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Engineering Firms See 3.1% Rise in Billings

Orange County’s largest engineering firms reported a 3.1% rise in OC billings to $1.2 billion for the 12 months ended June 30.

A notable leap was the Brea office of No. 3 Burns & McDonnell, which said billings climbed 28% to $118.2 million.

“What has really stood out has been how incredibly fortunate we are to be part of a company with such a diversified portfolio,” Rashmi Menon, vice president/GM, California for Burns & McDonnell, told the Business Journal.

She said the firm’s OC office has been busy with work in everything from environmental work to aerospace to utilities.

The list ranks OC’s 23 largest engineering firms by local billings.

It also provides companywide revenues, which fell 6% to $62.4 billion; the number of licensed engineers, which climbed 1.4% to 1,103; and local employees, which fell 0.6% to 4,193. None of these latter three affect the rankings.

Eleven firms said their billings were up while seven reported a decline and two had no change. Three firms are listed with Business Journal estimates.

Optimism

No. 20 Salas O’Brien Engineers of Santa Ana reported Orange County billings climbed 1.3% to $11.7 million while companywide it rose 12% to $174 million.

“The past year was surprisingly good for us,” Chief Executive Darin Anderson told the Business Journal. “We’re fortunate to be in resilient sectors that thrive like data centers, telecom, defense.”

It’s been building many projects for large technology companies, healthcare firms and university campuses, Anderson said.

The company, which has employed a rollup strategy to grow to 1,300 employees in 51 offices, was profitable on both organic and acquisition growth, he said.

“It was kind of surprising,” Anderson said. “We had little exposure to commercial and retail.”

He’s bullish not only about the coming year.

“It’s first time in 15 years that I feel very bullish about the next 5 years,” he said.

“The evidence is that we have a record backlog today. There aren’t enough qualified engineers to do the work. The prospects are very positive for critical infrastructure work.”

Backlog Zenith

Another company with record backlog was Irvine-based Fuscoe Engineering Inc.

“Our backlog is at a zenith—10 months,” founder and CEO Pat Fuscoe said.

“We have $31 million in signed contracts that we haven’t started on. In our industry, the (backlog) average is five to six months.”

While the company reported no change in OC billings and a decline companywide, that’s an anomaly from what he expects will be 10% growth this calendar year.

“We’re doing well. Our utilization and productivity remain excellent despite 70% working at home,” Fuscoe said. “The company’s thriving.”

He foresees growth in solar energy, multifamily apartments, water reuse and repurposing of old shopping centers.

Orange County and California will boom in the coming years as projects are being planned on everything from solar energy to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, said Burns & McDonnell’s Menon.

The company, with headquarters in Kansas City, MO, provided the engineering, procurement and construction of California’s Vistra Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in Monterey County, the world’s biggest battery energy storage system now at 400 megawatts.

“The next couple of years will be incredible growth in California, once the infrastructure bill (in Congress) is formalized,” she predicted.

Notables

• The fastest grower was No. 2 Aecom, a Dallas-based firm with an office in Orange. It reported billings climbed 32% to $134.6 million. Its engineer count fell 14% to 92 while its employee count also dropped, 9.7% to 454.

“We anticipate growth in Orange County in the water and civil infrastructure sectors,” said Chris Mockus, the construction management and construction engineering inspection division manager for AECOM’s west region. He also said the upcoming infrastructure package should “help drive funding to important sectors such as  transportation/transit.”

• The biggest drop was 51% to $12 million at CDM Smith Inc., a Boston firm with an office in Irvine.

• Another firm with a large decline in local work was Anaheim’s Willdan Group Inc. (Nasdaq: WLDN), which reported billings fell 31% to $13.8 million. Companywide, its billings also fell 14% to $364.6 million. Shares of the provider of energy consulting services have declined by about a third since February to $36.74 and a $469 million market cap. 

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