by Liz Carey
July 27, 2022
Experts with Thoroughbred use technology to perform soil testing. The firm o ers site-selection assistance, and can help assess the potential of sub-prime locations for development.
Thoroughbred has been engineering solutions for Central Kentucky commercial developments for nearly a decade. And the company is growing. Two recent acquisitions will help expand Thoroughbred into a full-service engineering firm, assisting with everything from site selection to construction.
Started in 1986 by founder Brent Combs, the firm was developed initially to fuel the needs of the Toyota plant in Georgetown. Over the years, the company became involved in designing most of the residential subdivisions in Scott County.
In 2014, Combs sold the firm to Darrin Croucher, one of its current principal partners. With only three employees, Croucher set out to develop a company that would bring multiple engineering disciplines under one roof.
Since then, the company has grown to more than 80 employees in three locations throughout the region.
In 2021, Thoroughbred acquired Hargett Construction, one of Central Kentucky’s oldest general contracting companies. Then, in 2022, it acquired Pyramid Structural Engineers and brought on Mo Seraji, one of the area’s most highly regarded structural engineers.
The idea, said Thoroughbred partner Jonathan Hale, is to be a one-stop shop for nearly all the engineering solutions commercial developers need to take a project from concept to completion.
John Mark Hack
Because of the firm’s engineering background, it’s able to help commercial developers succeed even before the project begins, said John-Mark Hack, chief strategy officer. Using technologies like drones and electrical resistivity imaging, Thoroughbred can assess sites for their suitability for development and even help remediate subprime sites for new development, Hack said.
“We have specific tools, technology and expertise that support our delivery of the information our clients need to make the best decisions about their projects,” he said. “Some of those technologies and expertise enable us to consider sites that may not, on the surface, appear to be prime sites for development. But, through the integration of technically sound engineering and the utilization of technologies and expertise, we can help facilitate financial feasibility where there may not have been without applying those tools.”
Said Hale: “When we’re able to engage with [a developer] before he buys a property, when he’s engaged in negotiations, we’re able to give him the leverage of our data to help him get the right price for the site and make the project feasible.”
Once a commercial developer has selected a site, Thoroughbred can not only help prepare it for development but also handle everything from the geophysical investigation and geotechnical engineering to overseeing the planning, architectural design, transportation engineering, landscaping, storm-water design and other aspects of development before handing the project over to its construction partners.
In 2017, the company was instrumental in helping AppHarvest with the site design and permitting for its first facility in Morehead, Kentucky. When issues arose with the original Pike County site, Thoroughbred was there to help the company find a solution for its flagship tomato-growing facility.
“Constructing a 53-acre glass greenhouse is problematic under the best conditions, but doing it on reclaimed strip mine property is especially complicated,” Hack said.
Since then, AppHarvest, which uses the Dutch method of mass production of indoor-grown produce, has become a key client of Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbred also collaborated with Dutch engineers to develop facilities for AppHarvest in order to grow specific crops like tomatoes, leafy greens and cucumbers. The engineering firm has since helped AppHarvest with site selection, site design and permitting for the company’s other sites in Somerset, Richmond and Berea.
“That engineering came out of the Netherlands,” Hale said. “We took metric code documents, European documents, and transferred them into U.S. and Kentucky code documents. As the structural engineer of record, it was just something we had to do.”
Thoroughbred worked with AppHarvest to locate its 53-acre greenhouse facility on a reclaimed strip-mining site in Morehead, Kentucky.
Currently, the firm has several projects underway in Lexington, including two hotels — a Hampton Inn in Brannon Crossing and a Tru by Hilton in Hamburg.
What’s important to the firm, Hack said, is not only being a good corporate citizen by contributing to the community but also being a client-centric organization that provides its employees with the opportunity to have a meaningful impact where they live and work.
The firm is looking at opportunities in Lexington, as well as opportunities in the growing Shelbyville market, where their slate of services can be best used. In some ways, the company will go back to its roots, supporting the area around a major automotive manufacturing project.
“We are actively looking at the high-growth areas in Kentucky and elsewhere where we can be of service to our clients,” Hack said.
“One of those high-growth areas is Elizabethtown and Hardin County, in the wake of the Ford SK Blue Oval Battery Campus that was recently announced,” he said. Related projects may include developing new neighborhoods, retail and other amenities to support the growing community. Said Hack: “We’re deeply rooted in major industrial development.”
by Liz Carey
July 27, 2022
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