Flashback: Where Have All The Civil Engineering Firms Gone?

According to press announcements, there have been at least 30 merger/acquisitions within the past MONTH in the US civil engineering and architectural consulting firm community. The blog below is just as relevant today as when it first ran on Civil Engineering Central in 2008. Refresh yourself with the write up and let us know what you think of the continued consolidation in our industry!

Acquisitions in the civil engineering community exploded in 2007 with steady activity up to now. A client jokingly told me, “Eventually we will all work for about five firms. That is all that will be left!”

While I think my client’s comment is a slight exaggeration, the pace of these M&As does not seem to be slowing. What has happened to the traditional firms of the past?

Certainly, these consolidations allow firms a great way to increase staff and presence in particular locations or technical arenas. But, if you joined a firm because of a specific company culture, what do you do now?

Are these large national and international firms of combined technical talents good for our industry? What do you think?

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Civil Engineering Employees Should Embrace Company Ownership

Privately held civil engineering firms can attract staff by offering the benefit of ownership through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). Privately held firms give stock to motivate and reward employees. Companies also offer staff the chance to purchase company stock. Work hard and own a piece of the company, which translates to employees sharing in the success!

Today as firms build succession plans and transition leadership, implementation of ESOPs are increasing. Steve Gido, Principal at Rusk O’Brien Gido + Partners, says the incorporation of ESOPs into a company’s benefits plan changes upon the current financial conditions and also leadership preference. “The popularity of ESOPs waxes and wanes with economic cycles and tax laws. We have found that some leaders love them and others don’t.”

Company leaders aren’t the only ones with mixed feelings about ESOPS. In the wake of the Enron scandal in 2001, employees are hesitant to invest too much of their retirement savings in company stock. This viewpoint is understandable. If the company stock takes a beating, then so does the employee’s retirement savings. But, are there other factors contributing to employees rejecting potentially valuable company stock?

LOYALTY
Employee loyalty is a powerful concept within any company. A loyal employee is committed to the success of the firm. This includes propelling the company ahead of the competition by doing great work, helping to recruiting top talent and championing the firm’s mission.

With mergers and acquisitions on the rise within the ENR Top 500 firms, layoffs are also on the rise. Subsequently, employee loyalty is on the decline. Industry consolidation often brings cuts of redundant staff and services. Loyal employees end up without a job and the staff who are retained tend to be less engaged. What happened to a firm’s loyalty to its staff?

If an employee was fortunate to own stock, then the individual could receive a good payout from the stock’s value. If an employee does not own stock, then that person may simply be out of a job with little to no financial compensation for their previous service.

LENGTH OF SERVICE
As a civil engineering recruiter who advises engineers on job offers, I stress the value of working for a firm with ownership potential. Most tell me if they are going to put money aside, they would rather invest in a company retirement plan, aka 401(k), rather than company stock. Many junior to mid-level civil engineers tell me that it is unimaginable to them that their length of employment at any firm would be more than five years. They are convinced that in a large A/E firm, they are just one of many engineers. Similarly, engineers employed by small to mid-size firms believe they are at the mercy of the efforts of more senior engineers and the marketing staff. Engineers ask, “Why would I care if a firm offers stock ownership when I probably won’t be there five or more years?”

LACK OF PLANNING
Another reason many employees don’t take advantage or see the value of ESOPs is because they live paycheck to paycheck. I can sympathize with this viewpoint. I also bypassed saving for retirement early in my career. As a young recruiter, I was afraid to contribute to my retirement as that money may be needed for immediate, short-term needs. Planning for retirement for wasn’t important since retirement was MANY years away. I had plenty of time to save for retirement. Although I now put money aside, retirement age approached much faster than I expected.

ESOPs are an important component to retirement planning and one civil engineers should embrace when presented. Various studies have demonstrated plan benefits of participation. Companies that utilize ESOPs grow approximately 10 percent faster than companies that do have employee ownership. Subsequently, ESOP participants receive salaries that are up to 12 percent higher and have retirement packages valued as much as three times higher compared to those similar companies that do not offer ESOPs. Since diversification is also important, approximately 60 percent of ESOP firms offer at least one additional retirement plan option.

So while detractors present strong points as to why they do or will not participate, ESOPs provide demonstrated results for better company performance, which in turn leads to higher wages and increased retirement savings.

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 8, 2015 at 9:45 am 1 comment

How Engineers are Fighting Traffic

We have been asked NJIT to post this great and informative infrographic that they have produced.  As you may know 25% of road congestion is caused by traffic collisions. Autonomous cars are one of the many technologies that will hopefully lead to a reduction in collisions and congestion. The Google car is said to have only been involved in 11 accidents during the 1.7 million miles the cars have traveled.

As you can see, by 2050 70% of populace will drive 4 million vehicles through urban areas and this is just one of the reasons that it is critical for the congestion problems to be improved. The graphic also shows many of the ways that engineers are trying to overcome this national problem.

Road Congestion Relief: How Engineers are Fighting Traffic (Click on InfoGraphic for larger view)

Congested roadways are common problems that all drivers have to deal with. Whether commuting to work or enjoying a leisurely drive through the city, it is a problem that causes a great deal of stress and unnecessary frustration. However, while it is still a large problem, many engineers are dedicating their time and resources to identifying why this problem exists and what they can do to make the problem more manageable for drivers in everyday situations. By understanding the statistics that surround road congestion problems, both engineers and drivers will be that much closer to determining how a solution can be reached. To learn more about how engineers are helping relieve traffic congestion problems, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Masters in Civil Engineering Online degree program.

 

Road-Congestion-Relief-Infographic_final

May 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Potable Water…From a Billboard?

To kickoff its application process last year, The University of Engineering & Technology of Peru addressed a serious problem while providing a message of hope.

With a poor economy and an annual rain fall of next to nothing, many citizens lack potable water. With an atmospheric humidity of 98%, the University created a billboard that not only advertised UTEC, but also captured the humidity producing potable water accessible via spigots at the bottom of the structure. This project helps hundreds of families each month.

We take water for granted here in the United States, and such an engineering project would be merely a stunt on our turf. But the ingenuity used here is not only inspiring  future engineers in Peru, but it is making an impact, and that is what I love about engineers – wherever they are in the world, they can make a tremendous impact to their communities.

 


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

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July 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm 1 comment

The Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

The Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

With the 100th Anniversary of the completion of the Panama Canal taking place later this summer, Norwich University has put together this infographic celebrating these engineering achievements of the past.

Would you agree with this list? Are there any feats of engineering that you believe are missing or could replace any of these? Share with us your thoughts!

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June 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm 4 comments

Ground Penetrating Radar: Cultivating a Sense of Place

How do you connect to a place? We all have a relationship with the city we live in, the community we grew up in, and the spot where we have repeatedly gazed up at the starts many times before.

What lies between mankind and a place can be on an individual level, and a societal one. Before georadar technology came around, archeologists had a harder time of finding sites of cultural significance, but now, it is a gold mine of artifacts just waiting to be found under the surface.

Above the individual nostalgia, familiarity, and other positive connections we have with a place, there are societal values that can be found through artifacts and the proper use of technology at our disposal.

 

Finding a connection to culture, value, and opportunity in a place taken for granted. 

 

A prime example of value and connections cultivated on a community level lies in the artifact location in Ventura, California in 2011. Artifact location can lead to culture discovery in the last place that you would expect to find it – under a parking lot. This area used to hold Spanish mission grounds, and what do you know, it happened to be forgotten along with the fact that it is heavily laced with artifacts giving information about the Chumash Indians.

 

The Chumash was a tribe with most of their history and heritage lost in assimilation by Spanish settlers in California. Among some of the artifacts found there were deer bones, which suggested to archeologists that some of the Chumash that were imprisoned by the Spanish might have been granted hunting freedoms.

Because such little history is known, many people, including myself, see this discovery as huge gain for our collective sense of place, community value, and insight into a culture that could have been lost forever.

 

In order to find this important archeological site, ground penetrating radar (GPR) was used. This is a non-destructive way to see what lies below the surface using wide spectrum energy pulses and electromagnetic induction meters. Basically the technology sends out pulses and then reads the way that the different materials reflect the energy.

 

The knowledge of the history, geography, geology and legends all intertwine into our sense of place.

 

The things we take care not to destroy are a prime example of how important the people’s opinion is. The most recent damage was reported by the Shanghaiist in June of 2013 as construction workers bulldozed tombs and artifacts dating back to the Shang Dynasty in the name of putting up a railway. This shows what was and wasn’t valuable to the unity of a culture, one that still hasn’t recovered from the deep cut of corporate greed.

The “blunder” as it is called was one that seemed intentional at the time, removing archeological tools and acceptance of production costs, and that was later brushed off as an accident. As much as is gained for the history books can be wiped clean with much less effort and contributing far more to a negative sense of place and a disconnect from one’s government and community.

After the railway was constructed, how does that contribute to the sense of place?

A few generations later the pain may be forgotten, the memory gone as those who witnessed the crime pass away, but the good stuff is just as irreplaceable as memories. Let your connection to your place be a good one. Appreciate the value of sustainable building and hope of for the patient use of technology to gain heritage and further cultivate a sense of place.

 

Author:  Victor Archambault Victor Archambault is a man of science, geeks out over Civil Engineering, and loves the New Jersey Devils. He finally joined the twitterverse, so please follow him so that he has more than two friends

Author: Victor Archambault
Victor Archambault is a man of science, geeks out over Civil Engineering, and loves the New Jersey Devils. He finally joined the twitterverse, so please follow him so that he has more than two friends

 

 

May 14, 2014 at 7:59 am Leave a comment

Winner of 5th Annual Best Civil Engineering Firm Logo Contest

We are pleased to announce the WINNER of the 5th annual “Best Civil Engineering Firm Logo” contest!  Every year we receive dozens of entries from firms big and small all across the country.  Each firm has their own meaningful story behind the development or evolution of their logo and they are always a pleasure for us to evaluate.   Beyond the visual elements of the logo, we also evaluate how well each logo is utilized in the overall branding of the company and how well it is incorporated  into social media.    We would like to thank ALL of those who entered this year’s contest, and at the end of the day, as long as your logo is something that you can stand proud beside that is really all that matters!

So, without further ado, we would like to extend an enormous round of applause to this year’s winner:

 

Stantec Logo


“Stantec is thrilled to have our logo recognized by CivilEngineeringCentral.com. We’re proud of our new logo and feel that it embodies who we are. As a lens, it evokes the creative way we see the world and the community-minded approach we bring to every project. The warm colors represent the warmth of our client relationships, while the S-shape builds on the heritage of our past logo in a fresh, new way, reinforcing our creative approach and our dedication to community and relationships.”

-Crystal Kerr, Director, Marketing & Communications, Stantec

logo contest logo - CEC

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April 10, 2014 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

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