Making communities better: Jimmy Sparks shares industry outlook centered in helping Oklahoma thrive
Jimmy Sparks knows the value of having companies like Olsson close to home. A civil engineer and regional leader for the engineering and design firm’s Oklahoma City office, Sparks is an Oklahoma State University graduate who describes himself as “a lifelong Oklahoman.” His commitment to leading projects for Olsson is also evident in the ways he gives back to local students.
“Olsson is a full-service engineering firm centered around civil engineering. Whether we’re fixing a roadway, adding a sidewalk or planning other systems Oklahomans rely on, it enhances the places where we work and live,” he explained. “Our jobs center around partnering with our clients. Every project contributes to overall quality of life and inspires community investment, with the mission of leaving the communities served in a better place.”
Olsson employs more than 1,600 professionals in 30 offices across nine states. The company has consistently ranked in Engineering News-Record’s top 100 national list of design firms since 2018. Recent initiatives include work for recognizable Oklahoma entities like Life.Church, Love’s Travel Stops, the Skybridge development at Lake Texoma, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
“From new stores and campus improvements to safe streets, civil engineers help make what we count on in everyday life happen, with safety first,” said Sparks. “I have worked for three companies in my career and all three were headquartered out of state. Investment has always been here to build local infrastructure. When corporate firms like Olsson offer opportunities for up and coming engineering students, technical professionals are able to stay in Oklahoma and contribute to the forward momentum of the state.”
The son of an electrical engineer, Sparks graduated from Dibble High School with just 48 students in his class. He and his wife, Sarah, continue family life in Dibble, where they raise their sons, Eli, 13, and Noah, 10.
Sparks is proud to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) outreach efforts for Oklahoma’s students through formal partnerships. He currently serves as president of Oklahoma Engineering Foundation, which has helped present the annual Engineering Fair at Science Museum Oklahoma since 1981. The organization also grants scholarships and leads local participants in MATHCOUNTS, a middle school mathlete program where state champions advance to national competitions in Washington, D.C.
Olsson is also a sponsor of the Oklahoma City Dodgers MVP Program: Encouraging STEM Education, which makes classroom resources available to Oklahoma teachers, along with hands-on experiment ideas and hosted learning opportunities for third and fourth graders.
“Participating in engineering activities from a young age provides practical answers to what an engineer does, which is so varied within the field,” said Sparks. “These groups promote hands-on things, not just crunching numbers. They help students not just write off the field as ‘Oh well, if you’re not good at math, you can’t be an engineer.’ That’s not true. You just have to learn how to do it and put it to work for you. There are so many opportunities related to the engineering and construction industries. Teaching is much more practical than what you’ll get from a textbook, with a chance to see, touch, experience engineering and ignite an interest. I would love to come talk to a class or set up demos through OEF or the Dodgers. The community involvement piece is so important.”
Sparks sees engineering as a tie back to community and Open for Business Oklahoma (OFBO) as an integral part of continuing optimal advocacy through legislative action.
“OFBO has a great partnership with firms and getting legislation to work together for the betterment of our field,” said Sparks. “We want great engineers to stay in Oklahoma and not have to leave the state to find employment. Keeping them here to give back to Oklahoma is in everyone’s best interest.”