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Ricky Simon of Terracon

TURNING 50 — Employee ownership called a key to Terracon’s longevity

By LISA MONTI

Officials with the engineering firm Terracon say several things set it apart from competitors and have contributed to its longevity.

At the top of the list is the fact that Terracon is an employee-owned national firm with local experts, said Ricky Simon, senior principal and regional manager. “This is a key part of our culture. By giving employees the opportunity to own stock, we develop a culture in which all employees feel and act like owners, because they are. Our employees literally have a vested interest in our success.”

Also, he said, “Our clients have the convenience and continuity of working with one engineering consultant throughout the project, nearly anywhere their project is located.”

Terracon was founded in Iowa in 1965 and is now headquartered in the Kansas City metro area. Nationally the firm has more than 3,500 employees in 150 offices in 42 states. CEO David Gaboury has led the firm to nearly $500 million in revenue over the past 18 years.

The Mississippi operation began in 1961 as Ware Lind Engineers, one of the first geotechnical engineering firms in the state. The company evolved into Aquaterra Engineering which merged with Terracon in 2009. Simon, an environmental engineer, said the Ridgeland office has grown to more than 35 employees including engineers, geologists, scientists and technicians. Terracon also has a satellite office in D’Iberville.

Terracon’s Gulf Coast division covers Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. “We have significantly grown over the past six years, especially in Mississippi,” Simon said. “We have added staff, increased our client base and added resources.”

Among its most visible projects are the Central Mississippi Crime Laboratory in Pearl, the Whole Foods Market in Jackson and Infinity Science Center at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis. “All three were complex projects that required multiple services from Terracon,” he said.

Terracon is about to start on a large geotechnical investigation for new bridges and roadway improvements along I-55 in Jackson for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Simon cites Terracon’s multidisciplinary services as another factor in its success, including environmental assessments, geotechnical investigations and site characterization, construction materials testing, special inspections during construction, and facilities services.  “Our services are utilized throughout the life of the project from the early planning stages to post-construction,” Simon said. “We believe no other firm in Mississippi offers such a comprehensive scope of services.”

Terracon is ranked 35th on Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms list, where it moved up 19 spots in the past decade, according to Simon. The company has focused on four areas of growth as part of its strategy. In 2014, the transportation sector grew 14 percent to $84 million and the power sector grew 37 percent to $31 million. Oil and gas increased by 20 percent to $21 million and the federal sector grew 7 percent to $15 million.  “The sector approach utilizes dedicated professionals and experts in these fields to service our clients and develop new business,” he said.

Simon said the last six years have also been good for the Gulf Coast market. “It opened opportunities for our expansion into New Orleans and more recently in Lake Charles, La., and we are looking at other areas to further expand our operations.”

He said the goal is to become a $1 billion company by continuing to grow at least 10 percent nationally. “We are on track to do that year after year,” he said.

Simon said Terracon’s mission of delivering success for employees, clients and communities “has enabled us to grow and become more diverse in our services, geographic coverage and employees.”

As part of that core value, the Terracon Foundation last year provided $233,000 in the form of grants and scholarships to support more than 47 recipients. Close to home, Terracon’s National Partner Grant totaling $50,000 was awarded to the National Society of Black Engineers for summer day camp for girls called SEEK or Summer Engineering Experience for Kids. Monica Gilmore-Love, project environmental engineer in the Ridgeland office, submitted and championed that grant application. Her successful submission led to the Foundation’s largest award of the year.

“We are a national firm, but we live in our local communities,” Simon said. “We have strong Mississippi roots, and this is where we are raising our families.”

Simon said the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary milestone all year long by honoring the contributions of its employees, clients and communities. “We are thankful for our clients who have trusted us with their business for 50 years. We’re all looking forward to seeing what the next 50 years bring.”

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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