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September 27, 2012

Surveys 2012: Herrera Environmental Consultants

Photo by Tom Roorda/NTI [enlarge]
Herrera is designing a solution to secure the closed Port Angeles landfill, which is located along a bluff, and protect the coastline.

Specialty: Water, restoration, sustainable development

Management: Michael Spillane, president; Carol Slaughterbeck, executive vice president of operations; Theresa Wood, vice president of finance

Founded: 1980

Headquarters: Seattle

2011 revenues: $11 million

Projected 2012 revenues: $11 million

Current projects: Port Angeles landfill closure; stormwater conveyance and treatment design for the Port of Olympia; Secret Harbor Estuary restoration for the state Department of Natural Resources

Carol Slaughterbeck, executive vice president of operations with Herrera, answered some questions from the DJC about the industry and her firm.

Q: What issues are facing your industry?

A: As society’s leading problem-solvers on public health, infrastructure and environmental issues, the A/E industry faces enormous but exciting challenges in the next 20 years. How will we continue to deliver safe, high-quality work with shrinking infrastructure budgets? How will we integrate green practices into urban areas while maintaining the best of traditional public works design and adapting to an aging population? How will we design infrastructure to be more resilient to more uncertainty in hydrology and climate patterns?

Q: Where do you see growth coming from in the next few years? Are there markets your firm is entering or exiting?

A: As a small business, Herrera is excited that the federal government is recognizing the value of innovation and responsiveness offered by small businesses, and is promoting that in their contracting policies. We expect growth in the federal market for our water resources, restoration and waste stewardship services.

Herrera’s green infrastructure planning and design specialty and stormwater services are in high demand across both public- and private-sector clients. We also expect increased demand for our flood protection and river restoration modeling and design services as public-sector clients address current problems and plan for climate-change impacts on infrastructure design practices.

Q: How many employees did you have right before the recession, and how many now? How did your firm do in the recession, and what did you learn?

A: During the recession we reduced our staff from 115 to 85. While that has been very difficult, the business learned from it. We’ve streamlined a number of processes that were no longer serving us well. We’ve strengthened our focus on fundamentals coupled with interdisciplinary collaboration to bring realistic but creative solutions forward.

Q: What is the biggest trend in your industry locally?

A: Although the number of opportunities is high, the competition is also extreme. The amount we spend on proposals, interviews and other business development efforts to win the same amount of work increased substantially during the recession.

Q: How was sustainable development affected by the recession?

A: “Sustainable development” is really about taking the long-term view — caring about what’s good for society more than self, and leaving the world a better place for our children and future generations. I think the recession is bringing these issues to the forefront of all our decisions. I think the combination of people being more aware of long-term/short-term tradeoffs, combined with technological advances, means that best practices in sustainable development will take quantum leaps in the next 20 years.

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