As Texas and Louisiana recover from the recession, these six diverse firms with operations in the two states are gaining new work and remain optimistic about the future. Hurricane recovery work will continue as a driver in the region, while the Texas economy shows resiliency. The state reported a strong $11-billion year-end balance for fiscal 2009, which bodes well for state-funded construction programs, according to a survey last year by the National Association of State Budget Officers. Residential construction starts for the south central region are forecast to increase 29% in 2011, with total construction starts set to rise 10%, says Robert Murray, chief economist of McGraw-Hill Construction, the parent firm of ENR Texas & Louisiana.

Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc.

Using a technology-driven culture to win new work in lean times

Houston-based Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Group is a contractor on the move, winning new projects even in lean times. Walmart selected the firm’s San Antonio office to construct two new “supercenters” in Corpus Christi. The firm also is building an Army Reserve Center in The Woodlands, near Houston.

The contractor has also found opportunities in Louisiana, building new schools in New Orleans for the Louisiana Dept. of Education’s Recovery School District, and in Braithwaite, La., for the Plaquemines Parish School Board. Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will assist the rebuilds.

“We are working hard to work hard,” says John Marshall, S&P spokesman. He says that many of the firm’s expectations for 2010 were realized. The majority of S&P’s work is on the public side. “The hope is private work will kick in,” he adds.

George A. Pontikes Jr., the company’s founder, president and CEO, defines a corporate culture that drives down cost and drives up value, while embracing technology. S&P imbeds data into building information models to increase efficiency in pursuing and executing projects.


Design firm enters 2011 with a strong backlog and has maintained a stable work force

Engineering firm Jaster-Quintanilla, Austin, enters 2011 with a solid backlog, something that co-founder Gary Jaster attributes to a diverse range of projects. The company has maintained stable staffing levels as it prepares for better times. “The mood of the industry is positive going forward,” he says.

More than 90% of the company’s work is in Texas. In addition to structural and civil engineering specialities, JQ performs survey work. Vertical construction for school districts and government projects make up the bulk of its portfolio. Federal projects have increased as the government increased infrastructure spending. About 15% of the firm’s total revenue is generated by its Dallas division, which specializes in wastewater treatment plant design.

Gideon Toal

Employee-owned architect-planner tries new market niches and adds community service

Gideon Toal, based in Fort Worth, provides a range of architectural, interior design, planning and economic development services. “Economic development is a nice complement to our planning and architectural practice,” says Michael Bennett, CEO of the employee-owned firm. “The economic development guys can find funds through public-private partnerships.”

Bennett expects opportunities for strategic hires and growth. He says talent is available in these economic times, as the firm pushes to expand, especially in planning. Bennett is realistic that the market won’t return to “anything like 2007-2008, but it is better than it has been for the past two years.”

Gideon Toal completed a management transition in 2010, when founders Randy Gideon and James Toal stepped down from leadership roles. Bennett has served as CEO for three years and expects no change in direction or day-to-day activity.

The firm also focuses on sustainability and community involvement. It selects pro-bono projects and encourages its staff to get involved in implementing them. The firm is working on a neighborhood master plan for Habitat for Humanity. “The idea is to get our people in touch with the community and what it feels like to do good,” Bennett says.

Waldemar S. Nelson and Co.

Engineering firm awaits return of Gulf Coast oil drilling, but other work still drives revenue

Despite a ravaged economy, engineer-architect Waldemar S. Nelson and Co., New Orleans, grew revenue to $68 million in 2010, a 4% increase over the previous year. The firm primarily performs work on offshore and on-shore oil and gas facilities for domestic and international clients.