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Past Winners


Herst & Associates Inc.

Herst & Associates specializes in hydrogeologic, hydrochemical and general environmental consulting, providing such services as site characterization, permitting, expert testimony, environmental sampling, health and safety plans, and groundwater statistical analyses.

Deborah and Ward Herst founded Herst & Associates in April 1998, after their youngest children, twins, started school. Ward had years of experience in hydrogeologic engineering and Deborah had formal business training, so the couple decided that they had the skills to start their own business. Deborah would own the company and Ward would manage it. The Hersts launched their business in their home but knew that location would limit potential. The Economic Development Center of St. Charles County (EDC) was an appealing option. "[Working out of the home] doesn’t present a proper image," explains Deborah. "The front desk, conference rooms and the complete package of service the incubator provided really helped us present a professional image."

Since entering the EDC in May of 1998, Herst & Associates has been extremely successful. Revenues for the most recent fiscal year were $1.9 million, as compared to $399,000 in the company’s first year (1998). In 2001,the company employed 17 full-time employees and two part-time employees.

The incubator’s assistance was instrumental in the company’s success. The absence of a long-term lease and physical flexibility made it possible for Herst & Associates to grow quickly. "We changed offices about every six months," says Deborah. "Because of the flexibility, we weren’t afraid to go after the really big contracts. The incubator took a lot of the fear factor out of the business for us."

The EDC’s manager, Peggy Plont, says the Hersts’ dedication, as well as that of their employees, helped the company grow. "Their employees have an excellent work ethic, and their company has really taken advantage of all the incubator has to offer," Plont says. "Deborah made sure she or one of her employees was at every seminar that the incubator had." Poised to graduate from the incubator, the Hersts have asked the EDC staff to help them choose a new site. In turn, the Hersts have donated $3000 to the incubator for parking lot upgrades and roof repairs.

Deborah sees this award as a big marketing opportunity for her company. "We were very excited to win this award," she says. "When you are competing against older and bigger firms, the recognition really says ’We’re for real, and we’re here to stay.’ That’s important when trying to attract large clients." Plont shares Deborah’ s excitement. "We were elated to find out that they had received this award," she says. "Their success really lends credence to the fact that incubation is a program that works."

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