2020 surely taught us the best investment is in our community. The City of Decatur and the Decatur Downtown Development Authority supported us with an emergency loan during the pandemic. Now we get to pay it back and pay it forward. We are #decaturstrong.
This article, “Engineers Pay It Forward” originally ran in the Downtown Decatur Newsletter. You can also view it here.
When admiring a new building or park, you probably don’t think about the critical logistics and infrastructure supporting it. Whether routing a drive-thru to avoid traffic or placing a parking structure on a corporate campus, civil engineering firm The Contineo Group has been solving these problems for clients around the country for over a decade.
Founded in 2009 by Bryan Russell, the company set up shop at 755 Commerce Drive in Downtown Decatur, which it continues to call home today. Like most companies based in Decatur, The Contineo Group values the singular culture and accessibility the city provides through its restaurants and community spaces.
“Decatur is such a valuable asset to our business because of the talent it allows us to attract,” said partner Bryan Russell. “The ability to live and work in a such vibrant community is a determining factor for some, while others take advantage of MARTA to live virtually anywhere in metro Atlanta and have a quick path to work.”
The Contineo Group was working on a variety of projects around the country in early 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic brought nearly all development to a screeching halt, leaving its most critical resource vulnerable: its people.
“We were in a tough position when COVID struck, so when we heard about the emergency loan program initiated by the City of Decatur and the Decatur Downtown Development Authorities (DDA), it was a critical lifeline,” said Russell. “Our business is built to survive leaner times, but we are only as strong as our talent, so the loan meant everything to us.”
With a cap of $25,000 per business, the loans issued in May 2020 gave companies up to a year to repay the debt at 0% interest, but when additional funds became available through the federal government’s CARES Act in November 2020, the loans were forgiven and converted to grants. By late 2020, The Contineo Group was back up and running on a bevy of new industrial projects, as the economic shifts caused by the pandemic created a significant need for logistics management, especially at fulfillment centers and other shipping-focused facilities. Given their success, Russell and his team took the unprecedented step of repaying the full $25,000 loan, despite having no obligation to do so.
“We view the Decatur business community as a family, and like any close-knit group, you want to help others when they are down,” added Russell. “The City and DDA were there for us when we needed support, so we are more than happy to pay it forward and help our fellow neighbors with this gesture.”
The bold action by Russell and his fellow partners, Ron Crump and Erick Garcia Salas, left an impression on many in the local business community, especially at the DDA.
“What makes Decatur such a fantastic place for businesses is the bond they share with each other,” said Conor McNally, Decatur DDA Chair. “Bryan and his team at The Contineo Group have ‘put their money where their mouth is’ with this selfless act, exemplifying the ethos that lies at the very heart of our community. Their decision to repay the original loan allowed us to support an additional two businesses with grant funding in our second round.”