Neil Fernando, principal and founder of Emerio Design, started his civil engineering firm out of the back of his old Honda Accord in 2005. Today, with hard work and perseverance, he’s grown his firm to more than 70 employees and is following his life’s mission to create meaningful jobs while giving back to the community. As part of that growth, Neil acknowledges the role the City of Portland’s equity contracting program has played in helping to remove barriers and enable his firm to compete for infrastructure projects like the Bull Run Filtration Project.
Emerio Design became certified as a Disadvantaged, Minority-owned Business Enterprise and Emerging Small Business in 2009. Certification through Oregon’s Certification Office of Business Inclusion and Diversity helps to foster fair opportunities for certified small businesses to compete for government contracts regardless of owner ethnicity, gender, disability, or firm size. Emerio Design’s certification first opened up opportunities to work for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and Bureau of Transportation. From these initial subcontracting roles, Emerio has since graduated from Emerging Small Business status, continuing to grow, and is now taking on prime contracts for civil engineering and surveying work with the City as well.
As the Civil Engineer of Record for the Bull Run Filtration Project, Emerio Design is responsible for civil engineering, grading, stormwater, and surveying for both the filtration facility and pipelines. Neil considers it an honor to be part of this vital project. “It is so incredibly awesome for us to be part of one the City of Portland’s biggest infrastructure projects,” says Neil. “The City of Portland is actually thinking ahead, and not only just providing water to each household, but also stepping up their game and improving the quality of the water that’s delivered to each and every household.”
One of the big community benefits Neil sees with the Bull Run Filtration Project is that it will make the water system more resilient. “Growing up in Sri Lanka, there were times we did not have water, we only had water for two hours a day,” says Neil. “Potable water is so important to people’s daily living standards—plus the economy."
Neil and his team are mindful of giving back and doing good for the community, especially now, as the economy is suffering from the impact of COVID-19. In response, his team supported various non-profit organizations through volunteering and donations. “The staff got behind it, and we were able to bless 15 different non-profits. We still continue to do that,” says Neil.
Neil’s proud of his team and happy for the partnership with the Water Bureau and other firms working on the projects. “For the next three or four years we have work, and meaningful work to do,” says Neil. "I’m looking forward to finishing this strong, and we’re glad that we’re on the team.”
The Bull Run Treatment Projects supports our economy and will provide an estimated $200 million in contracts to firms owned by people of color and women. Learn more about the City of Portland’s programs for Social Equity in Contracting.