Schnabel Engineering: A geotechnical firm for the generations

The team at Schnabel Engineering. Paul Diggs, principal engineer and regional manager, is fourth from the left.

“When you do what you love, the seemingly impossible becomes simply challenging, the laborious becomes purposeful resistance, the difficult loses its edge and is trampled by your progress.” — Steve Maraboli

When driving through a structure like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the work that went into the architecture might not be readily apparent. What is apparent, though, is the sheer awe experienced as the vehicle maneuvers terrain hoisted above a body of water. That same sense of amazement may be felt at glimpsing fantastical wind turbines along the coastal shore, turbines designed for Dominion Energy to turn wind energy into electricity.

As a geotechnical company specializing in geostructural design and construction, Schnabel Engineering discovers ways to connect foundations to the earth. Whether it’s buildings, dams, roads, bridges or tunnels, Schnabel’s business is “figuring out how the earth interacts with these structures,” says Paul Diggs, principal engineer and regional manager. “Our job is to safely support infrastructure projects without them falling over or sinking into the ground,” Diggs says.

Working on interesting projects like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Dominion Energy wind turbines and Newport News Shipbuilding dry docks afford Schnabel engineers the opportunity to face challenges, come up with innovative solutions and implement logical and workable designs.

Now in its 65th year, Schnabel Engineering began as a geotech firm but expanded to include environmental, dam and tunnel engineering. For Diggs, who has been with Schnabel for 37 of those 65 years, it is this generational facet of the company he finds most fulfilling. “When I first started, I loved to drive by things I had some hand in seeing get built; then, as I had children, they would always put in their headphones, so they didn’t have to hear about my work,” quips Diggs. Advancements in technology over time have tremendously impacted how work is completed. “We are able to do things for clients we could only dream about when I first started,” Diggs continues.

As an employee-owned company, Diggs emphasizes how “leadership is laser focused on keeping us a generational firm. We have 65 years of building culture and brand and, while there have been lots of opportunities to morph into some entity to get bought, we craft our way forward to continue doing great and interesting work that will attract quality people.”

While Schnabel Engineering operates as an organization, it is evident its work is about more than simply getting the job done. The firm functions as its own unique culture; “We really care for one another and about doing great work for our clients,” Diggs says. “And while it may sound kind of hokie,” he continues, “we used to call ourselves Schnabelites because we’re family. Everything we put our name on has Jim Schnabel’s name on it, and generations of engineers have worked really hard to brand and create that culture that drives everyone to do the best they can to support that.”

Diggs’s sense of family permeates all parts of his life as he enjoys spending time with his wife and children boating, surfing, swimming and all things water related. Diggs emphasizes the importance of learning from the past to operate in the present to advance to the future — all the while preserving generational integrity and fidelity, both personally and professionally.

Schnabel Engineering
Address: 11836 Canon Blvd., Ste. 400, Newport News, VA 23606
Phone: 757-947-1220
Contact: Paul Diggs, principal engineer, regional manager

About Terilyn Goins, Ph.D. 64 Articles
Dr. Terilyn J. Goins is a motivational speaker/vocalist, trainer and coach. She offers a wide variety of training and motivational music programs. Goins creates programs that educate, inspire and challenge participants. Visit or reach her at 757-303-7807 or by email at

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