Joe Wyatt
Published October 3, 2017

Altura Engineering & Design, one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States, is a Texas success story whose three founders began laying the groundwork for their achievement at Amarillo College.

The magazine noted that Altura, with a three-year growth rate of 1,014.8 percent and $3.1 million in revenues, now ranks third among all privately held engineering firms in the country. Altura now has 26 employees, and its founders feel certain that more will be added as business continues to boom.The trio launched Altura in 2013. The firm specializes in piping and mechanical design projects for the oil and gas, refining and petrochemical industries. It recently was ranked 434th on Inc. Magazine’s nationwide list of fastest-growing companies – the Inc. 5000. Jacob Moreno and David Salas both attended Amarillo College, while Chris Lopez studied drafting at Texas State Technical Institute, which in 1995 became a vital part of AC.


Lopez, Moreno and Salas did not meet until after College, when they were employees of the Phillips 66 refinery in Borger. But they all point to their common denominator – the instruction provided by Amarillo College/TSTI – as a key to their collective professional success.

Moreno even continues to support the College as a member of the advisory board for the Drafting Program.

“AC’s two-year drafting program was perfect for me,” said Moreno, Altura’s project design manager and a 2002 graduate of AC. “It was exactly what I needed to realize my dream of getting into the oil and gas industry. I found out that you really can do a lot with an associate’s degree, more than I expected.

“The beauty of AC is they offer a lot of options,” he said. “The classes are convenient, affordable. I had to work full time as a student, so night classes made it possible for me to finish. My degree made me immediately employable. Now I’m a co-owner of a growing company where we have an idea of how big we can get, but we’re not sure exactly what the end game is yet.”

Lopez, who serves as project development and consulting manager for Altura, says he graduated from high school without a clear-cut plan for the future. He enrolled at Texas State Technical Institute to learn a marketable trade – drafting.

“I figured it would be an excellent value without a lot of risk, and it was,” Lopez said. “I think very few people realize that you can make a really great living in piping and design work. In fact, I think a lot of emphasis is still placed on four-year degrees, and that’s a great way to go, no doubt, but a two-year degree has its strengths, too.

“Jacob and I are living proof, right here at Altura, that it can be enough. We’ve already hired a lot of people with associate degrees in drafting, and we’re sure to hire more. I’m a firm believer that Amarillo College can help take you where you want to go, career-wise, for a modest investment, and that it can take you in a direction where you’ll definitely be better off than when you started.”

Salas, Altura’s engineering manager, transferred his AC pre-engineering credits to the next academic level. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and today is a licensed professional engineer.

“All the pre-engineering classes I took at AC transferred to the University of Texas, and when I got there I was very well prepared to succeed,” Salas said. “I received a really good foundation at AC, a level of instruction that was on par with all the state’s required coursework. I had great teachers at AC. It really is an excellent place to get started whether you want to enter the workforce right away or continue on to a higher degree.”