Monday, December 31, 2012

A very special year

When the ball drops as tonight turns into January 1, revelers the world over will be celebrating the successes of 2012 and the opportunities that lie ahead in the New Year.  Commonwealth will have an extra special reason to celebrate -- 2013 marks our 25th Anniversary of being employee-owned.

Beginning in January, and running through mid-July, we'll be kicking off the festivities with fun monthly activities for employees at each of our locations.  On July 26th, we'll be hosting a party and hearing from dynamic speaker Garrison Wynn at Jackson Community College's Potter Center, in the newly-renovated Robert Snyder Dining Hall.  A legacy gift will be presented honoring all founding shareholders and original employees.  The celebration will conclude on July 27th with a casual employee family picnic on the grounds of our headquarters in Jackson, Michigan.  We couldn't be more excited!  We hope you will take a few minutes now and again to visit our pages -- on our website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and here -- to watch as this exciting year unfolds.

Whether 2012 year was your best year ever, saw some struggles, or landed somewhere in between, we now close the book on another chapter and, with gratitude and optimism, wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!


Monday, November 19, 2012


This Thanksgiving, we here at Commonwealth have a lot for which to be thankful... 

  • We have the privilege of providing services for some truly outstanding companies with whom we enjoy working.  Our clients are our raison d'ĂȘtre.
  • We get to work on some very interesting and important projects that power people's lives. 
  • We are an employee-owned company and tight-knit team who like our work and each other.
  • We have the opportunity to make a difference with wonderful holiday programs like Operation Good Cheer, Toys for Tots, Cascades Humane Society Winter Drive, Angel Tree Giving, and more.

And now there's one more reason...

We're proud to be named a 2012 Top Workplace!  Congratulations to all the terrific companies on the list and the incredible people behind them.


Monday, November 5, 2012

An Event to Remember....

Sure, we're a Top 30 Design Firm and we work hard to get there.  That said, we also have a fun side.  As you may have read in last month's post, October was our "Fall Fun Month." It was chock full of activities designed to bring employees together for a time of fun, fellowship, and good food.  Our talented team works hard to bring world-class solutions to our clients' toughest challenges, and a bit of levity helps to maintain the balance that keeps us at our very best.  We are committed to being an Employer of Choice and this is just one way that we work at it every day. 

Here's the story in pictures:

Oktoberfest was a blast with festive music, freshly-grilled brats, homemade potato salad, soft pretzels with
choice of toppings, and a keg of ice-cold root beer.
Data Management's Diane Wilkie, won first place
in the Oktoberfest homemade potato salad contest,
securing the coveted "Golden Potato Award."

Entries arrive in advance of lunchtime voting in
our 2012 Pumpkin Decorating/Carving Contest.
No pumpkin decorating contest would be complete
without yummy pie with which to feed our employee-judges.

Employees were invited to participate and vote in a Halloween
Hallway & Office/Cube Decorating Contest.  Team Lower Level
welcomed visitors downstairs with fun pictures of team members.

Having previously inhabited the lower level before relocation
to the East Building, the Electrical Systems Department's
presence could still be felt in the Haunted Forest.
If visitors survived the other creatures in the Haunted Forest,
this fierce animatronic feline was just waiting to pounce on his next meal.
The East Building's Haunted Hallway completely transformed
this Substation cube farm into a spooktacularly fun place for
employees and kids alike with a haunted hay ride and treats.

Of course, the whole experience would not be complete without
a good old fashioned scare from Substation's Pat Keene.
Visitors to the Haunted Forest for the annual Marketing Department
Halloween Party enjoyed delicious and nutrious treats.
Folks lined up waiting for the party to start and the food to flow.

Who knows who one might meet in the Haunted Forest?
Substation's Bob Uddin made it out just in the nick of time.

Someone wasn't so fortunate.  She apparently flew straight
into Purchasing's wall.  This is a shot of the fresh crime scene.

This week, Linda Gray (VP of Business Development) and Rich Collins (VP of Transmission & Distribution) are in Columbus, Ohio, for the Electrical Transmission and Substation Structures Conference.  Attendees are invited to stop by Booth 3 to register to win a hot new Kindle Fire!
Tomorrow is Election Day in the United States and lots of important races and proposals will be decided around the country.  No matter how you vote, it is important that you participate in this great facet of our republic democracy. 
Sunday, November 11th is Veterans Day.  This very special day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.  We owe them a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Summer May Be Over, But Fall's Heating Up

Hope that you've had a fantastic final summer hurrah, gotten in your golfing/fishing/gardening/traveling/what-have-you, and that you're ready for a busy fall full of projects that need to happen before year-end and school activities that ensure no week is ever boring.

Commonwealth wrapped up a very busy summer and welcomed fall with numerous college recruitment fairs, dynamic industry conferences, and our successful, semi-annual Rockin' Roadside Clean-up - Fall Edition!  (Pictures below.)

October is looking pretty exciting, too...

On the 3rd, we'll be holding an Alumni Day and wearing our school colors to show our spirit.  On the 10th, we'll be hosting Commonwealth's own "Oktoberfest" fall brat cookout and Potato Salad Contest, where the winner will receive "The Golden Potato" award and a small prize.  On October 17th, employees will have the opportunity of competing in lunchtime Minute-to-Win-It-style games.  During the week of the 22nd through the 26th, teams will be decorating their respective hallways and office spaces and enjoying the Pumpking Carving/Painting Contest which will take place on the 24th, while we eat pie and cast our votes.  Finally, we'll celebrate Halloween with Marketing & Business Development's annual Halloween Party where we'll announce the decorating contest winners. 

Stay tuned to see funny pictures, hear true stories, and learn more about Commonwealth and why we think it's such a great place to work.

And now for some pictures of this weekend's Rockin' good time...

J-Rod from K-105.3 FM, Jackson's Hit Music Station
Volunteers at the registration table
The safety talk

Volunteers worked up an appetite for lunch by Country Cafe
It was great to have students with us from area schools.
These teens are members of the National Technical Honor Society.
Three lucky individuals qualified to be entered to win K-105's hot tub giveaway!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The World According to GARP

For those of us let's call it seasoned enough to have been watching films when The World According to Garp came out back in 1982, the post title might have conjured up an image of Robin Williams, as seen below. 

John Irving's best-selling novel about, what else?  A novelist.

That is NOT the Garp to which I'm referring. Instead, today's GARP reference is about best practices when it come to record keeping.  That's because Diane Wilkie, Commonwealth's Manager of Data Management, is laser-focused on seeing the the world according to GARP in order to provide our clients with the highest quality service.

Diane Wilkie, ECMP, ERMP

Diane writes:
In a few weeks I’ll be attending the annual ARMA conference in Chicago, September 23-25. This is THE annual event for records and data managers. I always look forward to the big glitzy opening, the diverse choices of educational sessions, and, of course, walking the gauntlet through the expo hall and trying not to come home with 20 pounds of pens, pads, stress balls, and assorted other free stuff the vendors are handing out that somehow makes its way into my conference bag.

While this conference doesn’t give me much chance to connect with our clients, it does give me the chance to connect with other records and data management professionals, share some of my experiences, and learn from some of theirs. Most importantly, it provides three days in which to completely immerse myself in learning and gathering information on the latest data management tools, so that I’m better prepared to provide the best possible service to our clients -- a goal to which I'm deeply committed.

This year my focus will be on using GARP® (Generally Accepted Record-Keeping Practices) to build better records retention policies, project strategies, and social media governance. As we all continue to store more and more data, organization, retrieval, and, ultimately, destruction, become more and more difficult to manage. Proper polices and strategies can help every organization better maintain their data and provide peace of mind to records and data managers everywhere.

You can learn more about the services Diane and the Data Management team provide by clicking HERE.


Monday, August 27, 2012

E-Waste Day 2012

Volunteers getting ready to pack up another load.
It’s been another successful E-Waste drive for Commonwealth!  This past Friday, we delivered over 6 loads and 150 items to Recycling Jackson.  That's 150 items, including CPUs, monitors, printers, TVs, VCRs, and other items not destined for a landfill somewhere. 

A big THANK YOU goes out to all who participated either by donating or loading and hauling, especially: Gary Higbee, Tim Weeks, Chuck Walker, Jeff Arnett, Joe Lowden, Dan Heider, Brandon Kroth, and Greg Rupprecht.

Extra kudos go to Gary, Chuck and Dan for providing a truck. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Latest Happenings

So much has been going on around Commonwealth this past month!

In a nutshell, we've:
  • added staff in multiple offices
  • started a number of exciting new projects
  • been speaking at industry conferences
  • begun planning our Silver Celebration, which will take place on July 26 & 27, 2013
  • organized our upcoming fall Rockin' Roadside Cleanups in our Jackson, MI and Columbus, OH communities
  • exceeded our Commonwealth Cancer Crushers Relay for Life goal 
  • harvested our employee veggie garden to raise money for charity 
  • won a softball championship (see team photo below)

It's been a great summer here and we hope it's been equally terrific for you


Monday, July 16, 2012

Barnes quoted in POWER Magazine

This month, Commonwealth Vice President Sam Barnes appears in POWER Magazine discussing the status of the upcoming revised EPA clean air regulations.  You can read the article here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

SEE you in Atlanta!

Commonwealth is proud to be a sponsor of the Southeastern Electric Exchange (S.E.E.) Engineering & Operation, Accounting, Customer Billing & Finance Annual Conference and Trade Show, which will take place this week in Atlanta.  The S.E.E. Annual Conference attracts executives and decision makers from leading American utilities.

From 6/20-22, Commonwealth will have staff members on-hand to meet with attendees and will be sponsoring the following session prizes:

  • General Session -- A top-selling Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Transmission Session -- A handsome leather portfolio and a $40 Amazon gift card
  • Substation Session -- A handsome leather portfolio and a $40 Amazon gift card

If you plan to attend, we warmly invite you to look us up while you're there.  Good luck and we look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

Arc Flash Analysis Presentation

Commonwealth's Ian Hutt, P.E., from the Electrical Systems Department, will be presenting at the CAPE users group meeting being held June 26-27 at the Eagle Crest Resort in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  You can find out more about the meeting here:

Commonwealth's Team (clockwise): Hutt, Claire Patti, P.E., Chris Nelson, E.I.T., and Jeanette Dodge.

Hutt will be presenting Utility Scale Arc Flash Analysis using CAPE System Simulator, sample slides of which can be seen below.  

The full presentation will be available online at after 6/25.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WINDPOWER 2012 Wrap-up

AWEA's WINDPOWER 2012 in Atlanta is quickly coming to a close and our own Linda Gray, Vice President of Business Development, and engineers Gerry Callison and Bob Putnam say it was another great time.  They thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk with folks and hear their concerns and aspirations.  We continue to hear from customers that securing interconnection and transmission rights in MISO can be a difficult and frustrating process. 

The good news is that Commonwealth has vast experience working with both transmission providers and interconnection customers to achieve successful solutions. By employing detailed data not readily available to most and exercising directed and intense attention to the engineering details, including legal and economic, we are pleased to report that Commonwealth has been able to achieve good results for all parties.

Booth visitors were treated to a demonstration of our newest software release, Transmission Grid AnalyticsTM - Mapping.  This great new tool can link a wind resources map to electrical data on the nearest substation and make planning smarter, simpler, and easier.  

Who doesn't want that?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

IRWA Recognizes Aiello for Leadership in Classroom Education


Congratulations go out to our own Jim Aiello, in our Land Services Department, for his leadership and outstanding achievement in being awarded this year's IRWA Chapter Performance Rewards Program Prize for Classroom Education for "mega"-sized chapters!

Today, Commonwealth released the following statement:

May 30, 2012
CONTACT: Tim R. Davis, SR/WA - Land Services Manager
(517) 768-7153 or via email to

Aiello Receives Year’s International Right of Way Association Award for Classroom Education

JACKSON, MI – Commonwealth Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce that James Aiello, SR/WA, P.E. has been named this year’s Chapter Performance Rewards (CPR) Program Prize Recipient for Classroom Education for “mega”-sized chapters by the IRWA.  The program was created to recognize and reward the efforts of Chapter Leaders in Classroom Education, Credentialing, and Online Education.  Aiello is Co-Education Chair for Chapter 7, which had the highest percentage of Classroom Education participants relative to the chapter’s membership base in the “mega” Chapter Size category.  He receives a complimentary registration and paid travel to the 2012 Annual International Education Conference in Seattle, Washington, where he will participate in the conference’s Education Update and Best Practices Discussion, sharing ideas, tips, and strategies which contributed to the chapter’s success in Classroom Education. 

Aiello, a Professional Engineer and Licensed Real Estate Agent, has over 20 years of experience in design, management, and construction administration for a variety of civil engineering projects. He has dedicated nine years to land services, including the acquisition of easements, right-of-way in fee, relocations, and temporary permits and licenses for governmental agencies and other clients.  Projects have included airports, roadway improvements, utility projects, relocation, and wind power.  “Jim consistently demonstrates industry leadership and he approaches every activity with an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm,” said Tim Davis, SR/WA, Manager of Commonwealth’s Land Services Department.

In addition to its Land Services, Commonwealth offers a complete package of engineering and consulting services for clients and is proud to be listed among the 2012 Top 40 Design Firms by EC&M Magazine and the 2012 Top 500 Design Firms by Engineering News-Record.  The company maintains principal offices in Mount Vernon, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; and Jackson, Michigan, along with satellites in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Roanoke, Virginia; and Oakland, California.

For more information, please visit:
On Facebook at:
On Twitter at:

# # #

Thursday, May 24, 2012

See you in Atlanta!

Commonwealth Wind Project

Commonwealth will be participating in WINDPOWER 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, from June 3-6.  If you stop by Booth 5754, you can chat with Vice President of Business Development, Linda Gray, and electrical engineers Bob Putnam and Gerry Callison.    

Speaking of power, Gerry will be demonstrating the power of our newest software release, Transmission Grid AnalyticsTM - Mapping.  You won't want to miss this great new tool and see how its ability to link a wind resources map to electrical data on the nearest substation can make your planning smarter, simpler, and easier.

The Expo starts on Sunday afternoon, continues on Monday and Tuesday (10AM - 6PM) and concludes on Wednesday (9AM - 3PM).  

Look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Engineering a win against breast cancer at IEEE

The 2012 IEEE Power and Energy Society's Transmission and Distribution Conference in Orlando is over, but what we did there is just starting.  You've likely read our earlier posts about Kindle Fire winners, but we'd like you to meet our booth's biggest winner -- breast cancer research.

This year's general conference theme was "Making Innovation Work for Tomorrow" and Commonwealth certainly has a long and distinguished history of engineering innovation. It began with the Foote brothers' earliest achievements here in Jackson, Michigan (see our Corporate Timeline) and continues on today with our commitment to providing our clients with world-class customer service, applying forward-looking technical expertise, protecting client resources, and designing convenient and powerful software products, like Transmission Grid AnalyticsTM, to meet our clients' needs and expectations.  

The conference also had a special emphasis, and terrific panel presentation, on women in engineering.  To honor women in engineering, and frankly, women (and men) everywhere, Commonwealth chose to forego extra promotional giveaway trinkets and put our resources to a higher use...finding a cure and saving lives.

Commonwealth's booth
 Visitors to Booth 955 got the chance to take a spin on the candy dispenser to see if they could get a special pink M&M hidden among the others and win a $20 gift card.  For each card won, Commonwealth donated an equal amount to the fight against breast cancer.  Over 3 days, thanks to the countless conference attendees who came by and took a spin, Commonwealth gave away untold delicious candies, 43 gift cards, and $860 to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  To learn more about this terrific organization, where over 90 cents of each dollar goes directly to research and awareness, please click HERE.  

Those who know Commonwealth, know of our long-time involvement in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, so this decision to support another great organization in the fight just made sense.  We know you love the logo pens, caps, key chains, bouncy balls, etc.  We also know that you love your mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters more, so we hope you'll think of us even without all the extra trinkets. :)

The conference is over, but our resources are just starting on their journey to bringing about, as BCRF's motto says, "Prevention and a cure in our lifetime."

Now that's innovation.  And it's working to give those battling and surviving cancer many more tomorrows.

More winners and pictures from Orlando

Commonwealth is pleased to announce the remaining Kindle Fire winners from Orlando:  G.T. Heydt, Franklin Lu, Dan Chaply, and Brian Booker.  Professor Heydt is the Regents' Professor and Center Director for the Power Systems Engineering Research Center at Arizona State University.  Mr. Lu is  Principal Engineer for System Planning and Protection with Snohomish County PUD.  Mr. Chaply is with PPL Electric Utilities.  Mr. Booker, T&D Lead at Arizona Public Service, is seen below with Commonwealth's Darryl Sentell.  Congratulations to all of our Kindle winners and a big "Thank you!" for visiting our booth and playing along.

G.T. Heydt

L-R: Franklin Lu, Dan Chaply

L-R: Brian Booker, Darryl Sentell

The team had a wonderful time in Orlando and after working hard for several days, decided to take a minute to relax their feet and enjoy the booth's comfy seats.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barnes Announces Power & Energy Department New Hires

Today, Commonwealth released the following statement:

May 10, 2012
Contact: Samuel R. Barnes (517) 262-8258

National Engineering Firm Grows
Power Generation & Energy Team

JACKSON, MI – Commonwealth Associates, Inc.’s Power Generation and Energy Department Manager and Vice President, Samuel R. Barnes, P.E., is pleased to announce the department’s newest hires.

William McCourtie
William McCourtie, P.E. is a Senior Mechanical Engineer, formerly with HDR.  McCourtie has decades of experience in the development, design, and construction of power plants of all fuel types.  Engineering Specialist, Chuck Haglund, has officially joined the team and will initially be working on loan to the Substation Department.  Haglund brings a wealth of experience and is a tremendous asset to the Power and Energy team.  Prior to coming to Commonwealth, he was with Black & Veatch.  Courtney VanHemert is the department’s new Administrative Assistant.  VanHemert is completing her studies in Business Administration at Jackson Community College. 

Courtney VanHemert
“Bill, Chuck, and Courtney are terrific additions to this department.  Bill and Chuck’s depth of expertise is consistent with what people have come to expect from their interactions with Commonwealth.  The same can be said for Courtney’s professionalism and commitment to excellence, and it is my privilege to work alongside them as we continue growing this part of our business,” said Barnes.

Commonwealth offers a complete package of engineering and consulting services for clients and is proud to be listed among the 2012 Top 40 Design Firms by EC&M Magazine and the 2012 Top 500 Design Firms by Engineering News-Record (ENR).  Headquartered in Jackson, Michigan, the company maintains principal offices in Mount Vernon, Washington and Atlanta, Georgia, along with offices in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, Roanoke, Virginia, and Oakland, California.

For more information, please visit:
On Facebook at:
On Twitter at:

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On Fire at IEEE in Orlando

We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2012 IEEE PES T&D Conference Kindle Fire Giveaway in Orlando!  Seen below with Commonwealth's Vice President of Business Development, Linda Gray, are winners Bob Sier and Ricardo Rodriquez.  Bob is an engineer in Substation Services with ATC.  Ricardo is an engineer with San Diego Gas & Electric.  Congratulations to both!

L-R: Bob Sier, Linda Gray

L-R: Ricardo Rodriquez, Linda Gray

Commonwealth's team is having a great time visiting with friends and making new ones, sharing the exciting new happenings at Commonwealth, and honing their expertise in the various technical sessions.  Among those in attendance is Steve Miller, seen below.  If you see Steve around Booth 955, you'll want to ask him how our newest transmission planning software releases in the Transmission Grid AnalyticsTM family -- namely Mapping and Cascade Analysis -- can help you plan smarter and easier.

Stephen S. Miller, P.E.