By Eric Woods
Fehr Graham, an engineering firm started in 1973, has announced the acquisition of Coombe-Bloxdorf, a Springfield-based civil and structural engineering and land-surveying firm. The two companies are not strangers to one another as they have been on numerous project teams over the past few years. According to Noah Carmichael, principal and branch manager of the Rochelle office of Fehr Graham, the similar cultures of the two firms made the decision to acquire the firm an easy one. “While working side by side, we quickly identified many similarities between our two companies: strong leadership – highly knowledgeable and capable – and a strong focus on client satisfaction,” he said.
This acquisition was not an overnight arrangement, according to Mary Coombe-Bloxdorf, former president and now branch manager of Coombe-Bloxdorf. “We had been in talks with Fehr Graham for the better part of the last year, considering the options and building a relationship to make the acquisition, and subsequent transition, as seamless as possible,” she said. “The benefit of this opportunity with Fehr Graham is it allows me to focus more on clients and projects, and less on the administrative responsibilities of an owner,” she continues. “I have no immediate retirement plans, and my position with Fehr Graham will allow me the freedom to work as long as I desire while being more involved developing the future leaders of the firm and advancing the many exciting design projects currently underway.”
Acquisition talks began in early 2015. As it became evident that the businesses were a good fit, the specific details quickly fell into place. “In the end, the majority of the time was spent early in the process to ensure each party was comfortable with the acquisition,” said Carmichael.
The Coombe-Bloxdorf organization has similar experience to the civil and structural transportation capabilities of Fehr Graham’s Springfield office but also offers experience in building structures, civil-site development and land surveying along with construction staking and observation services, according to Coombe-Bloxdorf. “These services align well with the Fehr Graham model and provided an opportunity to integrate the current staff with Fehr Graham’s existing staff,” she said.
Fehr Graham is the larger of the two companies, with 10 offices across three states. “The Springfield office is similar to our size and structure which I felt was a plus for my employees,” said Coombe-Bloxdorf. “Fehr Graham as a whole offers a larger variety of services than those that Coombe-Bloxdorf has been able to offer in the past, which is an exciting opportunity for our staff.”
Fehr Graham has successfully acquired numerous firms over the past decade. When the current owners of Coombe-Bloxdorf began considering a transition of ownership, Fehr Graham quickly identified an opportunity to strengthen their structural design team, while also providing a wider range of engineering and environmental services to the Springfield market. “This strategic acquisition will provide a platform for our other services not currently offered in the Springfield market,” said Carmichael. “In addition to structural engineering and surveying, Fehr Graham will introduce services with a great track record in other areas of the state and throughout the Midwest. We believe the Springfield market has opportunities with local industry to share our expertise in environmental compliance and remediation solutions as well as workplace safety, environmental permitting and site remediation.”
According to Carmichael, Fehr Graham has an aggressive, long-term growth plan which balances existing marketplaces with an awareness of ongoing acquisition opportunities. Currently there are no acquisitions planned in 2016, but the leadership will continue evaluating ways to expand service offerings. “Past acquisitions have proven to be very successful, and we will continue to pursue acquisitions similar to Coombe-Bloxdorf which advance our growth strategy and provide a strong cultural fit for our organization,” said Carmichael. “Overall, we are excited to be able to use this acquisition as a launching platform to expand and grow our presence in the local marketplace and provide additional structural engineering resources for clients throughout the Midwest.”
Eric Woods can be reached