Fueled by fresh ideas and a renewed vision, RS&H emerged from the recession with strong momentum for future growth. It's been a transformative period for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based A/E firm, marked by significant changes within its senior ranks. Last year, the firm responded by tallying near-record revenue across its 35 offices nationwide. In light of its strong results, its mix of notable regional projects and its aggressive outlook to build market share, ENR Southeast has named RS&H as its Design Firm of the Year.

In the hard-hit Southeast, RS&H held remarkably steady through the recession. In Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, the firm recorded $104.8 million in revenue in 2008, $111.1 million in 2009, $107.7 million for 2010, $103.9 million during 2011 and $110 million last year.

While its private-sector work—especially corporate projects—suffered during the downturn, RS&H was able to draw from its deep roots in public works to keep its pipeline full. The transportation sector, in particular, proved fruitful. The firm served in a variety of roles on highway projects valued at billions of dollars. In recent years, the firm has teamed with several public-private partnerships, earning it valuable experience with a project delivery method that is growing in use.

Brian Reed, named the new CEO in 2012, says public-sector work provides many opportunities for work, but still leaves gaps. As a result, the firm is banking on more PPP entities to make projects happen.

"There's an expectation among Americans that you can flip a light switch and have electricity or turn on the faucet and there will be water or get in your car and arrive someplace in reasonable time," he says. "If government can't afford to provide those services anymore, the private sector will, particularly in transportation."

In Florida, RS&H won a statewide public-private partnership and engineering support services agreement with the Florida Dept. of Transportation. Under that agreement, the firm provides owner's representative services to FDOT for the $2-billion Interstate-4 Ultimate Corridor Improvements project in Orlando. The project's scope includes complete reconstruction of about 20 miles of I-4, construction of 141 new bridges, upgrades to 19 urban interchanges and a new Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). Crews will also build 20 miles of new tolled express lanes. The RS&H team is developing cost estimates for the project and doing a value engineering study to identify where cost can be trimmed without compromising quality.

RS&H also serves as owner's representative on the $1.8-bilion I-595 Corridor Improvements project in South Florida, which is heading toward a 2014 completion. The scope calls for adding auxiliary lanes, bypass and braided ramps, collector distributor roadways and a tolled reversible express lanes system along a 10.5-mile corridor.

In other transportation work, the firm serves as engineer on the $135-million I-95/Overland Bridge design-build project in Jacksonville. Led by Archer-Western Contractors, the project broke ground in 2012. Last year, RS&H also teamed with Granite Construction and was the apparent low bidder for NCDOT's southern Beltline contract in Raleigh, N.C., with a bid of $139.1 million.

Making the Transition

As part of a 10-year strategic business plan, the firm expects to aggressively pursue more major transportation work in the coming years. "In developing our vision for the future, we recognized that the infrastructure needs in this country would be great in the next 10 years," says Joe Debs, chief marketing officer with RS&H. "We weren't sure when the financial position would turn around, but we knew that the needs were there and companies like ourselves would be needed to address those needs."

Its transportation sector targets were set as part of a transformative process put in motion four years ago, following the announcement that Leerie Jenkins would retire from his post as CEO in 2012 after 40 years with the company. Staying on as chairman, Jenkins launched a three-year initiative to rethink the company's strategic vision and restructure its senior ranks to better meet its goals.

In February 2012, the firm announced that the board had selected Reed to transition to the CEO post, vacating his prior role as aviation program manager. The firm created the new role of chief marketing officer, with Debs selected to take on the position in 2011, leaving his post as transportation program manager. Following those moves, William Sandifer was promoted to head of aviation and David Sweeney moved into Deb's vacated transportation post.