The last two years have been challenging, as many firms struggled with the realities of revenue loss, smaller backlogs, and company restructuring. Those issues are evident in the bottom lines and employee rosters of many organizations, which look different, to varying degrees, than they did a couple of years ago. That said, many firms that specialize in civil engineering, or that have strong civil engineering disciplines, have kept their revenues above the $100 million mark, and many are included on CE News Top Civil Engineering Firms list.
One key to these firms’ stability and growth is diversification. Dave Gockel, CEO of Langan Engineering, headquartered in Elmwood Park, N.J., said that his company has been able to meet challenges by opening up its scope of work. “We’ve really done so through penetration into more markets, including both geographic markets and service markets,” said Gockel, who credits his company’s employees for finding new avenues. “These people are good at understanding that their traditional clients were not doing as much work and so they pursued other opportunities, like in colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and healthcare, to name a few.” As a result of that teamwork, he said, Langan Engineering opened four new offices in the last year, including three in the United States and one in Dubai.
Diversification was also cited by Mike Salmon, president of TRC Companies, Inc., based in Lowell, Mass. “If you would have looked at our company 10 years ago we were probably 90 percent environmental, 10 percent energy, and 10 percent infrastructure. Before, many of our customers were in the private sector, and now we’ve expanded to 20 to 30 percent in the public sector,” he explained, adding that the infrastructure and energy part of their business now comprises half of its overall projects.
In addition to diversification, many of the industry’s top firms have strengthened their base by adding to their operations through mergers and acquisitions. Examples include ARCADIS U.S., Inc.’s acquisition of Malcolm Pirnie; the acquisition of Parsons Brinckerhoff by Balfour Beatty; and the move by Kleinfelder to take on S.E.A. Consultants, Inc.; among others. Just recently, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., announced it acquired the 500-person professional services firm Jordan, Jones & Goulding as a way to expand Jacobs’ capability in the wastewater sector.
However firm leaders are choosing to maintain or expand their business, public and private civil engineering firms of all types have had to contend with fewer phone calls and with balance sheets that don’t compare to previous years’ figures. Gockel said that, as with the general global economy, the pace of future expansion in civil engineering projects will be deliberate. “I think 2009 was a combination of a freefall during the first part of the year, when you hit bottom, and stabilization during the second half of the year. Now, we’re starting to see activity and the beginning of what is likely a prolonged recovery,” he observed. “The challenge to engineering firms is not as much rebuilding as reshaping — you have to reshape your company to the new markets that are out there.”
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About the CE News Top Civil Engineering Firms list
Information used to comprise this list came from multiple sources. Research was gathered primarily from public information on company websites and other published business sources, as well as during interviews with firm representatives. Additionally, some data was submitted by firm representatives through an online questionnaire hosted by CE News.
Because of the timing of this list, some reported revenue and employee counts are based on fiscal 2008 figures, while in other cases, firms recently released financial information for 2009 and this data was used.
For consideration to appear on next year’s list, please go to hotfirm.com/our-awards/best-firms-to-work-for/, where you’ll find a brief questionnaire to answer about your firm. Next year, the list will be expanded to include firms with $75 million or more in revenue. The other requirements are that firms must have at least 51 percent of their revenue derived from the practice of civil engineering and they must have at least 200 U.S.-based employees. Let us know if you belong on this list by completing the questionnaire at the URL above.