Mick Gronewold, principal at Fehr Graham, is a problem-solver. From the beginning of his career as a design engineer to project managing and overseeing business and employee development at Fehr, Gronewold gets a thrill from seeing his work come to life.
In a Q&A interview, Gronewold shares how he keeps busy, both at work and at home, and opens up about his farming operation and being a Michigan football fanatic.
Chicago Industrial Properties: What is your primary focus as a principal at Fehr Graham?
Mick Gronewold: As one of the principals at Fehr Graham, my main responsibility is business and employee development. I spend a significant amount of time trying to give little pushes here and little pushes there to help make projects happen, drive value to our clients, and find creative ways to secure and provide challenges for our teams to work on. In addition, I also serve as our firm’s Engineering Division Manager. This charter keeps me integrated into what we are doing for our client’s across the whole firm. This effort enables me to work with the engineering staff in all of our offices as we as a team continuously look for ways to improve our process, our product, and our people so we can better serve our clients.
CIP: Team collaboration certainly drives work efficiency. What was it about the industry that captured your interest?
MG: I began my career as a design engineer, working on site plans for residential/commercial and industrial development projects. My involvement with a local economic development corporation in Freeport, Illinois early in my career turned my interest towards industrial development projects. I really fell in love with the opportunity to be part of turning a potential project into a reality. I quickly evolved from preparing site plans and designs for utility extensions serving a project to playing a role in securing entitlements and incentives for projects.
CIP: It sounds like you’ve gained a lot of valuable experience in different areas of the field. Has there been a particular time or experience that you’ve found most memorable?
MG: The experience I have found most memorable is the three years we were part of the effort to bring Nippon Sharyo, a Japanese rail car manufacturer looking to expand in the United States, to Rochelle, Illinois. Although we played a small role on “Team Rochelle,” we worked with the city of Rochelle and the Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation (GREDCO) to find a location that exceeded Nippon Sharyo’s needs. Beyond simply finding the right site, we needed to work with a number of State and Federal Agencies to secure funding to help extend water, sewer, roads, and rail service to the location. As the project progressed, Fehr Graham had the opportunity to provide design and construction management support for these public infrastructure improvements. It was gratifying to watch what was originally just a dream become a reality.
CIP: I can imagine how exciting that would be—to see a major project of yours being transformed. What’s your favorite part of your involvement in the process?
MG: As I alluded to it earlier, I love transformation and being a part of making a dream or vision into reality. I enjoy being in on the first stages of a project and seeing it through to completion. Whether securing the entitlements for a piece of property which leads to eventual job creation, or coaching a Fehr Graham teammate looking to improve their job or leadership skills.
CIP: And when coaching a teammate looking to improve, what’s a piece of advice you would give them?
MG: It’s a tie – A close friend of mine once reiterated a quote credited to Harry Truman, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” I have seen it in action and I am a true believer! The other one came from my grandpa – “Differentiate yourself. Don’t treat everyone like you want to be treated, treat them like they want to be treated.” I still have a lot of work to do to meet grandpa’s expectation!
CIP: On your down time, what do you like to do?
MG: I certainly enjoy spending as much time as possible with my lovely wife of nearly 24 years, Kate, and our three kids Seth, Megan and Lizzie. I also enjoy spending time out on our family farm near Forreston, Illinois.
CIP: You mentioned your family farm—do you have your own livestock and harvest there?
MG: In addition to what I do at Fehr Graham, I have a small farming operation in Northwestern Illinois. The operation includes a grain and livestock operation raising corn, soybeans as a cash crop, and hay to feed our Black Angus beef cow/calf herd. Nothing like good honest farm work to keep you grounded.
CIP: But if you weren’t a principal full-time with the farming operation on the side, could you picture yourself in a different industry?
MG: Admittedly, as I look back, I think I have always enjoyed problem-solving. Engineering simply provides an avenue for me to pursue that passion. I probably could have found any number of “jobs” where I could problem-solve, but the added bonus of being involved with land development and seeing tangible transformation really cemented this career choice.
CIP: That’s a pretty fair answer! Let’s talk lifestyle–if you could meet any public figure who would it be and why?
MG: Jim Harbaugh. As a devote Michigan Wolverines fan I have watched Jim since his days playing in the Big House. I just like the way Jim approaches his job. His intensity toward the game, drive to win and ability to connect with his players intrigues me. Whether he wins or loses, I think Jim is a great coach. The opportunity to spend time with him to learn how he balances that intensity with emotional intelligence so he can motivate as well as connect with his players would be invaluable to me in with my current responsibilities.
CIP: An ultimate goal you’d love to cross off your bucket list?
MG: I would love to spend a month in the mountains of Alaska. I spent a few years in the Rockies Mountains of Montana, but the vastness and isolation of Alaska intrigues me.