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Rich Hardegger

Vice President, Senior Environmental Engineer

Fishing in the Boundary Waters
Rich and his wife, Kate, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
 “A lot of folks don’t know that I was a cheesemaker in a previous life.”

Yes, Rich Hardegger had a rather unusual start to his engineering career. He spent more than 10 years in the dairy industry before a major drop in milk supply forced the cheese manufacturing plant where he worked to close.

“It’s a commendable way to make a living, as I did for a decade,” said Rich. “It allowed me to work with farmers, who are great folks to get to know, but the industry consolidated in the 1980s, which presented an opportunity to explore my interest in environmental issues.” 

Rich chose chemical engineering as the way to do so. Having already earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy manufacturing, he enrolled in the chemical engineering program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. “I was really fortunate to be able to pull off a second go-around with regard to schooling, thanks to my wife, Kate, who is quick to point out her second degree in PHT (‘put him through’),” says Rich. “The engineering curriculum caught me up immensely on the technology front at the time.” 

In 1991, Rich responded to Barr’s one-inch classified ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune—“a very unremarkable start to the career I’ve enjoyed at Barr.” Among his favorite kinds of work is providing consulting services for projects in the conceptual phase that are in need of environmental approvals before moving to the design and build phases—especially if there’s an opportunity to take that project from environmental management through engineering and design.

Rich has found aspects of his work spilling over into his personal life. Throughout his two sons’ elementary, middle, and high school years, he coordinated the recreational basketball program in Burnsville, Minnesota. “We had a large program that handled grades 3 through 12,” Rich recalls. “At some point, I realized that what I was doing for boys’ basketball was a lot like project management and client service.” 

Now empty nesters, Rich and Kate jumped at a recent opportunity to move from Minnesota to Alberta. In September 2013, Rich began his new role leading Barr’s Calgary office. “Some aspects of our work aren’t different whether done in the U.S. or Canada,” says Rich, “but there are things that exist only here that are new and interesting to us and that represent real opportunity for Barr.”

Rich and his wife are enjoying the adventure of living somewhere new. “My simple pleasure here is to cross over the beautiful Bow River twice daily walking to and from the office, at no charge and with no traffic hassle,” he says. “Calgary is switching things up for us—and we were looking for that. Dairy’s really expensive here—they could use a cheesemaker!”