Cutting Edge Construction at Southwest Research Institute

In 1947 Thomas Baker Slick Jr. founded the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) in South Texas. As an adventurer, philanthropist, and oilman he recruited scientists and engineers from across the nation with one goal – seek revolutionary advancements through advanced science and applied technology. Today that spirit lives on at Southwest Research Institute, however, it took more than a ranch and a brilliant team to turn this dream into reality.


Between the years of 1947 and 1967, Slick recruited Harold Vagtborg as the first president to lead his team of scientists and engineers at the original 1,200-acre ranch outside San Antonio. In the first five years they went from 64 projects to 600! They gained national notoriety for automotive testing, environmental research, and radio direction finding.

As Southwest Institute Research continued to be a pioneer in scientific advancements, it began to set standards in microencapsulation, space research, oil and gas, ocean engineering, and materials research. By the 1980’s, the institute had developed new research and safety standards for emissions, fire, and air pollution, as well as expanding into new areas such as aviation systems, automation, artificial intelligence, and manufacturing. In 1982, G.W. Mitchell joined the momentum by providing an extension of the library. Melvin Mitchell acted as project manager.

By the 1990’s it was time to expand the campus and G.W. Mitchell was ready for the challenge. In 1995, we provided a small addition to a specialized testing facility known as building 75, designed by architect Lawrence Wilson. Bill Mitchell was the project manager. In addition to this expansion, we also tripled building 171 designed by McCall & Associates. The project included multiple labs, administration offices, and conferences rooms. Due to extensive mechanical and electrical systems, this project was very complex and required extensive coordination to integrate properly with the architectural features of the building. Additionally, while completing 171, we completed several small projects on the property.

In recent history, the Southwest Research Institute gained international attention under current president Adam L. Hamilton for leading NASA missions including New Horizons missions to Pluto, Juno mission to Jupiter, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, and Interstellar Boundary Explore (IBEX).

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