Christopher (Chris) Leichtweis serves as president and CEO of the North Wind Group (NWG). Since coming on board in 2013, Leichtweis and his team have grown the North Wind group of companies into small-business leaders in the environmental, engineering, construction and technical-consulting industries.
In 1991, Chris founded Safety and Ecology Holding Corporation (SEC), serving as its president for more than 20 years. From 2008 to 2011, Chris served as president and director of SEC’s parent (public) company, Homeland Security Capital Corporation, growing the parent’s portfolio of three companies by 43% and expanding operations into many new commercial and federal markets. Prior to founding SEC, Chris served in various engineering and management positions at Bechtel National and Bechtel Environmental Inc.
Chris received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the State University of New York Brockport and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Tennessee. He also holds a Certified Industrial Hygienist designation from the American Board of Industrial Hygiene. In 2005, Chris was nationally recognized with the Southeast United States Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
We sat down to talk with Chris about his role at NWG and what he sees for the company’s future.
What is your role at NWG? Your high-level responsibilities, and also a bit of what your day-to-day looks like?
As CEO and president of North Wind Group, I am responsible for overseeing the overall strategy of the company. I focus on vision, risk management, growth and our fiduciary responsibilities, and I pride myself on being a hands-on, operational leader. I set targets and monitor the company through metrics.
I typically start my day with a brisk walk. I split my time between Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Tennessee, so depending on the season, I prefer to walk outside. My days are filled with lots of meetings, preferably in person or via video conferencing.
What milestones has NWG achieved since you came on as president and CEO in 2013?
Our team has achieved tremendous success, and North Wind has repeatedly been recognized as a top-performing company. In 2016, we received the Silver Business Achievement Award from the “Environmental Business Journal.” “Engineering News Record” and “Inc.” magazine have both included North Wind multiple times as a top environmental firm in their annual listings of the nation’s top companies. NWG has also received the Merrill C. Smith Award recognizing the company’s service to veterans; the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for the company’s commitment to ethical business practices and support for the community; the Small Business Administration’s Subcontractor of the Year Award and Administrators Award of Excellence; and the Department of Energy’s Protégé of the Year Award.
What is your favorite part of working at NWG? What are some of the challenges?
My favorite part is that the people I work with are the very best; I learned long ago to surround yourself with the very best talent. The biggest challenge is optimizing project-management systems and processes.
One of CIRI’s corporate values is Respect: “Embrace the history and heritage of CIRI—its land, resources and people.” How does this inform the work NWG bids on and performs?
Our projects solve problems, offer innovative solutions, clean up the environment, repair infrastructure issues and make the world a better place for all of Earth’s inhabitants, including current and future generations of CIRI shareholders.
What are some growth areas for NWG? What does the company’s five-year plan look like?
We plan to maintain the four business sectors of facility infrastructure, environmental, construction and technical services. We expect to see growth in the management and operations of laboratory services, and plan to expand our environmental remediation and construction sectors, specifically focusing on growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Our plan centers on continuing current operations in a safe and profitable way within our core competencies.