UK-based engineering firm lands in Richmond

SCRIM vehicles such as this one will soon survey Virginian roads. (Courtesy of WDM)

An engineering company from across The Pond has chosen Richmond for its first U.S. office.

WDM, which produces equipment to monitor road conditions and maintenance needs, last month set up shop here in a bid to win the business of state and local transportation departments, municipal planning offices and research institutions such as Virginia Tech.

Ryland Potter, director of business development for the firm’s American subsidiary, WDM USA, is running the local office. Potter spent the last five years as managing director with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, encouraging companies to invest in the state.

Potter first met WDM while she was convincing its officials to locate an office in Virginia, then was sold on the company’s goal of using its technology to keep roads safe.

Richmond was chosen as a base for the U.S. expansion for its proximity to Washington, D.C. and lawmakers, along with the concentration of transportation companies in the area.

“Richmond has a strong international community and surprisingly dynamic cluster of companies working in the transportation sector,” Potter said.

WDM already has scored some business in Virginia. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, using funding from the Federal Highway Administration, purchased one of WDM’s surveying vehicles, known as the Sideway-force Coefficient Routine Investigation Machine, or SCRIM. The institute’s goal is to help states develop pavement friction management programs. The more friction on pavement, the better chance tires have of grip, which can reduce accidents.

“We would like to see national policy that encourages continuous friction measurement,” Potter said. “That’s what’s been most successful in reducing deaths around the world. The Federal Highway Administration is ahead of the game in recognizing continuous friction as the way forward in the U.S., but so far, it hasn’t been adopted on a national level.”

The vehicle has carried out road surveying in five states and is currently surveying roads for the Virginia Department of Transportation. All states are targeted for equipment sales or survey services starting in 2019, though Potter said none have formally contracted just yet.

The company also creates equipment such as the TM2 surface texture measurement instrument.

WDM has about 150 employees overall, and the Richmond office will have three, including Potter, by 2019, with a goal of expanding to about 200.

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