While EPC work leverages multiple aspects of Zachry Engineering's resources, the firm remains open to opportunities for engineering-only services. It provided $16 million in engineering for the Nacogdoches Biomass Power project in Sacul, Texas. Completed in 2012, the 100-MW plant is the largest single-unit waste-wood biomass powerplant in the U.S. and was named Bioenergy Project of the Year by Power Engineering magazine.

Last year, a joint venture of Zachry and engineer-contractor CB&I won a front-end engineering and design (FEED) award for the Freeport Liquefaction Project near Freeport, Texas. The contract calls for engineering and design of three LNG liquefaction trains, each rated at 4.4 million tons per year. Corresponding pretreatment facilities also are being designed to be located near the existing Freeport LNG Regasification Terminal. Zachry Industrial was the constructor of the site's original LNG plant, which was completed in 2008.

Long-Term View

Zachry remains a privately owned company, which Burke says offers long-term stability, especially for employees. "We have a longer term view of things," he says. "We don't necessarily load up for a project and hire a bunch of contract people, and when the contract's done, let them go. There are peaks, and we'd hire for those peaks; but when the valleys come, I think we do a pretty good job at trying to retain our folks."

With roughly 200 employees spread among its Texas offices in Amarillo, San Antonio and Houston, the firm kept employment numbers relatively stable through the recession, which prepared it for the 2012 rebound and beyond. "We're more apt to spend a little downtime, when our people don't have a lot to do, on efforts relative to developing some of what we call base plant designs," Burke adds.

The company also had employees working through scoping issues and learning about "advanced technologies that are in the marketplace today to prepare ourselves to be strong in the future" in both power generation and chemical processing markets, he adds.

Burke expects that the next 10 years will produce a "robust energy environment" in the U.S., both from a power generation standpoint and in refining and processing petrochemicals.

Manning points to shale gas in Eagle Ford, Texas, along the Gulf Coast as a source of energy that will need refining. Right now, 70% of the U.S. petrochemical industry is along that coast, he says.

Giving Back

Both Burke and Manning have been with the company for more than 30 years, which they say is typical. Employees are also very active in the local communities where both their offices and projects are based. "We try to make sure that the projects we do are not just good for us, but also good for the communities and the customers," Burke says. "And we try to have fun along the way."

As part of that effort, Zachry employees participate in a broad range of charitable programs, giving back to both local and national organizations. In southeast Texas, for example, some organizations that have benefited from Zachry include several in Beaumont: the South East Texas Art Museum, South East Texas Food Bank, CASA of Southeast Texas, Oaks of Beaumont Retirement Home and Garth House, which seeks to prevent child abuse and offers neglect-prevention services. The firm also supports Hughen School in Port Arthur, which is a service provider for children and adults with physical disabilities.

Zachry's support for United Way, the primary recipient of employee and corporate contributions, has also been strong. The firm's fall 2012 campaign broke a company-wide record, with a total of $4.4 million raised in employee donations and corporate dollar-for-dollar match. The efforts have been recognized by United Way chapters in Texas and across the country, according to a company announcement in April that singled out the efforts of employees at two Texas plant sites and three others in Iowa, Virginia and Connecticut.