Engineering firms actively consolidating

State and federal funding levels have impacted the industry in the wake of the recession; many firms being acquired are specialty engineering firms.


A recent survey of 93 consulting engineering firms across New York state conducted this summer by the American Council of Engineering Companies of New York to identify industry trends and issues indicates that firms are actively acquiring other firms, primarily non-competing specialty engineering firms. More than one-third (36%) of survey respondents report that their firm acquired another firm in the past five years. This trend is expected to continue. More than half (51%) of respondents indicated it is likely or very likely their firm will acquire another firm in the next five years.

Despite the acquisitive mood of the industry, only 17% of respondents view consolidation favorably. More than half of the participants said it forces small and mid-size firms out of the market. One-third of those surveyed say it increases cost competition, a factor that has had a significant impact on business over the past several years according to 73% of respondents. More than half (62%) anticipate that cost competition will continue to impact their business in the next year.

State and federal funding levels are also high on the list of conditions impacting the industry. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (62%) said New York State funding levels have had an impact and will continue to affect their business next year, while 37% said federal funding levels have affected their business, and 50.5% anticipate their impact going forward.

The use of alternative project delivery systems, such as design-build and public-private partnerships, is also expected to trend upward over the next five years. Currently, 75% of respondents report that their firms have been involved in design-build projects and 27% have been involved in public-private partnerships. Almost half (48%) of respondents have a positive view of both methods. An additional 29% were neutral on design-build and 39% were neutral on public-private partnerships. Most of those surveyed (75%) foresee the use of alternative delivery methods increasing over the next five years.

In rating industry conditions overall, more engineers describe their business as fair (50.5%), and the same as last year (44%), than any other category of response. Only 7.5% rated their business “not good.” Most of the engineers (61%) who participated in the 2011 survey were at least somewhat optimistic about the outlook for 2012. This is an increase from a similar study conducted in 2009, which indicated a positive outlook among 46% of those surveyed.

- Edited by Chris Vavra, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, 

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