A history of "Firsts"
What started in 1966 as the first licensed Kentucky engineering firm has grown over the last 50 years to five states across the Southeast. And it all started with a couple of college kids studying to be engineers. Bob Vaughn and Nick Melton teamed up shortly after attending college together.
But, what began first with a single Transportation assignment building one highway from their first office in Middlesboro, Kentucky, has grown to multiple engineering disciplines offered by hundreds of employees, in 14 offices, across five states.
From one discipline to many
Transportation engineering may have started it all, but today we also offer Civil Design, Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI), Surveying and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Right of Way Acquisition (ROW), Utility Coordination and Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), Bridges and Structures, Drone Data Collection and Photography and Water Resources.
"You must know the past to realize the urgency and importance for successfully moving forward into the future."
V&M : 250+ employees : 14 offices : 5 states : 1 company
Vaughn & Melton still holds sway in Kentucky with its first office in Middlesboro and the 12th location in Lexington. But, the company has also expanded to other regions in the Southeast because of keen foresight. Consequently, the second office was opened in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1986, which is still the Carolinas Regional office.
Then, following the Cumberland Gap tunnel, Vaughn & Melton entered it's third state, Tennessee, opening their Knoxville office in 1998. More recently, an office in Gray, Tennessee, became the fifth office in 2003.
Office number four opened in Charlotte, NC, in 2002. But, the Queen City wasn't the last stop in the state for the growing engineering firm. Raleigh saw the 10th Vaughn & Melton office open in 2014, followed in 2015 by office 11, near the coast, in New Bern.
South Carolina became the company's fourth Southeastern state in 2005 when the Spartanburg office was created. Then, in 2012, office number 9 became the second Carolina coastal location in the beautiful city of Charleston. This state is also home to the most recent office when the Columbia branch was created in 2018.
Vaughn and Melton is not done growing. Georgia became the official fifth state in 2012 with the addition of its Kennesaw branch which serves the greater Atlanta area.
Vaughn & Melton innovates
In 1967, Vaughn & Melton offered three types of services: surveys of property, electric and gas distribution lines; highway design for other consultants and highway contractors; and planning studies for water and sewer projects.
The company's first jobs in Kentucky were for the counties of Bell, Whitley, Knox and Pulaski. They contracted studies mandated by the Farmers Home Administration as a condition for water and sewer grants. Then, a byproduct of the Bell County study was the Cannon Creek dam and reservoir.
While this first study was underway, a gasoline spill contaminated Pineville’s water supply from the Cumberland River. The Cannon Creek site was one of three considered. With construction of US-25E underway nearby, it became obvious that waste material from the road construction could provide material from the dam.
The fledgling firm got its first big break with the Kentucky Department of Highway. They created a joint venture project with Vaughn & Melton and Florence & Hutcheson. This first job created a 16-mile portion of the four-lane Bowling Green to Owensboro Parkway. Also during this first year, Vaughn & Melton landed its first rural waterline project for the design-build Cumberland Falls Highway District.
Multiple engineering disciplines
Bob Vaughn and Nick Melton were innovative from the beginning of their firm. They had the foresight to see where the region was growing and opened subsequent offices to meet the needs of the Southeast. This meant bigger and better things and different types of possibilities.
So, while transportation engineering may have started it all, today Vaughn & Melton offers multiple services to meet growing and more diverse needs. In essence, the firm has become a turnkey solution provider. Not only to we do important infrastructure work for Departments of Transportation, but we also offer growing services for municipalities, cities, towns as well as various government agencies and private businesses too. Want to know more?
Today, Vaughn & Melton also offers Civil Design, Construction Engineering and Inspection (CEI), Surveying and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Right of Way Acquisition (ROW), Utility Coordination and Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), Bridges and Structures, Drone Data Collection and Photography as well as Water Resources.
1970-1990: 75 Employees
Between the years of 1970 and 1990, Vaughn & Melton’s portfolio added more diverse projects allowing for their continued growth. Early projects included master planning for water and sewer for both Barbourville and Williamsburg, Kentucky.
Obviously the firm's growth didn't stop at transportation. But while we quickly earned a highway design project in Louisville, KY, there was also a master plan for the Middlesboro Airport, the Barbourville recreation park (including the Little League Park).
But transportation projects still helped the firm grow as the nation expanded its roadways. Soon, a design of 25E through Barbourville was a project. Then various storm water studies for Barbourville and several other locations, and the beginning of our long relationship with the Nashville Army Corp of Engineers. But soon, it would be time to exapand to new areas.
“We were always looking to improve ourselves. You have to continually reinvent. You have to go ahead and seize the opportunity when it presents itself” -Bob Vaughn
Growing firm means more engineers
For the first decade, Vaughn & Melton grew to have about 75 employees in the few offices. But the biggest changes were in the works even if it was clear at the time. Once the firm established itself in North Carolina In the 1980s and then Tennessee in the 1990s, a wave of growth would move them even faster forward.
1990-2000: 100 Employees
Two major events occurred before the turn of the millenium starting with the hiring of Randy Scott in 1997. Randy, a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Kentucky, was hired to lead our right-of-way services department but would go on to become Vaughn & Melton's CEO.
The second major event was the 1998 opening of the Knoxville, Tennessee, office.
2010-2020: 14 Offices • 5 States • 300+ Employees
Vaughn & Melton’s legacy has grown to become what it is today- a premier engineering firm with hundreds of employees doing thousands of projects in multiple locations throughout the Southeastern United States.
Today we have two offices in Kentucky, including the original in Middlesboro and Lexington. We have two offices in Tennessee including Knoxville and Gray. We have six offices in North Carolina including Asheville, Boone, Sylva, Charlotte, Raleigh, and New Bern. We have three offices in South Carolina including Spartanburg, Columbia and Charleston. And finally, we have our Georgia office in Kennesaw.
V&M becomes an ESOP
Regarding the ownership transition to an Employed Stock Owned Program (ESOP), this allowed both Bob and Nick to retire without selling the company to outside investors. This also makes the company 100 percent employee owned. Now, those who do the work are rewarded for their outstanding efforts in more ways than one.
“Our company isn’t ‘Bob Vaughn and Nick Melton,’ said founding partner Nick Melton, "It’s all of the people who do the work. If you sell to an outsider, they may take your contracts and go off, leaving your people on the side of the street. We felt like the people that got us there deserved an opportunity to continue. So, we chose the ESOP as the best way to pass our ownership to our people, rather someone else.”
One company, one voice
Although Vaughn & Melton has offices in multiple regions, we are committed to our customers as one company with one voice. This allows us to deliver world-class professional services to every client while our employees are rewarded for excellent work. Today, Vaughn & Melton continues its mission: improving the world where we live and work, wherever that may be.
So, whether it's structural foundations, roadways, bridges, sidewalks, water distribution, water treatment, wastewater and sewer systems, storm water systems, or any other improvement project, Vaughn & Melton is there, moving forward, always improving the flow of commerce and community.