Redefining Land Development

England-Thims & Miller, Inc.
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Since 1977, England-Thims & Miller, Inc. (ETM) has redefined what it means to be a land development engineering consultant. The company specializes in development management and has a reputation for bringing expertise and value to its clients from project vision to project completion.
England-Thims & Miller has become a one-stop-shop for developers, offering a comprehensive approach to land development pursuits. In 1977, Jim England and Bob Thims left careers with a larger company to start their own engineering firm, originally named Bassett, England and Thims, Inc., based on Christian values and the commitment to do things the right way.

The firm continued to grow over the years, and in 1982, England and Thims were joined by Doug Miller and the company became England-Thims & Miller, Inc.

In 1983, England-Thims & Miller expanded its services to include surveying, while its primary focus remained land development projects. The firm experienced success in this market and by the early 1990s, the company had grown to employ a team of 40 employees.

“Ten years ago, we grew to approximately 270 employees,” Peter Ma, Executive Vice President of England-Thims & Miller described. “Of course, the recession caused some staff reduction like many firms in the industry, but today we are back to approximately 195 employees, of which 185 are in Jacksonville, and the remaining 10 are in the Lake Mary office, with staff rotating at the Palm Coast office.

“As the firm has grown and developed, so has our philosophy,” said Ma about the company’s growth. “Our Chief Strategy Officer, Doug Miller, has often said, ‘If you do one job right, you will get another one. If you do one job wrong, you will miss out on ten others that you wouldn’t even know about.’ This is the philosophy the firm is built on.”

England-Thims & Miller has established a reputation as a land development firm that maintains a strong focus on development management. It is built upon excellence, leadership, integrity, relationships, collaboration and stewardship and is equipped to undertake projects of any size and complexity.

“There are a lot of companies that only produce plans. We focus on providing all the services that go into a successful development project such as managing entitlements like rezoning and congruency, concurrency permits, size feasibility studies, pre-development budgeting, project scheduling and cash flow analysis. These are the critical items that determines the success of a project,” Ma noted.

Already known as the land development experts, in 1995, the company further expanded its repertoire to include landscape architecture and geographic information systems. In 1998, England-Thims & Miller merged with Robert M. Angas Associates Inc. and continued to expand its services and its capacities to accommodate its growing client list.

In the mid-1990s, England-Thims & Miller had the opportunity to undertake a number of projects that defined the firm as an industry leader. These projects were large, complex and challenged ETM’s abilities and expertise.

King and Bear was one of the first of these projects that Ma can recall. The collaboration between Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer resulted in a well-renowned scratch golf course located in World Golf Village. The eighteen-hole course also offers a practice facility, driving range, putting and chipping greens and a full-service clubhouse complete with a restaurant and pro-shop.

Nocatee is another great example of a significant project of which England-Thims & Miller was a part. Nocatee’s is a 15,000 acre master planned community consisting of twenty residential communities, a regional park, a town center with 750,000 square feet of retail space and 4 million square feet of office space.

England-Thims & Miller was involved with the project’s transportation infrastructure including the 4-lane limited access Nocatee Parkway, that can also provide necessary hurricane evacuation for beach communities, and the Crosswater Parkway that runs through the heart of the development. They designed the office and retail infrastructure and the community’s master stormwater facilities. Currently ranked the third best-selling community in the United States, Nocatee is only 45 percent complete and anticipates much future development.

The company provided a range of services on the St. Johns Town Center project which showcased its capacities and solidified its reputation for accomplishing projects of this magnitude. Spread over 207 acres, this large scale mixed-use community in Jacksonville boasts exceptional design and functionality and was the first of its kind in northeastern Florida.

St. Johns Town Center has over 1.4 million square feet of retail space and restaurants with 350 urban, multi-family residential units. England-Thims & Miller began work on the St. Johns Town Center in 1999 for Ben Carter, a developer in Atlanta, Georgia, and provided extensive large scale retail expertise on the project including rezoning and infrastructure for the open air mall. “The project and development team were so successful that we teamed with Ben Carter again and completed a 900,000 square foot outlet mall in Savannah that was eventually sold to Tanger,” said Ma. Subsequently, England-Thims & Miller became known for its ability to deliver on large scale mixed-use and retail developments.

England-Thims and Miller offers the most up-to-date technology, technical and design expertise and is managed with hands-on shareholder involvement and the highest ethical standards. The firm’s engineers, planners, technicians and specialists are committed to successfully producing and managing projects for federal, state and local levels of government, as well as private sector clients.

“In addition to our land development staff, we have several departments that focus mainly on public works projects for local and regional municipalities and the FDOT. Our Construction Inspection group, led by Buckley Williams, includes 43 professionals and our Transportation department led by Robert Mizell has 19 professionals,” Ma explained. “But we have a lot going on in land development. Even our planning department collaborates on land development projects. They focus on entitlements zoning, and concurrency.”

A fine example of the firm’s internal collaborative approach is Celebration Pointe, a transit-oriented mixed-use development.

The project was already underway with some of the clearing completed, but was slow to progress before England Thims & Miller was brought in. “Once we signed the contract, we immediately had twenty professionals from different disciplines in the Jacksonville office begin working on that job. The team included our transportation engineers, our water and sewer engineers, our storm water engineers, designers and our mixed-use town center and development management experts,” Ma explained.

“We tell our clients,” Ma said, “If you have a substantial job with tight deadlines, we can bring the horsepower because of our comprehensive services. We have the experts that will begin working on the project from day one.”

Ma credits the employees for much of the firm’s success. “Our employees are our greatest asset,” he explained. The company has retained the industry’s finest professionals. Ma has been with the firm for twenty-three years, and in no way is he the longest-serving member of the team.

The atmosphere, culture and the ability to work on exciting and challenging projects attracts the industry’s best. England-Thims & Miller offers a highly competitive compensation package, a family-oriented work environment and a strong work culture that proves attractive to industry-leading professionals.

The company has maintained its character and values despite its significant growth. “Even though we are a big company, we interact like a small company,” Ma noted. A major point of differentiation is the commitment to training, mentorship and workforce development.

England-Thims & Miller is also an employee owned corporation. The firm has nine executive shareholders and offers great opportunities to professionals who aspire to have a direct role in the ownership of the company.

The firm has two primary initiatives when it comes to training employees. New engineering graduates are required to undergo an eighteen-month training program that exposes them to the various aspects of the company. They are then rotated amongst the company’s three main groups to attain a strong understanding of the crucial facets of company operations.

England-Thims & Miller has a young professional group, comprised of employees thirty-five years of age and younger. The group focuses on building experience and professional development to improve the overall performance of the younger cohort of professionals. The company also maintains a strong commitment to the communities in which it belongs. Its staff supports charities financially and through volunteering.

England-Thims & Miller’s long-term strategy is to expand its presence and bring its expertise to new markets. “We have the experience with large scale lifestyle centers, regional town center malls and mixed-use developments, and a depth of resources that many other firms cannot provide. We are excited to expand our services beyond the southeast. If we find the right opportunity and the right client, then we will certainly go after it,” said Ma.

“With 39 years of experience, England Thims & Miller brings a comprehensive view and holistic approach for the developer. We’re involved at the very beginning, when the developer is looking at a piece of land and deciding if they want to buy it,” Ma noted.

“Occasionally we review the sales contract,” taking the client through the entitlement process, engineering, design and permitting, even reviewing the contractor’s work. “So, from conception to completion, we support the process every step of the way.”



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