By Jann Wiswall
Mark Alianello, principal of MDA Consulting Engineers, has announced the addition of two new partners in his firm, and he couldn’t be more proud. His son, Jake Alianello, and Jake’s best friend from college, Caleb Henning, are now part owners and are positioned to keep the business running well into the future.
“I’ve never had partners before,” Mark said, “but I want the business to live on and continue to serve our clients after I retire. All the best practices I researched recommend that companies prepare for succession while the principal is still active.”
Mark, who has no plans to retire any time soon, did not want to just sell the business outright, so bringing on partners made the most sense. Both Jake and Caleb have been on the MDA staff for several years and have been groomed to take on more and more challenging projects, but in order to become partners, they had to become licensed Professional Engineers (P.E.), which takes a lot of time.
As Alianello explained, after getting a bachelor’s degree, engineers must pass a Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Then they apprentice for four to six years. Next, they must complete a complicated application that involves documenting and describing every project they’ve ever worked on with the goal of proving that they have gained enough experience to sit for the eight-hour P.E. exam, called the Principles and Practices of Engineering. Passing this exam is required before engineers can become registered in their states and is the credential needed in order to be able to officially stamp or sign engineering drawings and calculations.
Jake and Caleb, who met during their freshman year at Geneva College where they were studying for Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering, have been working toward that goal ever since graduation in 2007.
After college, Caleb moved back to his home state of Ohio and took an apprenticeship with a firm outside of Cleveland. After a year in that position, Mark called and offered him a job in Ellicottville.
“I jumped at the chance to learn from Mark and to live in a more rural environment similar to where I grew up,” Caleb said. “Plus, I knew Jake planned to come back to the area as soon as he could.”
Meanwhile, Jake had taken a job with the land development department of a large engineering firm in Raleigh-Durham, NC, while his wife was in graduate school for occupational therapy at UNC-Chapel Hill. They moved back to the area in 2009 and Jake started right in with his father’s firm.
“It has always been my dream and plan to work with my dad,” Jake said. “I’m so fortunate to be back in Western New York near my family and friends and working in a job I love.”
As soon as both were licensed (Caleb in 2012 and Jake in 2013), Mark made it official and offered them the opportunity to become partners, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
MDA Consulting Engineers is well known to those who live and work in Ellicottville. As the Town of Ellicottville’s engineer, Mark has been working on area projects for more than 20 years. He works closely with the Planning Board and Town Board on land development, water and sewer projects, roads and policy matters. He also has been instrumental in establishing policies and procedures for the town.
Beyond his role in that capacity, Mark has been responsible for all business development, technical quality, professional development and project management for MDA Consulting Engineers and works with many other municipal governments and agencies, developers, private businesses and individuals.
With the addition of Jake and Caleb, the firm is now positioned for future growth. Both are working with municipalities around the county on several major water, sewer and site plan projects and, as their experience grows, so will their ability to take the lead on projects large and small.
Jake said he probably has the toughest task ahead.
He said, “I have to learn to call Dad ‘Mark’ when we’re with clients. That’s going to take some getting used to.”