"I'd say it brings one of the absolute best design firms in Minnesota to the I&S fold," Surprenant said.
Among the notable Paulsen designs in the area are the Midwest Wireless corporate headquarters near Highway 14 on Mankato's east side, downtown Mankato's Hilton Garden Inn, the Minnesota State University student union, the Blue Earth County Justice Center, Austin's Spam Museum and the St. Peter Food Co-op.
The acquisition continues a strong growth trend for I&S in recent years. Surprenant was just the 10th I&S employee when he joined the firm as an engineer in 1993 — 20 years after it had been founded by his father, Ken Surprenant. Along with growing 15-fold since Chad Surprenant's arrival two decades ago, I&S Group currently has projects underway in 25 states ranging from Florida to Utah — although most of its work remains concentrated in the southern half of Minnesota, the northern half of Iowa and western Wisconsin.
Surprenant, who approached Paulsen about the possibility of combining forces, said it would have been difficult earlier in his career to initiate that conversation with someone who had been a frequent competitor in bidding for projects. The competition has been friendlier in recent years, though, and both teams respect the work done by the other, according to Surprenant.
Talks intensified in the past two weeks, and the deal was announced Thursday afternoon.
"I honestly think it's extremely good not only for Mankato but also for the regional marketplace," Surprenant said. "... We're going to do really, really good things."