. We also like to use aromatics, particularly in the downtown areas," Murphy said. "Soothing types of odors, things like mock oranges and gardenias, both a visual that people tend to walk by but when it produces a really pleasant smell out there it adds to the experience as people go through."
He said ESG also encourages employees to take courses, in-house training and visit other job sites in pursuit of getting professional licenses in different areas, such as wastewater treatment, which leads to an increase in pay and more opportunities.
"They may be working in Hinesville today but the reality of it is anyone of these folks could be managing a project anywhere else," Murphy said. "They can go from making $25,000 a year to $100,000 in five years."
Richard said encouraging people to advance in their careers is one of the reasons why ESG is considered the fasted growing company in its field. He said employees who have the "aptitude and desire" can go all the way to top of the company.
Murphy said ESG believes in planning for the future. He called it "an over-the-horizon-look" approach, where staff researches what they can do to improve the community tomorrow and for many years to come.
Murphy said the company also does a good job in making sure people have time for their families, which he believes is one reason the company is successful.
"Whether it’s somebody cutting grass or operating the water system, we have a huge emphasis on that individual and as a company we understand that their commitment to their family comes first, and we’ll work around that," Murphy said.
Richard said the transition from CH2M to ESG has been going well although there are some challenges. The major challenge, he said, is getting employees to adopt the "one team" approach, which most have done so far. He also mentioned there were no jobs lost since ESG took over.
ESG employs 88 workers.
Richard also asked Hinesville residents to be patient, understanding and persistent.
"If we’re not being responsive, then I want to know about it. Our goal and intent is to be very responsive to the public. That doesn’t mean always telling them what they want to hear but at least let them know what we can or can’t do," Richard said.
If a resident has a complaint or concern they can expect to get a reply within 24-hours and a work order scheduled depending on the severity of the issue, he said.
Murphy and Richard commended Hinesville for having a dedicated, workforce. Murphy called the employees and "exceptional staff, which is a tremendous luxury in our business."