Lehman to enter Hall of Fame
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on businesses that will be inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 15 at the Blair County Convention Center.
HOLLIDAYSBURG — Just a year before P. Joseph Lehman Inc. Consulting Engineers celebrates its golden anniversary, it’s celebrating another significant achievement.
Lehman Engineers will be one of five businesses that will be inducted into the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame on Oct. 15 at the Blair County Convention Center.
“It’s very humbling. We’re glad to see the recognition for our employees. It shows the recognition from the community for the work we’ve done over nearly 50 years,” President P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
“There’s a lot of excitement from the employees. They’re very excited to be recognized. We’ll have our 50th anniversary next year — this is the proverbial icing on the cake,” Lehman’s wife, Betsy Lehman, special projects director, said.
Founded in 1969 by P. Joseph Lehman Sr., the firm creates engineering solutions for local governments, state agencies, universities and private clients.
“At one point, we did work for about 100 municipalities in Pennsylvania,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
P. Joseph Lehman Sr. began by focusing on private clients with smaller local civil engineering projects. Although these projects were limited, they were challenging by industry standards, springing Lehman Engineers into the forefront of the civil engineering field.
“My dad liked the challenge of serving the community, trying to improve the situations for a lot of communities. He worked with my grandfather (William Kelly), who was a mining engineer in Spangler. He worked for PennDOT in Hollidaysburg and Harrisburg as a project manager for five years before starting the business,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
P. Joseph Lehman Sr. started the business in the basement of the family home along Van Buren Avenue in Altoona. He moved the business to three Hollidaysburg locations before moving in 1991 to the present location, the Olde Farm Office building along Route 22.
Over the years, Lehman Engineers expanded to offer transportation engineering, environmental consulting, survey and structural design.
Among their largest clients are PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
“We work with all 11 PennDOT districts and the central office. We’re now working on the design for the Pittsburgh Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We just finished design work for a bridge in Somerset County. We’re working system-wide on the turnpike,” client services director Martin T. Malone said.
Lehman Engineers is well-known for its bridge design work, as bridge design makes up about
40 percent of the firm’s business, P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
The firm is especially well known for its work with covered bridge projects.
“Over the years, we’ve done designs for covered bridge rehab projects across the state. We worked with the Bedford County Covered Bridge Society to provide funding for their historic covered bridges. Most of Bedford’s were rehabbed over the last 30 years. We also did the design work for the Academia Covered Bridge in Juniata County — the largest covered bridge in Pennsylvania,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
Awards for engineering quality, project delivery and historic preservation were won by the firm. These included the state-wide Ralph Modjeski Award for Excellence in Transportation Design, Historic Preservation, & Archaeology (Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission and Preservation Pa.) and international awards such as the Abba G. Lichtenstein Medal for artistic merit and innovation at the International Bridge Conference, National Harbour, Md.
In 2005, P. Joseph Lehman, Sr. sold the firm to a group of partners, including his son.
Under the leadership of P. Joseph Lehman Jr., the firm underwent geographic expansion and diversification. Lehman Engineers entered the environmental remediation field, bringing in top environmental scientists, environmental engineers and professional geologists.
The firm began serving owners of underground and aboveground storage tanks and hazardous waste sites and expanded their environmental due diligence capabilities.
The firm is proud of its design work for local highway projects such as the U.S. Route 22 Frankstown Road intersection project and the Seventh Street bridge project in Altoona.
“That (Route 22) is a real gem in our collection. That was the most dangerous intersection in the six counties surrounding ours. The Seventh Street Bridge Project in Altoona was one of our most challenging designs. I started on that after college. I was in a bucket truck doing inspections on that old blue bridge,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said.
“These are big points of employee pride. They’re travel routes to most people, but are pride points for our employees,” Betsy Lehman said.
The company has been growing over the last several years, including the opening of a Bedford office in 2010.
“Today we have 40 employees. Over the last eight, years we’ve grown from 20 to 40 employees. With technology and production increase, we’ve doubled the number of employees and tripled our revenue,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said. “Ten to 15 percent growth a year is what we found manageable over the last eight years. That has enabled us to grow.”
The biggest challenge is finding good, qualified people.
“We have a very experienced staff. We have a lot of long-term employees who get the job done. Joe likes people to be entrusted and exposed to do the work the firm is known for,” Betsy Lehman said
“We invest in our people and do a lot of cross training. We send them to Leadership Blair County and Bedford County. This helps create leaders at all levels,” Malone said.
Women are often underrepresented in civil engineering. Overall, women make up 32 percent of the entire firm, often holding key leadership positions, Malone said.
Lehman Engineers and their employees are active in the community.
A major community service project that Lehman Engineers participates in is the annual Lehman Engineers Horse Trail Ride & Trail Walk, which benefits Dreams Go On. Since the event’s inception in 2006, close to $200,000 has been raised and donated to support the organization.
Lehman Engineers won the Community Service Award from the chamber in 2017.
“We have lots of people on various boards in the communities that we serve,” Malone said.
The firm expects to continue growing, as research is currently being conducted with regard to expanding into the West Virginia market.
“We’re going to continue to grow and may expand geographically,” P. Joseph Lehman Jr. said. “We’ll be able to feed our families for a long time.”