Cedar Rapids-based Shive-Hattery, the largest architecture and engineering firm based in the Corridor, is still finding new directions for growth as it changes leadership in its 117th year.
The company acquired Design Organization, a 29-employee Indiana firm specializing in workplace design, last month.
It was a unique opportunity for Shive-Hattery to open up a new geographical market — Indiana and Chicago — and to gain a new area of specialization in redesigning large work spaces for corporate relocations and reorganizations.
“They’ve done projects for Fortune 500 companies with thousands of employees who are relocating,” said Shive-Hattery Chairman Thomas Hayden. He said some of Design Organization’s projects have transformed multiple buildings for entirely different uses.
The acquisition brings Shive-Hattery’s work force to over 350, including about 150 in the Corridor split between offices in north Iowa City and downtown Cedar Rapids.
Hayden, 63, has been president since 1995. He was succeeded in that role on Oct. 1 by James Lee, the former building systems team leader of Shive-Hattery’s West Des Moines office. The board representing Shive-Hattery’s 58 owners is expected to decide on a new chairman at its annual meeting March 13.
Shive-Hattery is the 232nd largest design firm in the United States, according to Engineering News Record magazine, based on 2011 revenues of $42.4 million. The company climbed 25 spots in the ranking from the year before, as it managed to outpace industry growth in the early stages of the economic recovery.
Continuing that record of profitable growth is the objective of Lee, 56, who is already an experienced leader within the organization.
Lee said the company will be filling several other key leadership spots expected to become vacant due to retirements in the short term. He said Shive-Hattery may add even more new areas of specialization in the coming years at it continues a diversification strategy that has served it well.
Even the punishing recession that began in 2008 didn’t put much of a dent in Shive-Hattery’s growth. Hayden said 2008 was the company’s strongest year yet. Revenues retreated by 4 percent in 2009, only to rebound above 2008 levels in 2010.
“We were very much an anomaly in the A/E industry,” Hayden said. He credited the company’s diversified business strategy and strong group of Midwestern clients, many of which have roots in agriculture and government.
That strategy dates back to the 1960s, Donald Hattery joined when father-and-son pair Philip and James Shive in the business. The company wanted to provide a wide array of services in order to be able to capture more business in its markets and serve more client needs.
Shive-Hattery added architecture to its professional staff in 1984. The company’s services include civil, structural and electrical engineering, wastewater, transportation, planning, environmental and landscape architecture.
About 150 Shive-Hattery employees work in the Corridor, split almost equally between offices in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.
Both Hayden and Lee worked for short periods at engineering companies that struggled financially before joining Shive-Hattery. Hayden describes a relatively simple business formula that has worked well for the company — take great care of the client, be a great place to work, and keep a close eye on the bottom line.
The company’s downtown Cedar Rapids offices on the fifth floor of the Town Centre building isn’t divided into offices. That’s so that project staff can collaborate more seamlessly.
“Everything we do is in teams,” Hayden said. “We are an open book company. We have very few secrets inside Shive-Hattery, and we want it to stay that way.”
Hayden expects Lee to have an easier transition from project work into corporate leadership than he had in 1995 because the company has an increased emphasis on leadership development.”
Lee had served on the Shive-Hattery’s board for about four years before his selection this year as president. He was involved in a “pretty rigorous selection process” for the succession, but admits to “mild shock” when Hayden called him with the news that he was the new president.
After the reality set in, Lee said he felt comfortable with his ability to adjust to the new role and his move to Cedar Rapids.
Shive-Hattery at a glance:
What: 117-year-old architecture/engineering firm
Where: Headquarters in Cedar Rapids, offices in Chesterfield, Mo.; Valparaiso, Ind.; Moline, Ill.; Downers Grove, Ill..; Chicago, Ill.; Bloomington, Ill.; West Des Moines and Iowa City.
Revenue: 2011 revenues of $42.4 million
Projects: Current projects include the $127 million expansion/renovation of the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames and the 4zero4 downtown mixed use development proposed to the city of Iowa City aiming for LEED Platinum energy efficiency designation and the $55 million Oaknoll Spring Street Senior Living Facility expansion in Iowa City. Shive-Hattery has performed industrial, commercial, and public projects throughout the Corridor, including many public schools.
Employment: 350 employees, including about 150 in the Corridor.
Ownership: 58 shareholders. Share purchase rights are offered at the discretion of the board to.