Probing a Little Deeper

by / 0 Comments / 352 View / June 1, 2015

Ever wonder what might be lurking deep down underground right there in your own backyard? Maybe an underground storage tank? A sinkhole or an abandoned mine tunnel—even a dead body?

Thanks to Felicia Bechtel, owner of Enviroscan, it’s possible to find out exactly what is hidden below without endangering your health and well-being and without your having to lift a shovel!

A Lancaster native and the youngest of five children, Bechtel grew up with parents who were in the medical field.

“I was always around science from the time I was tiny,” she said. “I thought I would be a physician … but ended up taking a geology class my sophomore year in college and was hooked.”

That college career began with undergraduate work at Bryn Mawr College and graduate work at Yale and Brown—all in geology. She married her husband, Tim, a geophysicist, right out of graduate school. At that time, while her husband was finishing his Ph.D. at Brown, Bechtel discovered that there were no jobs for geologists in the region.

“This was the mid-’80s, pre-environmental consulting push,” she said.

After a varied career journey, Bechtel and her husband ended up working with an environmental consulting firm in Lancaster, where they were asked to become partners in 1991.

However, Bechtel said that “a relative encouraged us to work up an alternative business plan for starting our own firm—not environmental consulting, but geophysics, our specialty.”

After initially joking about the idea, they eventually realized this was the path they should actually take.

“Thus, Enviroscan, Inc., was born in February 1992.”

So what is geophysics and what do Bechtel, and her business partners—her husband and brother-in-law—actually do for their clients?

“Enviroscan specializes exclusively in land, marine, and borehole geophysics,” Bechtel explains. “Think of geophysics as medical radiology, except we are scanning the earth rather than people, looking for things underground.”

Helping their clients avoid digging and hitting something they weren’t expecting, or helping them locate precisely where to dig to find something, is the ultimate goal.

“It is used to minimize danger, cost, time, and, of course, liability for anyone doing intrusive work,” she said.

Bechtel’s husband, Tim, is Enviroscan’s technical director, staying “on top of the latest and greatest with regard to new science practices,” she said.

He also teaches geology and related courses at F&M College and often works with legal cases that may require the type of expertise Enviroscan can provide.

Her brother-in-law, Geoff Stankiewicz, vice president, is an accountant who handles all financial projections and manages the company properties and equipment. He also manages the marine geophysics division of the company, as they scan for underwater targets like downed aircraft, drowning victims, clear shipping lanes, or sunken ships.

“I am the primary client contact,” Felecia Bechtel said. “When a client has a problem to solve … they usually contact me first and I determine how to help them.”

She composes a proposal that describes the procedures and costs in detail and also provides all the necessary report reviews for completed projects. Additionally, Bechtel does a lot of educational outreach for her clients, community, and other interested groups.

Operating a business together and working so closely on a daily basis with your family might seem challenging for some, but Bechtel has found it to be quite beneficial, considering each of them brings something unique to the table.

“We can pinch-hit for each other … but it is great for each of us having our own specialized niche where we can be super-efficient. It has helped us thrive for 23 years. That and a really fantastic staff of professionals working with us.”

In the 23 years they’ve been in business, Bechtel said they’ve found that each assignment is exciting and special in its own way.

“Either the work is wild, or the client is really fun to work with, the results are spectacular, or the venue is unusual … I love it when we are solving a complicated puzzle or really helping someone understand something about their property or site that they didn’t know before.”

Enviroscan is proud to be a Socially and Economically Restricted Business (SERB) and also a certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE), an honor they’ve held since 1994 and have updated yearly since then.

“Being a certified WBE means that we have been scrutinized by several governmental agencies over the years to verify that ownership and the day-to-day operations are governed, by at least 51 percent, by a female—me,” Bechtel proudly stated.

The benefits of being a certified WBE come into play when large companies going after big government contracts, which are typically long-term contracts, need to subcontract part of the work to certified WBEs or other minority business enterprises.

“They will look to us if they need geophysics, so it sometimes helps us in the selection process,” Bechtel said.

Other than the fact that there are still fewer women than men in the professional technical fields, Bechtel doesn’t think being a woman has made a big difference in how she’s navigated her career in geophysics.

“When someone uses us and deals with me directly, they may remember me better because I am different from a male counterpart,” she said. “And I try every single day to make sure that my clients have a positive experience with us, so hopefully they will remember that too.”

Bechtel said she feels very lucky to be part of the thriving community and emphasized her belief that it is every person’s responsibility to give back, both personally and as part of any organization in which they’re involved. Leading by example, she has been engaged with many community-service projects and volunteer organizations over the years.

“The hardest thing is to learn how to balance work with community service so you can give your best to both without going crazy,” she said.

“I am really proud of my entire extended family … and especially my husband and our three children,” she said. “It reminds me that I am part of a grand network of amazing people.” BW

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