By Susan Belknapp, California Business Journal.
As two former Caltrans engineers, Dennis Haglan and Craig Drake know something about building bridges. Literally. And now they decided it was the right time to bridge the gap and expand the services of their Rancho Cordova, California-based engineering firm by joining forces with Fairfax, Virginia-based Dewberry, which officially acquired Drake Haglan and Associates in September to form Dewberry | Drake Haglan.
This folds the 80-person Drake Haglan and Associates into a company that features 2,200 team members and $462.6 million in revenue in 2018. The acquisition will allow the firm to serve a broader range of clients and provide additional resources to existing and future clients, according to Haglan, CEO, founding partner and President of Drake Haglan & Associates.
He is confident that the acquisition process “Will be the smoothest acquisition ever. The integration process has been well thought out and very sensitive to both the clients’ and employees’ needs.”
Drake Haglan and Associates, established in 2007, will maintain its existing offices in Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, and Manteca, California, with the new branding and will continue to operate under current leadership, supported by Dewberry’s nationwide resources.
An ideal match
What made the partners decide the time was right for the 12-year-old company to be acquired? Timing mostly, and a commitment to shared culture and exemplary client service.
“Dewberry was looking for an established firm to help foster expansion in California, and we wanted to grow our capacity to further support our clients,” Haglan says. “We provide a high-level of service to our clients and were extremely pleased to find out our cultures were identical. We wanted to see what we could achieve together.”
Both firms have strong roots in transportation engineering and have complementary services — and they both recognize the need for locally-based experience and knowledge. Drake Haglan are specialists in structural, environmental, construction management, public outreach, funding expertise, and water resource engineering. Dewberry, with more than 50 locations in 18 states, also offers these services along with geospatial, water/wastewater infrastructure design, site/civil engineering, architecture, emergency management response and recovery, and telecommunications.
The road to expansion
Though in business together since 2007, Drake and Haglan have been on parallel professional paths for more than 25 years. Both began their careers as bridge engineers with Caltrans’ Division of Structures, and each rose to assume the role of Structures Local Assistance Engineers in neighboring districts. They often mused about starting their own engineering firm one day. Also, as another parallel, they both entered the private sector in the mid ’90s, with aspirations of someday branching out on their own.
When the day finally came to take the leap, they were confident in their expertise and abilities and were mutually committed to how they wanted to treat clients and team members. They made this commitment the foundation of their company cultures. That mission helped drive them through some tough times – 2007 wasn’t the best year to launch a business – and good times, resulting in staff longevity during its 12 successful years with expansion into three additional cities.
“Our staff is like family,” Haglan says. “Many have been with us a long, long time. We spent a lot of time finding a place for each individual in the new firm.”
One of the additional benefits of being acquired by a larger organization is that it can attract new talent in an arena where the competition is fierce.
“Transportation – and really all of our engineering specializations – are always looking for strong talent, and there are not enough highly-trained people to fill this void,” Haglan says. “This is one of the reasons we wanted to connect with a larger firm. Because of its resources, Dewberry has the capacity to bid on the large, important projects many engineers aspire to contribute to.”
Being able to expand in this manner — maintain its established workforce and add to it with the opportunity to do even more large-scale and diversified projects – “is an ideal situation for all of us,” Haglan says. “We’re very excited for the future.”
Currently, both divisions are working on a number of public- and private-sector projects that affect the lives of thousands of people every day. Getting millions of people safely from point A to point B requires a ‘real’ and continuous commitment to innovation, expediency, and superior-quality work.
“Lives depend on firms such as Dewberry | Drake Haglan executing these critical infrastructure projects to the highest quality standards. There is nothing as important to us as client satisfaction,” Haglan says. “And we believe in taking care of our team members who believe that too. To be able to find a firm such as Dewberry that has identical shared goals is an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.”
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