Doug Bisson gets recognized a lot. He’s led a lot of public meetings. But when he joined HDR 17 years ago, he didn’t know he’d have a front row seat to some of the most transformative changes in the region.
“In the last two decades, Omaha saw a significant amount of redevelopment, and the economic impact has been huge,” says Bisson, HDR’s community planning manager. “With developments like Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village, and North Downtown, anchored by TD Ameritrade Park, we’ve seen well over a billion dollars in development. The impacts from these projects reach far. Omaha’s upgrades have created hundreds of new jobs of all kinds. Gone are the days when we were competing with LA and New York to attract the best and the brightest. We’ve become an international community, a great value in and of itself.”
Each of these projects began with a master plan – a collaboration of smart business leaders, residents and developers who come together to capture a vision of what might be. “I’m proud that I played a part in crafting the framework that allowed such a renaissance. That being said, none of the changes would have been possible without engineers and architects. They are the heroes of strong communities.”
Consider the Omaha of 1917. When HDR’s founder, H.H. Henningson, established his engineering firm in downtown Omaha, he brought the first power lines to many Nebraska towns. His achievements enabled more than late-night reading. Access to power brought a socio-economic sea change for Nebraska residents.
In celebration of our 100th anniversary, we thought it fitting to ask a few of our own architects and engineers to share how they hope their work will strengthen the community we call home.
Fav Project: Making design sustainable
“I started out as an electrical engineer, and I found my passion in making sustainability part of the infrastructure design process. True sustainable design makes a community strong by protecting the environment while paying for itself.
Changes like that are taking place in Nebraska. At Bellevue University, I’m giving input to faculty creating an outdoor lab that lets students design sustainable systems, like collecting storm water to fill ponds in which algae can be harvested to create biofuels. It’s a beautiful circle. I’m proud to be a part of that story.
I hope that one day, sustainable infrastructure design will become routine on a global scale. That’s why I serve on the board for the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure in DC. If I can help write the guidelines, I’m doing my part to bring this vision to life.”
Fav Project:Making water safe
“One of my first projects was MUD’s Platte West drinking water facility. I was lucky – brand new facilities come along maybe once every 30 years. Platte West created a new drinking water supply for our expanding community.
Now I’m working on the opposite end of the spectrum, working on upgrades at the historic MUD Florence water treatment plant.
Our utilities have done a wonderful job of securing water supply and making continuous improvements to our infrastructure. Availability of water is a key factor in attracting new business, and that’s important for our long-term economic strength.
I became a water engineer because I liked chemistry, biology and engineering. I liked that I could use my interests as a problem-solving tool. And, providing safe water, critical to public health, feels good, too.”
Fav Project: Inspiring tomorrow’s designers
“Investing in—and inspiring—children can only make our communities stronger. I couldn’t be more excited about working with students through the Boy Scouts of America, local schools and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I am an adjunct professor and lecturer.
I am especially proud of the Kaneko Architecture Design Camps, which I helped create five years ago for kids ages 11 to 18. The camps explore how we can shape our built environment to improve the urban condition—and how all of us can influence the cultural fabric of our communities. Through exercises like walking tours, 3D modeling and prototyping, kids see that they have the power to make the built environment better—and that they can truly make an impact. I really enjoy exposing younger generations to that power.”