“That’s always the first question I get asked,” he smiles. “Then the second one is, ‘What kind of engineer?’” To answer that question, he explains that he has a mechanical engineering degree, but his experience is in the structural field of engineering. He works with residential and commercial plans for projects such as retaining walls, buildings and foundations. His job is to make sure that what is built from the plans is something that is strong enough to hold up to high winds and even earthquakes.
“If the plan doesn’t meet what is known as prescriptive design criteria, then it has to be engineered,” Moerke explains. How does a person who wants something built know whether it does or doesn’t meet the criteria? “The county will tell you when you submit your plans and they review them, or the designer may know as well.”
How did a man who grew up in a well-drilling family business become an engineer? Moerke explains how his job was to service the pumps that are used for the wells, and that some commercial systems required engineering, which really interested him. Moerke credits Doug Wisner, the engineer for the company, for teaching him a lot about his future career. Moerke also did his senior project on engineering.
Then he went away to college, but he felt different than many of the other students. “Engineering is typically seen as a white collar job. But I’m blue collar. A lot of students had never had a job, and didn’t always see that something may look good on paper but not in real life,” he explains.
When he was ready to go to work in the area after several years of working in Tacoma, it was more difficult than he expected. “It was a little harder to get plugged into the community than I thought it would be,” he admits. “I thought it would be easier since I grew up here. But people just didn’t know what I did. A lot of people don’t know what an engineer does.” So he went back to work for Moerke and Sons for a year while working on starting his own business.
However, the well-drilling business isn’t the only Moerke business. “The main reason I moved back down here was to help manage the family forest. Dad passed in 1999, and his dad had started a logging company and got the family going in the timber industry many years ago.”
Moerke took forestry classes and really enjoyed them, but realized the family really wasn’t doing anything with the land. “We needed to actively manage the land. We created a forest management plan to earn SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification, which shows a concern for sustainability and many people look for the certification when buying wood products.”
Moerke still manages the family forests, a project he truly enjoys. “I love being out in the woods, seeing the fruits of my labor, replanting and watching things grow,” he says. So much so, that he even took on logging a small patch of timber along with his brother shortly after returning to the area.
He laughs when he tells the story of a meeting with a potential engineering client. “I figured I had time to go out and get some logging done before our meeting. When I walked in, fresh from the woods and looking like a logger, he stared at me in complete surprise. I don’t look like the typical engineer,” he laughs.
But the word and his reputation got around fairly quickly. Working two jobs became unfeasible, so he left the well drilling and pump service to devote himself full-time to Exodus Engineering in 2013.
Three years later, his business is booming. “It’s exciting and a little crazy,” he says, adding his favorite part is problem solving, coming up with solutions and making people happy.
Moerke is married with four boys, ages one to eleven. When asked if he hopes one or more of his boys would like to go into the engineering business, Moerke responds that he would approach it with the same method his father used. “Dad never pushed us. He just asked if we wanted to work, so we did. It was great to have a consistent summer job. I would offer my boys the same opportunity, but not expect that they would do it. If they want to okay. If they want to do something else, I’m perfectly okay with that as well.”
As for himself, Moerke says, “I hope to always have that presence of mind to make this business unique. I try to stay easy going, and down-to-earth. I like what I bring with my work experience. I’m a strong Christian. It may not be obvious to everyone in the name, but it’s the underlying factor in my business ethics and values. It’s the foundation I live by in my life and in working with my clients.”