Brian Peterson grows ECI simple landscaping to complex outdoor projects 2019 Bravo! Entrepreneur

LOVELAND — Part-time Loveland resident Brian Peterson started with a residential landscaping business but a name change and location change later, he decided to go larger scale.

Peterson, founder, partner and board chairman of ECI Site Construction Management Inc., in Loveland, moved into building regional parks and athletic fields and doing river restoration projects, while hiring out the landscaping portion of the projects.

“What differentiates us is there is nobody in Colorado that does what we do. We specialize in building complex outdoor environments,” Peterson said. “They’re very unique projects. Not any other people specialize and do what we do.”

Peterson founded Environmental Concerns Inc., or ECI, in 1980 two years after he worked for a landscaping company, L&M Enterprises Inc., in Berthoud. A Nebraska native, he graduated in 1978 with a horticulture degree from the University of Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Nebraska, and came to Colorado.

“I just wanted to do it on my own. I grew up in a lot of family businesses, so I knew business pretty well, so I started early,” Peterson said about his father, who owned farming and grocery store businesses in Nebraska.

Peterson originally worked out of his home, and, initially, his heavy equipment consisted of a pickup truck and a wheelbarrow. His wife, Barb, was his business partner, but she has since stepped aside.

The company grew, so in 1986, Peterson moved it to 2526 14th St. SE, where it has been since. He started out with residential landscaping for new lots and yard installations and in about 1990 transitioned into construction management of municipal landscaping projects and complex outdoor environments. His projects involved things like downtown redevelopment, parks and sports venues, and natural area restoration.

In the late 1990s, Peterson changed the company name to ECI Site Construction to better fit what it does.

“We don’t even do landscaping anymore. We contract that out,” Peterson said. “We started doing broader scopes of work. We started doing heavy site construction.”

A general contractor, ECI Site Construction builds a project from the ground up, often starting with a vacant field, Peterson said. Some of the company’s larger projects include the Spring Canyon Southeast Community Park and Poudre Whitewater Park in Fort Collins and Loveland Sports Park in Loveland. The company’s river restoration projects, including those for the Big Thompson, Cherry Creek, Platte and Poudre rivers, involved things like restoring river banks eroded from development and providing flood control. In total, the company has worked on hundreds of projects, all in Colorado.

“The river portion of our company is growing leaps and bounds. That’s where we’re expanding a lot, just because of the demand,” Peterson said, adding that parks often get built in floodways, where residential construction is not suitable. “Flood mitigation and river parks are becoming popular.”

Peterson particularly liked the outdoors projects, considering that he is an outdoorsman involved in fly fishing, hiking, biking, golfing and skiing (he lives in Winter Park the rest of the year), he said.

“I do about everything outdoors recreation-wise,” Peterson said.

ECI eventually may expand to other states, depending on human resources, Peterson said about the staff, which now is at 55.

“We want to keep up our quality,” Peterson said. “We don’t want to get too big too fast, although we’ve become a pretty substantial company in terms of revenue.”

Peterson served as company president until about three years ago, when he stepped aside from management to semi-retire — Ted Johnson now serves as the president.

“I’m still somewhat active in the company, but I don’t have a management role. I’m more of a mentor,” Peterson said. “We’re fortunate to have some great young partners.”

Peterson is among six partners for the company.

“We’ve become a pretty substantial company. We have a lot of younger folks who successfully have taken over the company. I’m fortunate,” Peterson said, adding that what he has enjoyed most about his work are the projects he’s done and his partners and “how we collectively carried out our vision.”

“I’ve enjoyed the visionary part,” Peterson said. “It’s been pretty rewarding going out to see our projects and seeing people enjoy the projects we have built.”