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Lea Nadler ran her engineering firm solo for two years, but it's her ability to bring people together that has Susquehanna Civil Inc. on the rise.

Nadler started the business in her Red Lion basement in 2008, merged with Pinto Engineering in 2010 and will receive the York County Economic Alliance's Athena Award during the YCEA Annual Dinner on Friday.

Nadler said she was "stunned" when she was told she would receive the award, which recognizes valuable contributions made by women and men in the York business community.

"I know other Athena winners, and I don't consider myself in their category," she said.

Past winners include Jean Treuthart, CEO of YWCA York, attorney Jane Schuster and Lynda Randall, founder of York College Women's Business Center Organization.

Marc Pinto, part-owner and vice president of administration at Susquehanna Civil, was not surprised Nadler won the award, he said.

"The underlying theme at engineering firms is it's always about the majority shareholder," Pinto said. "With (Nadler), it's not about her, which is really refreshing because you don't see that anywhere else."

Pinto approached Nadler in 2010 about a potential merger after his father, who was previously running the company, became ill. Engineering firms in Pennsylvania must be managed by engineers, which Pinto wasn't, so his father's company and its 15 employees were left in flux.

Nadler agreed to acquire Pinto's firm, and she used her 20 years of experience working at other firms to create a productive culture.

"Respecting employees, understanding your company is on them and be willing to share your success with them," she said. "It's not all about me."

Manchester Township-based Susquehanna Civil, which exclusively works on transportation projects, now employs approximately 40 people with another growth spurt on the horizon, Nadler said.

"Our potential is unlimited, but we like knowing everyone in the office," Nadler said, sitting next the her husband, Ken, who joined her firm about four years ago. "We're not in any hurry to get to 60 to 100 people."

Susquehanna Civil has mostly worked as a subcontractor on projects for the state Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Recent York-area projects they've worked on include surveying the surfaces to widen Interstate 83, replacing the Sherman Street bridge and various improvements on Winterstown Road in Red Lion.

Brad Heigel, chief engineer for the turnpike commission, said he's been pleased with the work from Susquehanna Civil.

"From the moment you meet (Nadler), she presents herself professionally, she's sincere and speaks with a lot of passion," Heigel said. "She's a great spokeswoman for the industry."

Susquehanna Civil has benefited from its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certification, which is received from one of five certificating agencies that show up in the system, according to Heigel.

All turnpike commission professional services contracts are required to use at least 10 percent work from diverse businesses. Susquehanna Civil is one of a handful of women-owned businesses the commission works with, Heigel said.

"Transportation is very male-dominated," Nadler said. "Helping other women succeed is one of our goals. Women are every bit as capable, hardworking and skilled, and they should be compensated equally."

Lea Nadler is also a board member on the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania and a founding member of the Women's President Organization's Harrisburg chapter.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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