Owner Profile: Mark Wirfs
Founder of R&W Engineering, Mark Wirfs, began his career in the engineering industry while he was still a student at Oregon State University. He worked for one year in the engineering department of a plant as he got his engineering degree. In 1971, he graduated with this Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and thus began the path that would eventually lead him to start the R&W Engineering business.
Before he decided to study engineering, Mark considered becoming a musician. He has played the trombone since 4th grade. But he decided to pursue engineering because it was more lucrative. As a senior in high school, he also considered studying physics and interviewed with a physics professor. Ultimately, he chose engineering because he liked that it was less theoretical and would allow him to build things.
After graduation, he started working for a large firm. But, unhappy with his level of advancement there, he changed jobs and went to a smaller firm. In need of something more, he then started looking for another opportunity. That was when he ran into Harry Reeder in an elevator. They struck up a conversation and several months later, they founded R&W Engineering.
When asked what he thought R&W’s greatest challenges have been overall, he said, “Staying in business during economic slowdown. And getting through slow periods of design and construction.” He said there were periods where they had to reduce staff, and that it became necessary to recognize that before real economic problems really hit.
He said during those times, they worked diligently to find new work. It was at this point that they developed a business of working with municipal clients, particularly water and wastewater treatment plants. “Therefore, water and wastewater projects allowed us to grow and find new avenues for work,” said Mark.
When asked what makes R&W successful, he said, “The people have been successful. As we expanded, we made sure to find good people. This really is a people’s business.” Wirfs said that he particularly enjoyed his association with great engineers and designers over the years. Involvement with so many different industries as well as the National Electrical Code (which he participated in as a member to write national electrical codes) meant he, “got to work with a great bunch of people.” R&W values its community, and it is clear this begins with our leadership.
Thinking back over the decades of projects he has worked on, Mark said he remembers several that were particularly interesting. “[R&W] was involved with a printed circuit board chemical treatment facility.” He said that the Chehalis wastewater treatment plant was a project that stood out in his mind. “It’s not often a city replaces a whole plant, and Chehalis did.” When asked what made these projects so unique, he said, “It was the opportunity to work in different environments, and the challenge to help contractors design and procure equipment.”
Outside of work, Mark is very active. He loves to play golf and does so quite a bit. And while he is not a professional musician, he still plays the trombone. He has even been in several different bands and symphonies at different times in his life.
Like so many of our leaders, Mark Wirfs’ dedication to R&W Engineering is one of the reasons we have thrived for as long as we have. With founders like him who prove their commitment to the company and its workers time and time again, we can trust the atmosphere built in this company is one intended to help us all succeed.