On Sept. 1, 2001, Shrewsberry & Associates LLC was established as a minority-owned environmental services firm that provided civil engineering services in support of water and wastewater design, including drainage design and water quality management. Just 10 days later, the world stood still after two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Over the next several years, the economy turned sour as jobs were lost and businesses closed up shop.
Now, almost 15 years later, Shrewsberry & Associates continues to thrive on the east side of Indianapolis, where it has not only grown as a firm to provide environmental, engineering and construction services, but also is now focusing on leaving a legacy to keep cash flow and wealth development in the African-American community. The company has developed an agreement with Kenneth Beache — current vice president, COO and one of the five founding members of Shrewsberry & Associates — to establish a second-generation, minority-owned business called Metric Environmental, which will provide environmental consulting services to public and private clients across the state.
“I’m very proud that when we started there were five of us, and now there are about 65. We’ve really grown, and I’ve seen this as an opportunity to continue to grow and continue to leave the legacy of Bill Mays,” said William Shrewsberry, president and CEO. “That’s something I want to keep going.”
William “Bill” Mays, late publisher of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, founder of Mays Chemical Co. and well-known entrepreneur, encouraged many of his employees to start their own business ventures, often giving them advice or monetary donations to do so, although he knew it meant he would soon thereafter lose an employee.
“Early in 2001, I had an offer to start a company, and Mr. Mays might have been one of the first people I spoke with to let him know I had the opportunity. The original ownership was a split, and I told Mr. Mays, ‘The offer is great, but I’d love to have 100 percent and turn it into my own business.’ He said the half loaf of bread is better than none, and I should get started to get myself established and my time will come,” said Shrewsberry.
He said the relationship Mays had with his employees is one he wants to continue in his own company. Once Shrewsberry & Associates discovered its smallest division was environmental services, the one it began with in 2001, it developed a strategic plan to enhance the business and its employees.
Beache will launch Metric Environmental, which will take over Shrewsberry & Associates’ environmental services division that deals with preserving green spaces and helping oversee and care for spaces that have issues, beginning in April 2016 with 12 employees. Beache said he believes the development will benefit more than the two business owners.
“About 15 months ago we had a conversation on how we can help to make this division flourish. Only when the business flourishes do the people flourish, because more opportunities come. We realized there would be more opportunities for those working in environmental services, which in turn is better for the community if we spun it off,” he mentioned. “I’m very excited about it, and I’m not very intimidated.”
Beache said he developed the name Metric as it sets a standard for excellence, just as the Metric system does. Over the past few weeks, he has spoken with his staff to inform them of the importance of maintaining the standard established at Shrewsberry & Associates.
“Coming from a place like Shrewsberry that is a lead firm, we just have to be good and exemplary in our performance. No exceptions,” said Beache.
Shrewsberry will offer additional support if needed and is set to serve on Metric’s board of advisors. Clients of Shrewsberry and Associates’ current environmental services division will be transferred to Metric upon the launch, which Beache said is convenient, as a platform has already been created.
Although the environmental services division will operate independently under a new name, the two companies will continue to work together where projects overlap. Employees of Shrewsberry & Associates’ environmental division will also work under the Metric name.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen a significant number of Black firms that have gone out of business or changed. We see this as another way to help create another Black firm and to create more wealth in our community,” said Shrewsberry. “Mr. Mays confirmed this for me when he said, ‘Our (Black community) income levels have begun to rise as more and more of us are going to college, but wealth is something we don’t have in our community. Wealth continues, and it’s yours.”
Shrewsberry believes establishing second-generation businesses can turn into third-generation businesses, which later can establish wealth in the community. He said the overall goal is to continue to grow Shrewsberry & Associates and hopefully contribute to the creation of another minority-owned business.