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Stantec Buys Another Neighbor in Irvine

Irvine-based civil engineering firm VA Consulting Inc. has been acquired by Stantec Inc. on undisclosed terms.

Stantec’s Irvine office serves as its headquarters for the western U.S. The Alberta, Canada-based company focuses mostly on transportation, civil infrastructure and land development projects, and placed No. 13 on the Business Journal’s 2015 list of engineering companies, with $18.2 million in billings in OC for the 12-month period that ended in June 2014. Companywide billings for 2014 were $2.2 billion.

VA Consulting earned a spot on the Business Journal’s list of fastest-growing private companies last year, with revenue of $9.9 million for the 12 months ended June 2014 and a 121.9% gain in revenue over a two-year period (see related call for entries, page 5).

The deal is the latest in Stantec’s “growth through acquisition” strategy, which has included buys of about 100 smaller firms in the past decade or so.

Stantec Executive Vice President Eric Nielsen said that acquiring VA Consulting was an opportunity to expand capacity in Irvine and take on larger contracts. He also said VA Consulting will bring new specialties to Stantec’s portfolio.

“VA has some very unique and special skills in the … world of water resources, conservation, retention and control—especially relevant in light of California’s current drought,” Nielsen said. “This was an area where Stantec didn’t have the same level of specialty [prior to the acquisition]. Now we can go after bigger things.”

Past Collaborations

This isn’t the first time VA Consulting and Stantec employees have crossed paths. The firms have collaborated on various projects in prior years, and VA Consulting Chief Executive Max Vahid, also its majority shareholder, worked for a time with Nielsen at Keith Cos., another Irvine-based engineering and consulting services firm.

Keith Cos. was acquired by Stantec in 2005 for about $196 million in cash and stock.

Vahid and Nielsen worked closely together until Vahid left Keith Cos. in 2003 and acquired VA Consulting.

“One of the reasons we started this acquisition was because of the prior working relationship we had with a lot of the staff and management at Stantec,” Vahid said. “It was all positive, and we thought it would be an excellent growth starting point. We always enjoyed working with them in the past.”

Vahid also said the acquisition was an attractive option because of the opportunities it would provide his firm’s current employees.

“VA staff will now have access to better quality training, technical materials, and opportunities that a smaller company might not have access to,” said Vahid. “We see tremendous value in providing expanded professional development opportunities for our team members.”

VA Consulting has been in operation for over 40 years and services both private and public clients. It is currently providing civil engineering design services in support of the San Diego International Airport expansion and engineering services for Irvine Company’s new 1,900-unit Eastwood residential development in Irvine.

The firm has two offices in Irvine, where most of its 62 employees are located. It also has locations in Arizona and other Southern California counties where it has ongoing contracts.

Vahid said that though the company will immediately begin a transition to the Stantec brand, it will keep its current offices and employees.

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