Sunday, July 25, 2010

WilsonMiller acquired by Stantec

A visit to the web-site of the Tampa Bay Business Journal revealed news that Stantec is acquiring WilsonMiller (transaction is expect to close in July).

WilsonMiller is an engineering firm based in Naples, FL (with office locations in ten Florida cities), and, due to the fact that I visited WilsonMiller's Naples office, several times over the years when I was with NGI, I know at least bit about WilsonMiller. For one thing, the President & COO of WilsonMiller, Fermin Diaz, is one of the nicest, friendliest people you could ever hope to meet and chat with. And, WilsonMiller's CTO, Walter Johnson, is a very smart technology guru. (I'm guessing that Walter is still with WilsonMiller.)

Stantec, which I think is based in Canada (I'm not positive about that; when I went to visit Stantec's web-site this morning, I could not, for some unknown reason, get on it) is a much larger company than WilsonMiller. Stantec has around 9,500 employees in Canada and the U.S. (and possibly some overseas?) Stantec has been an acquisitive company over the years; one of those - Stantec purchased The Keith Companies in California back around 2005, and, at the time of acquisition, The Keith Companies employed approximately 800 team members. Stantec has purchased several other companies.

The WilsonMiller acquisition greatly increases Stantec's presence in the State of Florida. And, WilsonMiller is a highly respected engineering firm. Congrats to the WilsonMiller team.

Beyond that, one has to wonder why WilsonMiller decided to be acquired. Did the recession cause WilsonMiller to seek association with a much larger firm, one that has not been hurt by the depression-like conditions in the AEC sector in Florida? Stantec appears to have a very solid P&L and Balance Sheet.

There are already a number of national and international engineering firms doing business in Florida, including Parsons Brinkerhoff, CDM, HNTB, HDR, ARCADIS, AMECOM, MACTEC (and there are others.) WilsonMiller was only in business in Florida, so WilsonMiller is a very good fit for Stantec.

But, one also has to wonder if this deal (and deals like this one that have previously happened with Florida-based engineering firms) will influence some of Florida's other "independent" engineering firms (I am speaking about those who are based in Florida) to consider selling to, or merging with, very large firms like Stantec. Will PBSJ go that route, eventually? Will RS&H and King Engineering go that route, eventually?

Okay, here's the story that appeared in the Tampa Bay Business Journal (July 20th, 2010) about the Stantec/WilsonMiller deal:

WilsonMiller, which for more the 50 years has been involved in some of Florida’s most visible real estate projects, has agreed to be acquired by the Canadian design firm Stantec.

Company officials would not disclose the purchase price. The deal is expected to close on Friday. Stantec (NYSE: STN) has more than 150 North American offices including Tampa and Sarasota. The acquisition boosts the company’s Florida payroll from about 40 to more than 300 workers.

“We believe that WilsonMiller will be a catalyst for future growth of Stantec in Florida, which despite the current difficult economic climate, still remains one of the largest markets in the country,” Bob Gomes, president and chief executive officer, said in a release. “They bring a talented team that managed their company very well through the recession and is now well positioned to take advantage of opportunities in both the public and private sectors.”

The firm will be called WilsonMiller Stantec for the time being.

A company spokesman said there is no plan to layoff any of WilsonMiller’s 265 employees or close any of its 10 Florida offices, including Tampa and Sarasota.

WilsonMiller, based in Naples, has a portfolio of projects that includes the redevelopment of Tampa’s Channel District and the Ave Maria town and university development in Collier County east of Naples.

“Throughout our history, we have proactively adapted to meet the changing needs of our clients and communities,” Alan Reynolds, chairman and CEO of WilsonMiller, said in the release. “Joining with Stantec is the next step for us to take to become part of an international network that gives our clients access to a much wider range of services and expertise as well as provides our employees with better technical resources and more opportunities to grow their careers.”

Reynolds will stay with the new company in an as yet undisclosed “leadership role,” Stantec spokesman Jay Averill said.

Stantec has done primarily geo-technical and environmental work since coming to Florida in 2006. Averill said the acquisition of Wilson Miller will help the company expand its reach in the fields of transportation, urban land development, and engineering and design work for commercial and industrial buildings.

Stantec acquired Industry and Energy Associates LLC (NYSE: IEA), a 60-person engineering company headquartered in Portland, Maine, earlier this month. Averill would not disclose whether the company is eyeing other Florida firms.

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