ENR Southwest’s annual survey of architectural and engineering firms reveals that revenue spiked once again in 2017.

This year’s survey includes 65 firms, four more than last year, with companies earning a combined $1.06 billion in design revenue. That total is up nearly $112 million from 2016. Revenue for the top 10 firms increased to $512.22 million in 2017, compared with $433.61 million in 2016 and $357.68 million in 2015.

Some industry members say that due to increased activity in the Southwest, finding and keeping quality professionals is becoming a challenge.

“When we recruit engineers out of school, especially, we have a lot of competition,” says Brent Wright, CEO of Wright Engineers.

ENR Southwest Top Design Firms 2018

Engineering’s Cool Factor

Wright says despite the competition for talent, the perception of engineers has been elevated, which benefits the profession.

“It is hip and cool to be an engineer now,” Wright says.

He says the profession is benefiting from high incomes and high-profile projects, adding that construction of the $1.9-billion stadium for the National Football League’s Raiders franchise in Las Vegas has the city abuzz with energy.

“There used to be guarded cautiousness, and now people are looking to be more confident,” Wright says, adding that development surrounding the stadium will likely be substantial.

Even though the Raiders stadium features some unique elements, including an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene cable-net roof, Las Vegas’ trend of creating structures that draw visitors through gimmicky design elements are long over, Wright says.

He adds that the period that saw development of the Luxor and Stratosphere was an “aberration.” (Wright was structural engineer for the Stratosphere.)

Partnerships Thriving

In Phoenix, construction is well underway on the $1.7-billion, 22-mile state Route 202 freeway, the largest public-private partnership in the state’s history and the first for the Arizona Dept. of Transportation.

Much like what is happening in Las Vegas, such a large project is energizing the Phoenix area’s construction industry.

“It has put a lot of people to work and a lot of design people to work,” says Doug LaMont, design manager, WSP USA.

Mark Yalung, operations manager, WSP USA, says that similar to what is happening in Las Vegas, increased activity is draining the available pool of top-notch talent in not only Phoenix but across the Southwest.

New Mexico is also starting “to see some revenue gain,” he adds.