Healdsburg Works: Munselle Civil Engineering
Photos by BOURNE PHOTOS | bbourne.com
Cort Munselle P.E. didn’t start Munselle Civil Engineering & Land Surveying (MCE) with the intent of growing it into the mid-sized firm that it is today. Munselle started out on his own as a one-man operation in his extra garage space in Cloverdale, mostly because the economy directed him to do so. “I had been working as a civil engineer since the day I graduated college from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2001, and was feeling pretty good as I started to work my way up in my profession and had earned my Professional Engineering license,” says Munselle.
In 2006, just before the recession, Munselle had landed a great job with a home builder/developer and was enjoying being one of the on-site civil engineers, doing more than designing behind the computer. “It was there, at Delco Builders, that I realized how much I liked being part of the vision of development and working directly with clients and problem solving, rather than only designing.” But just a short year later, the “Great Recession” startled the construction industry and new home construction took an immediate hit.
“Being laid off, really before most industries felt the effect, was incredibly humbling,” says Munselle. “I was raised to just work hard. Always. I think that’s the farmer in me and the lessons my family instilled in me and my brothers since we were tiny kids working on the vineyard. To be laid off was a major blow to me in so many ways.” It was Fall of 2007. Munselle was newly married, a new father, and paying a mortgage. “As hard as that time was, I just went back to the only thing I really knew, which was to keep working hard. My wife Mia is the eternal optimist and really encouraged me to start engineering under my own name. Looking back now, I think it was the combination of her cheering me on, me providing the best service I possibly could, and probably a whole lot of luck and naivete that kept my business moving in an upward trajectory.”
Munselle was born and raised in Sonoma County in the picturesque Alexander Valley to a reputable grape growing family. In college, what he didn’t realize might help him later in life, were the many familiar relationships and unique network and trust of people who live in small Sonoma County towns and communities. “There’s this real sense of trust and loyalty in small rural communities like Cloverdale, Geyserville and Healdsburg. I mean, in these parts we say where we live or grew up by calling out our vineyard designation,” Munselle says with a laugh. Along with a few area engineering firms closing, and having those long-time family connections with grape growers, farmers, and people who simply needed help navigating the development process with the county, became his niche. “No job was too small and truly, my favorite part of the job then and now is helping people bring their vision for their property to life,” Munselle remarks.
After 4 years in the garage, and the addition of 2-3 employees who all worked from their homes, Munselle had an incredible opportunity to move his firm to downtown Healdsburg. Together, Munselle and his wife took a leap of faith and followed Mia’s “gut feeling” that this was a smart move for them and the firm. Meetings at coffee shops to go over plans were now able to be held at their Center Street office in Healdsburg, and they even game planned that they could sub-let a few office spaces if needed. As the economy began to stabilize and development began to pick back up, the Munselle Civil Engineering offices began to grow by adding smart, strong, dependable civil engineers, land surveyors and support staff. “My goal has always been to provide really solid, dependable service to all my clients. As the company has grown, I’ve had to learn how to be a manager and leader for my staff, which isn’t always the easiest,” Munselle jokes. “I’m an engineer first, so I’ve had to learn to trust others to handle parts of the company that they are experts in.” Since the company’s inception, MCE has grown to 27 employees, two partners, Dan Hughes P.E. and Steve Klein P.L.S., and two additional offices in Ukiah and Mill Valley. “I compare this business to raising a child. I swear it has taught me more than I ever imagined it would or was even ready for. I just keep working hard, stay humble and learn from mistakes. You never know what the economy will bring or what mother nature will throw at us,” says Munselle. “I try to take a few minutes to enjoy the wins and just keep moving forward. That’s the best part, seeing a project make it through all the regulations and finally come to fruition for our clients.”
Munselle Civil Engineering and Land Surveying is Since 2007, Munselle Civil Engineering & Land Surveying has been a leader in civil engineering and planning services in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties with offices in each location (Healdsburg, Mill Valley and Ukiah). Further information and services regarding land development, boundary surveys, septic design, subdivision entitlements and design, private residential estates, vineyard erosion control plans, reservoir and winery site design and permit processes can be found at www.munsellecivil.com
or at 707-395-0968.
Business partners Steve Klein, Cort Munselle, and Dan Hughes.
Business partner, Steve Klein P.L.S