ABES Engineering, Inc., was founded in 2015 by Emmanuel Tuombe, a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in 10 states — Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, California, Missouri, Washington, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida.
I grew up in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. I saw firsthand the crumbling infrastructure and lack of basic supplies that my home country faced as peace was being restored. It became clear to me that infrastructure can literally mean the difference between life and death, and the experience inspired me to become an engineer.
I earned a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from South Dakota Mines in 2007. After graduation, I worked as a professional engineer at Bechtel – one of the largest engineering, procurement, and construction companies in the world.
In 2015, I launched ABES Engineering, a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). I’m committed to growing ABES into the best civil engineering firm in Memphis.
In everything I do, I strive to use my skills and experience to make the world a better place, especially impacting underserved communities locally and around the world. I was the founder of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Rwanda, EWB Gabon, and served on the board of Engineers Without Borders International. In Memphis, I assist other minority-owned companies in growing their businesses and obtaining needed licenses in order to thrive in the marketplace. I truly believe that ABES is an engineering and construction company with soul.
In 2021, Emmanuel Tuombe made a big decision for ABES Engineering.
The company was already thriving, but Emmanuel wanted to see even more growth and development. And he knew just the person who could help him make it happen. Emmanuel hired his friend and fellow engineer, Brad Davis, bringing him on as the company’s COO in January 2021.
It was the beginning of a partnership between two men who believe strongly that engineering can change the world.
“I believe that engineering can be more than just an occupation,” says Davis. “And so does Emmanuel. We both have a belief that we can use our skills as engineers to strengthen our communities and the world in general.”
Emmanuel and Brad first met in 2014 when Brad served as the Program Manager for the SARP10 program, which is coordinated by the engineering company Black & Veatch. The SARP10 initiative — with a $50-million annual budget — brings improvements to the sanitary sewer system in Memphis. It also has a 30% participation from minority-owned businesses.
Brad was instantly impressed with Emmanuel and ABES Engineering. “Emmanuel stood out to me as having his act together, being organized, easy to talk to … I just really liked his approach to meeting people. He did a great job.”
Brad began to connect Emmanuel with some of the “bigger engineering players” in Memphis, hoping to help him grow ABES Engineering. Over time, the two men realized they had another connection, outside of the SARP10 program.
“Around that time, I realized that Emmanuel also went to Fellowship Memphis Church,” says Brad, who is a member of the multi-cultural congregation at Fellowship Memphis.
The two began taking walks on Fridays, where they shared ideas, goals and their histories.
Emmanuel grew up in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. He witnessed firsthand the rebuilding of his country and understood how crucial infrastructure was to any society. Through a scholarship, he earned his undergraduate degree in engineering in Rwanda. In 2006, he came to the United States to earn a graduate degree in civil engineering from South Dakota Mines in Rapid City, South Dakota. He arrived in the US with very little money in his pocket, no personal contacts and a drive to succeed.
By contrast, Brad, who is white, was born and raised in Raleigh, attending a high school with a student population that was 40% African American. The experience expanded his understanding of other cultures and races. He went on to the University of Memphis, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering in 1995 and 1996. He spent 15 years with the company SSR before taking the position of Deputy Director of Engineering for the City of Memphis and eventually his position with Black & Veatch.
While the two engineers had wildly different backgrounds, they discovered they had much in common. Both are ambitious in terms of growing companies and programs, and both men also have missional attitudes about their work. Both have participated in Engineers Without Borders — Brad mentoring young engineers on trips to Bolivia and Emmanuel serving as director of the Rwandan chapter and establishing a program in Gabon, Africa.
Both men also feel passionate about seeing more minority owned businesses in their community. Brad says that while Memphis is 65% African American, only 1% of business revenue goes to minority-owned firms. “There’s a need to get rid of the old school systems (that prevent minority-owned businesses from landing contracts),” Brad says. “I think there’s such an opportunity.”
The pair eventually decided that together they could bring their goals to fruition. Emmanuel recruited Brad as ABES’ new COO with a goal of launching a construction company under ABES and continuing to grow the engineering side of the company. “I needed someone to help me execute my vision for ABES; a rubber meets the road type of professional. Brad is a perfect fit for that role,” Emmanuel says.
The partnership has paid off for ABES. The company is thriving, experiencing growth at all levels. Both Brad and Emmanuel look forward to many more years doing what they love most — making the world a better place through engineering.