By: Krisjan Hiner
Mechanical engineer and Cator | Ruma principal Blake Winter grew up on a farm in Kansas, loves skiing, loves tacos, and loves Boise. In 2016 Cator | Ruma merged with well-known Boise engineering firm Engineering Incorporated.
Blake spends a significant amount of time here in Boise helping run the Boise office and taking care of clients.
We sat down at The Yardarm to eat tacos, catch up, and talk about what’s happening at Cator | Ruma.
Q: Cator Ruma is new to Boise. Tell me about what your firm does?
Blake Winter: Cator | Ruma the name and brand is new to Boise, but Boise natives will recognize our firm as its former name Engineering Incorporated. We are located in a new building on Orchard with the same staff that the Boise market will recognize – Cator | Ruma & Associates provides additional depth and resources in the form of about 100 more employees in two more office locations (Denver Metro and Cheyenne, WY). Both Cator | Ruma and Engineering Inc were founded around the same time in the 1950’s. We provide engineering services for the design of complex building infrastructure. We design mechanical, electrical, plumbing and low voltage/IT systems for buildings.
Q: Of all the markets to expand into why did you choose Boise?
Blake Winter: Our expansion into Boise happened very organically. It began with a working partnership and developed into a merger. We’ve always considered ourselves a regional engineering firm that does projects across the western United States, but having a physical location in the northwest helps solidify our presence. Mergers and acquisitions have never been a part of our business plan, but as this opportunity arose with a like-minded firm with a similar culture and a commitment to high quality engineering, we felt like it bolstered our ability for us small local firms to compete with national pressure.
Q: What is your role at Cator | Ruma?
Blake Winter: I’m a Principal at Cator | Ruma – which means I spread my time between project involvement, business development, and in-house business functions. One of the things we are very proud of at CRA is that our leadership is active in our business. You can find our President or our CEO at project meetings, helping a young engineer with a project challenge, or at after-work company events. That type of participation drives our culture throughout our company and is obvious to our clients.
Q: How/why did you get into mechanical engineering?
Blake Winter: I grew up on a farm in Kansas, but wanted to move to Colorado where I could ski and go to school, so I enrolled at the Colorado School of Mines. I chose to major in mechanical engineering on a bit of a youthful whim, but I stuck with it thanks to my internship at Cator | Ruma. They challenged me from the start, and haven’t stopped since. In addition to my peers at CRA, the construction industry is full of people that I’ve worked with consistently over the years – and that I am fortunate enough to call friends.
Q: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve designed?
Blake Winter: It sounds corny, but I could tell you a story about every single job. Each is unique, and since every project is a prototype, we encounter challenges on the smallest remodels as well as the large jobs. I’ve been lucky enough to help design a lab building for a Nobel laureate on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, design a lab building for Boise State to bolster their Materials Science program, help a health system in Boise design airflow within their operating rooms where I ended up having an emergency appendectomy, – I could go on and on about all of them.
Q: What is your favorite type of project to design?
Blake Winter: We are very diligent about selecting which projects fit our expertise. Challenging projects are our forte. Whether it is a laboratory on a higher education campus that houses emerging sciences, a civic project, or a healthcare facility – we are constantly striving to make our systems better aligned with our clients’ mission, including energy efficiency, simplicity of controls and planning for future flexibility and maintainability.
Q: What technology do you and your firm use?
Blake Winter: It’s amazing how quickly our business (as I’m sure a lot of businesses) has become data-driven. Ultimately we rely on our staff to understand the challenges and apply technology appropriately. However, we have many computer aided design tools that are available for use when needed. Our in-house network has become a data center to support the large 3D REVIT models we store in-house, design software for lighting, power modeling, HVAC loads, equipment selection tools, fluid flow analysis, project management tools, etc. etc, the list could go on and on. In addition, the amount of correspondence that comes across our wires in the form of email, submittals, document organizing software and other medium is absolutely staggering.
Recently we have also leveraged devices to help with our engineering. We have sound power analysis apps on phones for trouble-shooting, access to drawings on ipads for field review, just to name a few.
Q: What design software do you use and why?
Blake Winter: We use REVIT for about 90% of our design projects. REVIT is an amazing tool that was primarily developed with the architectural workflow in mind. Since it wasn’t optimized for our MEP design processes we’ve had to take it upon ourselves to develop and customize the software in-house. We have REVIT-specific employees on staff who are dedicated to constantly optimizing the performance of the software and our standards – not project work. All that said, we are producing some amazing models that show more detail, accurate representation of equipment, and better coordinated buildings than ever before.
Q: What do you do when you’re not engineering?
Blake Winter: Chase around my kids (4 & 7), fly fish, hunt, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu – staying active.
Q: A lot of your work is with repeat clients. Why do your clients keep coming back to Cator | Ruma?
Blake Winter: Our firm doesn’t spend a lot of money on advertising. The most productive form of marketing for us is our to provide creative solutions and quality documents for our clients. We aim to find customer’s pain points and help them fix them by being responsive and creative. Our staff is very conscientious about customer service and problem solving. We find our clients value our approach and often hire us again.
Q: How is Cator | Ruma different from other engineering firms?
Blake Winter: The leadership at CRA has always reinforced that our staff is our top priority. We work hard to make CRA a great place to work. We certainly enjoy working on very complicated high-profile projects, but we couldn’t continue to be successful unless we place a very high value on our talented staff. Our goal is to enable employees to define their optimum career path and work within our structure to build a long and successful career. Our project work stands out to our clients when we enjoy coming to work, work hard for long-standing clients we consider friends, and go home feeling pride in what we’ve accomplished.
Q: If someone reading this is looking for a good MEP firm how can they get in touch with you?
Blake Winter: They can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Boise office at (208) 343-3663. We’re ready to take on all types and sizes of mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering projects!
CONTACTING CATOR | RUMA
Cator | Ruma & Associates, Co.
420 S. Orchard Street
Boise, ID 83705