The PBSJ Corporation
The PBSJ Corporation
Employee Owned Company
Sales: $521 million (2005)
NAIC: 541330 Engineering Services; 541310 Architectural Services; 541320 Landscape Architectural Services; 541370 Surveying and Mapping (Except Geophysical) Services; 541620 Environmental Consulting Services; 541618 Other Management Consulting Services
The PBSJ Corporation is a holding company whose wholly owned subsidiaries provide a wide variety of engineering, planning, and construction management services to over 3,000 public and private clients. Post, Buckley, Schuh and Jernigan, Inc. (PBS&J) is one of the largest engineering design firms in the United States and provides most of the corporation's engineering, architectural, and planning services. The other major unit, PBS&J Construction, manages the building of infrastructure projects. Recent projects include conducting environmental impact studies, consulting on intelligent transportation systems, emergency preparedness and homeland security, managing the removal of debris after forest fires and hurricanes, and planning development of recycled water programs. The company has more than 75 offices from California to Puerto Rico.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION: 1960–70
In 1959, Howard M. "Budd" Post was a young engineer working for the Florida State Road Department. Toward the end of the year, William Graham, a prominent South Florida dairyman, approached him with a job offer. Graham had decided to convert some 3,000 acres of pastureland owned by his family into a residential community and wanted Post to come work for his land development company. Post suggested Graham hire an engineering firm where two of Post's best friends worked instead, but the dairyman was not interested in dealing with a big company. Post then said perhaps he should form an engineering company to do the work and Graham accepted the offer.
Post quickly met with those two good friends, George G. Mooney and Robert P. Schuh, and a top sanitary engineer, John D. Buckley, who also worked at the engineering firm Post had recommended to Graham. As their wives played bridge in another room, the four men decided to form a new company, with each of them contributing $125 to create $500 in working capital. On Leap Year Day, February 29, 1960, Bob Schuh became the first full-time employee of the new firm, Robert P. Schuh & Associates, with an office in Hialeah, near Miami. The company's first project was the design of Miami Lakes, the first planned "new town" in Florida, on the pastureland owned and developed by the Graham family. Later that year, Post joined Schuh, and the firm was briefly named Post & Schuh.
Before 1961 ended, the other two partners left their day jobs to join the company full time and changed the firm's name to Post, Buckley, Mooney & Schuh. The four founders set as their goal "to provide high quality services to the diverse clients who need them." One of their first decisions was to create a full-service engineering company. Although each of the founders was a civil engineer, he brought an area of specialization to the company. Post handled transportation (highway and bridge) engineering. Buckley dealt with sanitary and environmental work. Mooney managed general civil engineering assignments. Schuh was responsible for project administration as well as participating in transportation assignments. Each project was under the direct supervision of one of the principals, an approach the men found effective in marketing their services.
Over the next few years, the company made other important decisions. One was to develop a balance between public and private sector clients. In 1962, the firm billed $83,000 in fees, including work for its first public clients. Among its projects that year were a hotel project on Grand Bahama Island and school drainage and road design projects in Dade County, Florida. The firm was also appointed town engineers for Miami Springs and county engineer for Monroe County, two local relationships that would last for decades.
One of the founders' most significant decisions was made in 1963, when they initiated the Post, Buckley, Mooney & Schuh Employees Trust, a pioneering profit-sharing program. The partners wanted to hire people passionate about excellent work and customer service, and they saw the Trust as a means of motivating and retaining key employees.
By the middle of the decade, the company had opened its first branch office, in the Florida Keys (Monroe County), and hired Alex M. Jernigan to strengthen the firm's marketing capabilities. Another civil engineer, Jernigan had worked for the development company on the Miami Lakes project. At the end of 1969, the company had grown to four offices in South Florida. It had 140 employees and billings of $5 million. Jernigan was named a principal when Mooney retired for health reasons, and the company marked its tenth anniversary by changing its name to Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. For the next several decades the firm was referred to by its full name, but by 2005 was known as PBS&J.
STATEWIDE EXPANSION: 1971–80
Although the company had concentrated on building its business locally, in 1971, PBS&J was ranked 220th among the nation's top design firms by Engineering News-Record. During the 1970s, PBS&J strategically expanded throughout Florida.
Florida's economy was flourishing, as tourists, retiree "snowbirds," year-round residents, Cuban immigrants, and new businesses flocked to the state. In 1960, Florida was the tenth most populous state; by 1980, it ranked seventh. Most of the population lived along the coasts, and these areas saw record growth during this period. Central Florida was also growing. Walt Disney World opened in 1971, just outside of Orlando, and in its first two years, more than 20 million people visited the park. (That was 40 times the number of tourists coming to all of Florida in 1950.) Some 50 miles away, around Cape Canaveral, the country's space program generated new jobs, new homes, and new industry. All of this growth required feasibility studies, transportation and water treatment, and wastewater systems, as well as environmental impact studies. During the decade, PBS&J opened offices in carefully selected areas of the state: Dunedin (1972); the Tampa Bay area (1973); Orlando (1974); Fort Myers (1975); and Tallahassee (1976). It also established its first office outside the state, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1973.
The success of our firm is a direct result of continuing to live our strong company culture and staffing all of our offices with passionate professionals who are focused on the needs of our clients. Our journey continues to be focused and guided by a series of standards that have established how we conduct our business and build professional relationships, now and in the future. Mission: To provide professional services to our clients through technical excellence and innovation. Core Values: belief in the virtues of integrity, hard work and loyalty; relentless in the pursuit of quality and excellence; honor our promises and contracts; belief in open, honest, respectful communications; actively support our professions; and personally invest in our communities.
As the firm expanded physically, it was also changing organizationally. In 1973, the Trust established a holding company, PBSJ Corporation, monitored by a board of directors consisting of officers and key employees. Within a year it added a stock ownership plan to the Trust, offering certain employees the option to buy stock in the company. Principal associates could buy up to 2.5 percent and senior associates up to 10 percent. (Post, Buckley, Schuh, and Jernigan gave up their controlling interests during the 1980s, and in 2003, all employees could buy shares.) In 1975, Walter Revell, who came to PBS&J in 1968, was named president, the first non-founder to hold that position.
The company weathered the recession of 1974–75, which significantly slowed construction in the state. Then, in 1976, the firm was selected general consultant for the $1.1 billion Miami Metrorail project. In 1977, the company added construction management services to its portfolio and landed the contract for construction engineering and inspection for the 37 bridges connecting U.S. Highway 1 through the Florida Keys. By the end of the decade, PBS&J had grown to 15 offices with 499 employees and annual revenues of $16.5 million.
MOVING BEYOND FLORIDA: 1981–90
PBS&J had 20 years of experience in, and a reputation for, meeting challenges related to improving infrastructure systems in ecologically sensitive locations. It was time to expand beyond Florida, focusing on areas facing similar challenges. Following that strategy, the company went after more international business. It created an international division and won contracts for projects that included transit studies for Santiago, Chile, a $50 million renovation of an airport in Honduras, and a $250 million highway in Dominican Republic. Within a year, international accounts contributed 10 percent of annual revenues. The company continued to diversify, adding architectural services in 1980.
PBS&J began by opening offices in four more states that had infrastructure and environmental needs similar to Florida: South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and New Jersey. In 1983, James Glass, who had been with the company for 20 years, was named president. The company continued to open new offices, primarily in the Southeast. It also was able to expand services and geographic reach through acquisitions, such as HOH Associates, a Denver company known for its land planning of complete communities, and through joint ventures, including one on the Los Angeles Metro Rail, followed by the opening of the company's first office in California. In 1987, PBS&J reorganized the corporate structure from geographic divisions to four service lines: Environmental, Planning and Development, Transportation, and Construction.
The office in Charlotte, North Carolina, which opened in 1988, provided a good example of how the firm planned its expansions. PBS&J spend three and a half years marketing its services in the state before setting up an office. Originally the company thought it would select Raleigh, but there were already a number of transportation engineering firms operating there. According to a 1991 article in the Business Journal Serving Charlotte and the Metropolitan Area, they chose Charlotte instead, because of its aggressive transportation program, which was supported by a $100 million bond issue, and for its proximity to South Carolina, where PBS&J was doing a lot of work. "The firm didn't get any of the bond money set aside for three or four major projects, but it did win other projects that might not have been ordered if the bonds had not been issued," PBS&J's regional transportation manager explained.
In 1988, the firm was selected to be general consultant for the Florida Turnpike, with broad responsibility for a multi-million dollar turnpike expansion plan. In 1990, the company had 31 offices, 1,050 employees, and annual revenues of $79.4 million.
- Robert P. Schuh & Associates is incorporated in Miami, Florida.
- Company's name is changed to Post, Buckley, Mooney & Schuh.
- Founders create an employee trust, enabling employees to buy into the firm.
- Firm renamed Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc.
- The PBSJ Corporation is incorporated.
- Construction management services are added.
- Architectural services are added.
BUILDING A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION: 1991–99
The recession in the first years of the decade meant local and state governments had less money to spend on transportation, water and wastewater projects. At the same time, the engineering industry was changing through consolidation, client demands for "one-stop" shopping, and moves to integrate design and construction services. PBS&J took several steps to counter the tightening in its traditional markets, and the resulting increased competition. The firm expanded its international efforts, which had focused on Latin America, with projects such as a World Bank assignment to design a new town for coal miners in Siberia. It also created national divisions to help clients effectively use emerging technologies, such as designing and managing intelligent transportation and transit systems.
Most critically, the firm expanded through strategic acquisitions, to become a national entity. PBS&J selected companies that contributed to geographic and technical diversification—increasing PBS&J's presence in new or existing markets and/or adding to the firm's technical capabilities. For example, Church Engineering of Nevada, acquired in 1992, provided PBS&J access to that state and the Rocky Mountain region. Coastal Environmental Services, acquired in 1996, added to PBS&J's biostatistics, ecological risk assessment, and watershed management capabilities. To reflect its geographic range, the company designated four regions—East, Florida, Central, and West—to complement its technical service lines of Transportation, Environmental, Civil, and Construction.
PBS&J more than doubled the number of employees during this period. Many of its corporate initiatives at this time focused on increasing communications and building a common corporate culture throughout the organization. The company held encounter groups and workshops to define the corporate mission and instituted a Program Manager Training program, a work sharing/cross-region initiative, an employee recognition awards program, and a corporate-wide employee intranet. In 2000, the firm had 60 offices, 2,400 employees, and annual revenues of $241 million.
PBS&J continued to grow through acquisitions, adding six by mid-decade, and to invest in its employees. In 2002, the company established PBS&J University to oversee its training and development activities. Employees could improve professional, technical and management/leadership skills through classroom training, web-based instruction and on-the-job mentoring programs. The Trust changed its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to allow all employees to purchase shares and the company established a Corporate Diversity Advisory Council. In 2003 and 2004, CE News magazine ranked PBS&J among the top ten best engineering firms to work for.
INTERNAL CHALLENGES: 2005 AND BEYOND
Early in 2005, John Zumwalt III was named chairman while continuing to serve as chief executive. Todd Kenner was appointed president. Together, these two men represented 48 years of experience with the 45-year-old company and exemplified its efforts to develop and promote employees within the organization. In less than two months they were notifying the Securities and Exchange Commission that an internal inquiry was underway after the company's audit committee discovered accounting irregularities and misappropriation of company assets. Shortly thereafter, the chief financial officer and treasurer (a 20-year employee) resigned, along with two subordinates, voluntarily turning over homes, bank accounts and other assets. The fraud involved inflating the overhead rate on various projects (the costs of rent, insurance, and other non-project-specific expenses). According to a 2006 article in the St. Petersburg Times, this resulted in the over-billing of about 3 percent on more than $1 billion worth of work.
PBS&J notified its clients immediately and committed to making full restitution to those effected. The company also created a new position, chief ethics and compliance officer, and began reviewing all of its contracts. With little long-term debt, a large line of credit and positive case flow, the company remained financially strong and functioning.
In mid-2006, the organization announced it had been selected, with the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, in a partnership to transform Fort Belvoir, in Virginia, under the military base realignment and closure legislation. It also began moving the corporate offices from Miami to Tampa.
Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (PBS&J); PBS&J Construction Services; Seminole Development Corporation; PBS&J Caribe Engineering, C.S.P (Puerto Rico); Post, Buckley International, Inc.
AECOM Technology Corporation; CH2M HILL Cos.; HDR; The Louis Berger Group; Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.; URS.
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