Ulteig expands into the international market

Ulteig is today still headquartered in Fargo, but its footprint has grown substantially over the past 77 years. It has offices in more than 40 states and now one in the international market.

The company in late April finalized the acquisition of NLS Engineering in Hamilton, Ontario.

This is a boon to not only the company that now crosses the border between two countries, but it’s a sign of more good things to come. It means more skilled talent for team members to tap between offices in the U.S. and Canada, said Ulteig President and CEO Doug Jaeger.

The acquisition adds 39 new employees to the company – three principals, including NLS Engineering President and CEO Mark Presti. The other employees are primarily engineers and technical professionals, as well as supporting staff members.

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Mark Presti

Mark PrestiImage: Courtesy of Ulteig

“That is really the number one reason for the acquisition,” Jaeger said. “We’re a people business. We’re only as good as our people, and we’re gaining some really incredible talent.”

Jaeger said outside of this latest acquisition, the company has continued to expand over the past several years, from about 320 employees in 2015 when he arrived to nearly 750 today; 170 new positions were filled over the past year. What is perhaps more notable, he said, is that the expansion into Canada happened during the pandemic when borders were closed.

That made both companies, Ulteig and NLS, think outside the box about how to make the partnership work. Jaeger said since his team couldn’t get into Canada, Presti and his team came to the U.S. They also did a lot of virtual meetings.

He said whenever Ulteig does an acquisition, it considers at least four things.

“One of them is their talent. The second thing is their reputation, and our reputation. Are they a good match?” he said. “We believe NLS has a phenomenal reputation in the system integration industry. Third is culture, and that’s the hardest part to figure out when you’re meeting virtually. So we spent a lot of time getting to know each other’s culture and making sure it was a strong cultural fit for them and for us. And fourth, certainly, are the financial benefits of the acquisition.”

One benefit Jaeger is excited about is that the Ontario office can access the expertise of Ulteig team members, and vice versa.

Jaeger said his goal is twofold: Bring Ulteig’s expertise to clients in Canada, and NLS’s expertise to clients in the U.S. About 75% of NLS’s business already is in the U.S.

“We have a huge client base in the renewables and water space and we want to bring their competency to our clients,” he said. “So that’s really the focus, to grow our capability into their client base and grow their capability into our client base.”

Employees are being phased back into offices, but some employees may choose to continue working from home. That’s OK – but Jaeger said he wants to maintain the company’s culture, even while many may continue working remotely and especially now with a new Canada office.

As such, office environments may look different. Something it is doing is investing in “collaboration centers,” basically spaces where employees can come together from time to time to discuss projects and ideas with their colleagues.

Jaeger, who is excited about the direction the company is headed, said Ulteig expects to expand its footprint over the next five years.

“We’re 77 years this year,” he said. “I think Mel would be pretty amazed to know that that company he created is now an international company. We do this in 44 states and now in Ontario.”

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