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December 6-19, 2017

www.crej.com

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THE INDUSTRY'S SINGLE SOURCE FOR

ENVIRONMENTAL

& DEMOLITION SOLUTIONS

I

work with architecture

and engineering firms

across the U.S. Always

mindful of trends, this year

alone we have seen a signifi-

cant increase in mergers and

acquisitions activity in the

state of Colorado – 13 sale-side

transactions all within the A/E

industry alone.

And the research mirrors

what we’ve witnessed. Based

on the “2016 Merger &Acquisi-

tion Survey by Zweig Group,”

Colorado is the hottest state

in the country for M&A activ-

ity. Of the firms surveyed dur-

ing the research, 21 percent

said they are considering M&A

in Colorado. For comparison,

only 5 percent of firms said

they were interested in M&A

activity in neighboring Utah.

Looking ahead, it’s interest-

ing to note that both the city

and county of Denver are regis-

tered members of The Nation-

al Council for Public-Private

Partnerships, a Washington,

D.C.-based advocate for what’s

known as P3s. An emerging

and innovative way to finance

important infrastructure proj-

ects, P3s could be crucial as

cash-strapped state and local

governments look beyond tra-

ditional funding mechanisms

– taxes and bonds – by tapping

into private-sector resources.

The state of

C o l o r a d o

has broad-

ranging P3

l eg i s l a t i on .

These busi-

ness-friend-

ly policies

along with

Co l o r ado ’ s

e x p a n d i n g

economy and

employment

base contin-

ue to attract

individuals and businesses to

the state.

Our M&A survey also indi-

cates geographic expansion as a

key driver of activity. Architec-

ture and engineering firms are

trying to find a broader nation-

al footprint and increase the

services and expertise available

to clients. In May, our M&A

services team represented Epp-

stein UhenArchitects, a leading

architecture and design firm,

as it expanded into the Rocky

Mountain region by acquiring

Denver-based architecture and

interior design firm Burkettde-

sign (now BurkettEUA). Greg

Uhen, CEO of EUA, noted that

his team made the strategic

decision to expand into Denver

based on the region’s econom-

ic strength and projections of

continued population growth.

The Colorado state demog-

raphy office paints an inter-

esting portrait of the state’s

future. According to the most

recent data, the agency esti-

mates that the state’s popula-

tion will increase by nearly 52

percent, from today’s popula-

tion of about 5.6 million to

an astounding 8.5 million by

2050. That translates into a

long-term need for more roads,

single- and multifamily hous-

ing, office and retail – an ideal

environment for architects and

engineers, and the firms that

employ them.

Of course, the population

boom has been underway

for years now. Just in Den-

ver County alone, the popu-

lation grew by 15.4 percent,

from 600,158 in 2010 to 693,060

in 2017, according to the U.S.

Census Bureau. A friend of

mine lives in Denver, and she

recently told me, “It’s defi-

nitely booming. Lots of people

moving in and the traffic is

showing that, but an awesome

place to live!”

The M&A industry is com-

plex and there are plenty of

moving pieces, but a big piece

of the equation is simple: tal-

ent. In a tight labor market,

entry-level engineers are rela-

tively easy to find. But the proj-

ect manager with 10 years of

experience? That’s a different

issue. Buying a firm is often

the easiest way to obtain the

people a firm needs.

In an article appearing in

“Civil + Structural Engineer”

magazine (published by Zweig

Group), several sources speak

to the recent acquisition of

CH2M by Jacobs Engineering.

In addition to market verticals,

backlog and market share, a

big part of that deal was about

talent. It’s safe to say that the

same dynamic is at play in the

M&A industry here in Colo-

rado.

A big question mark loom-

ing over the U.S. engineering

industry is the fate of the much

talked about infrastructure bill.

The Trump administration has

yet to propose a detailed plan,

and the specifics that have

been made public are scant.

But $1 trillion in upgrades

has been mentioned, and it

seems that the entire world

was listening. In July, Korea-

based HanmiGlobal, through

its American-based subsidiary

Otak, acquired Denver-based

Loris and Associates, a firm

represented by Zweig Group.

With the transaction, Otak

expects to share project infor-

mation with public construc-

tion customers in the U.S. and

hold the lead in the urban

restoration and environment-

friendly infrastructure con-

struction markets. HanmiGlob-

al Chairman Kim Jong-hoon

said the acquisition was made

to gain an “advantage in the

Trump administration’s infra-

structure construction market.”

In addition to the acquisi-

tion of Loris & Associates, we

are seeing this global attention

translate into a number of for-

eign entities seeking to acquire

American-based A/E firms.

Take for example the acqui-

sition of Syncroness, a Colo-

rado-based engineering firm.

Syncroness was acquired by

Alten Group, a European firm.

As quoted by Mike Walraven,

CEO of Syncroness, “This

acquisition comes at an oppor-

tune time as the U.S. econ-

omy and market continue to

improve, creating more oppor-

tunities for growth.” This sup-

ports the notion that AE firms

are expecting to prosper from

the announcement of a large

infrastructure bill.

We expect to see M&A activ-

ity remain consistently high

within Colorado based on the

state’s expanding economy,

strong population growth,

business-friendly policies and

talented workforce.

s

A/E mergers, acquisitions are on the rise in Colorado

Construction, Design & Engineering

Noah Hunt

Consultant, Zweig

Group’s Merger &

Acquisition Services,

Fayetteville, Arkansas