Facing New Challenges in the Arctic
by Royce Conlon, PE
President and Principal Engineer
Ask anyone to name an innovative engineering company in Alaska, and odds are they’ll name PDC. With roots dating back more than half of a century, PDC has since steadily grown to become the comprehensive, full-service engineering, planning, and survey firm that practices today. With 84 professionals split between its Fairbanks and Anchorage offices, PDC can easily accommodate any project – large or small.
PDC’s multi-discipline structure inherently fosters on-the-fly collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking. “We like to challenge the industry through logical yet non-traditional approaches,” says President Royce Conlon.
Tell us how PDC’s involvement with SOM began.
The UAF Arctic Innovation Competition (AIC) was created by Dr. Ping Lan in 2009. During PDC’s 2009 strategic planning, we developed the firm’s current “Arctic Initiative” which serves as a guiding force in aligning the firm with the future design needs of the Arctic and the state. At this session, PDC’s leadership invited Dr. Lan as a speaker to share his thoughts about innovation. Conlon said “We were all in agreement that the Arctic is full of untapped opportunity where future growth is moving throughout the nation and the world.”
Considering that PDC is on the leading edge of innovation, the AIC and the firm’s Arctic Initiative were a perfect complement. “We did not hesitate to sponsor the AIC, and have plans for continued support well into the future,” Conlon said.
What inspires you to support SOM through the Arctic Innovation Competition?
“Innovative ideas like the ones generated by the AIC are intrinsic to PDC’s mission – Transforming Challenges into Solutions – so supporting the event seemed like a perfect match to our goals,” Conlon added. A great example is Nick and Cass Ferree’s 2012 entry into the AIC competition. Nick is a civil engineer in PDC’s Fairbanks office (and also a UAF graduate). Their entry was for an innovative Hide-A-Hitch design. The Hide-A-Hitch operates the same as a standard ball receiver hitch, but folds up underneath the vehicle when not in use. Nick and Cass completed designs, constructed a prototype, and created a business plan earning them third place in the competition.
PDC has not only continued with monetary support, but Nick also serves as a judge for the competition and has helped educate the public regarding AIC through his interviews on local radio. For AIC 2014, PDC provided the $2,000 “Arctic Kicker” prize incentive given to the best arctic-related idea.
What advice do you have for current SOM students?
“My advice would be that there are plenty of great job opportunities right here in Alaska that can use your skills,” Conlon said. “With a staff of 84 professionals, PDC currently has 41 staff members who are graduates from the University of Alaska system – and 28 of those are UAF graduates.”
Conlon added, “PDC is well-poised to continue our growth trend. PDC is always looking for bright, new talent who understand the challenges that face those who live and work in the cold-region environment of the Arctic.”
What would you tell an organization considering giving a gift to SOM?
Giving a gift to SOM is smart business and a smart investment into Alaska’s future. It helps strengthen Alaska’s business community and Alaska’s business opportunities. Your gift will go toward educating future business men and women – how can you go wrong?
Elliot Wilson, one of PDC’s Structural Engineers, applying innovation to a personal challenge – designing and constructing an arch shaped icehouse.
Nick Ferree, one of PDC’s Civil Engineers, and his wife Cass enjoying time in an ice cave