Adds Jane Penny, executive vice president in Atlanta: "When you are able to take national expertise and deliver it locally, it's a really good delivery mechanism."

Moving forward, AECOM will be focusing on becoming even more "local" by placing additional emphasis—and presence—in major Southeast cities, such as Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Orlando and Tampa.

AECOM also plans to grow by making the most of the trend toward alternative delivery. With its design-build water treatment plant project in Davie, the firm has so far won over at least one convert to the merits of alternative delivery: Bruce Taylor, the town's public-works director.

"We just love this—there [are] no change orders," Taylor says. "After going through this process of design-build, I would never do another large project without doing it this way."

Also, Taylor credits AECOM's "excellent" communication with the public for a near lack of complaints about the project, despite its location near a residential area and a university. Importantly, he adds, "It's definitely on budget, and it's definitely on schedule."

Politics Pays

Federal projects have proven a lifeline for many designers and builders over the past few years. AECOM has made the most of the situation, with company officials citing its Atlanta office's recent federal work as one of the main drivers of its 2011 expansion.

AECOM has secured a greater amount of indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, a contracting vehicle similar to a master-services agreement in the private sector. In 2011, IDIQ work included a $200-million contract with the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic (NAVFAC), in joint venture with EnSafe of Memphis, Tenn. Task orders for individual projects follow.

"Once you win the IDIQ contract, you are given a license to sell work with that client within the scope of the contract," says Penny, who serves as general manager for AECOM's government technical services group.

"We're working hard to leverage all of our existing IDIQ contracts and grow there," adds Hullfish.

AECOM has devised tactical approaches to win more work on those contracts. That includes setting up engagement plans with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts, Air Force Installations and NAVFAC. AECOM's marketing group puts together proposals across different accounts and business lines.

Most IDIQ contracts are either architecture or engineering services for water, transportation, energy or facility projects or environmental projects. AECOM does not pursue every available job, but targets projects where it can provide a difference to the client, Penny says.

"We go after projects with new clients where we think we have a strategic offering for them," she says.

When AECOM pulled its operating companies together under one entity about three years ago, it reviewed the portfolio of federal IDIQ contracts.

"That gave us a lot of opportunity to sell more work to clients," Penny says. "We've had two to three years of truly selling one AECOM fleet of services for all of our clients in all of our business lines and geography."