1She was right.
"Everything worked great, and to be perfectly frank, I didn't have any concern, nor was there any warranted," said Goldsmith, 46.
The Commercial Street science and engineering company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and it is just coming off two major contracts for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hurricane Protection Office.
The firm has designed and managed the building of levees, flood walls and navigation gates to protect New Orleans and surrounding parishes that were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Some of these projects are so large they can be seen from outer space, said Goldsmith, who was down in New Orleans last week for a conference focused on the work done there.
At its core, Bioengineering Group provides scientists, engineers, landscape architects and construction managers to work on a variety of development projects, but all with an ecological bent. They work to restore damaged ecosystems, promote energy and water conservation, and look at ways developments can make a low impact on the environment.
For the most part, their projects tend to blend in with their natural surroundings once completed. Bioengineering Group is not one to leave its footprint in the sand.
The firm is also unique in that it takes an "interdisciplinary" approach to projects, Goldsmith said. Ecologists, earth scientists, landscape designers and engineers work on projects together, so they can share their insights, instead of working separately, as is tradition.
"We blur those lines intentionally," said Bioengineering Group's new president, Doug Smith.
"Here, every project gets a team, where all of the factors are thought of ahead of time," said landscape designer Andrew Keel of Milton, who works at the company's Salem headquarters.
Piling up awards
Goldsmith started the company in late 1991 before incorporating in 1992. She did so at a time when the words "green" and "sustainable" were not on many engineering firm's radar screens.
Since then, the company has won a slew of awards and accolades.
On Sept. 15, the privately held company announced it had been named to the Zweig Letter Hot Firm List, which recognizes fast-growing architecture, engineering and environmental firms.
This year, Inc. magazine named the company to its list of America's 5,000 fastest-growing companies, at No. 1,114. Inc. cited the company's revenues in 2010 as $9.2 million, up from $2.5 million in 2007.
It is ranked eighth among like "environmental services" firms on the list. Goldsmith declined to talk about revenues when asked.
In the past three years, the company has been growing like a weed, a near 300 percent growth rate, Goldsmith said.
In 2010, the company had about 72 employees.
This year, the staffing is in flux, given normal attrition and the nature of the business, which often relies on government contracts.
The $150 million and $50 million contracts for flood protection that the firm won from the Army Corps of Engineers are winding down.
Last year, the company scored when it won a $30 million contract from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service for work in Saipan, Guam and the Caribbean.
From Yale to Salem
Goldsmith started out by studying geology, geophysics and environmental science at Yale. Instead of becoming an academic, she decided to put her ideas about sustainable development into practice by going to work for a small planning and design firm.
She got a master's in landscape design from Conway School in western Massachusetts, worked for an engineering firm, then sought out an apprenticeship in East Germany under a well-known hydraulic engineer named Lothar Bestmann. Goldsmith worked on projects to restore East Germany's scarred landscape and vowed to bring these restoration practices back to the United States.
She started Bioengineering Group, at first in Cambridge, and never quit learning new things. Along the way, she earned a master's degree in plant and soil science at the University of Massachusetts.
The company is at its third location in Salem. It settled along the North River Canal in 1999, when it took over a refurbished warehouse that today is festooned with houseplants. The building incorporates many principles of green design that the company espouses. There is plenty of natural light, insulation and energy-efficient lighting, to name a few touches.
The company also has offices in New Orleans and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and an office outside San Diego.
Goldsmith said she was especially proud to be named last October by Fortune magazine as one of the nation's top 10 groundbreaking women small-business entrepreneurs, an accolade that gave her the opportunity to meet one-on-one with investor Warren Buffett.
When she told him what her company does, he lit up, she said.
"You have a great business," she said Buffett told her. "You are never going to run out of work to do."
Recently, Bioengineering Group underwent a major change in senior leadership, as Doug Smith, the company's former chief operating officer, took over for former President Bill Hall, who is leaving to pursue a job at Pennsylvania State University. Hall worked with Smith over the past two years.
Smith, who works from his home in Raleigh, N.C., when he is not on the road, took a circuitous route to becoming the company's president.
Goldsmith hired Smith as employee No. 3 back in 1992 when he was fresh out of graduate school. He learned a lot, then left after two years to work for traditional engineering firms, including one in Hamburg, Germany, which focused on restoration design.
He worked on projects in the Philippines, Korea and Malaysia, then worked for two other firms, honed his business operations skills, became a professional wetlands scientist and got his Master of Business Administration.
He came back to Bioengineering Group in 2006.
Smith said he was drawn back by the high-profile flood protection work in New Orleans.
As this work winds down, Smith said he would like to focus on growing the firm, while keeping an eye on sustainable projects and environmental and ecological restoration work.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.