With worries of a possible recession creeping across the industry, steady revenue is good news for design firms located in the MidAtlantic region. The 126 firms ranked on the 2022 ENR MidAtlantic Top Design Firm list reported a combined $6.13 billion in regional revenue in 2021, the same amount logged by 126 firms ranked on last year’s list. Last year’s total was a 2.7% decrease from the $6.3 billion logged by 129 firms in 2019.

In the latest ranking—which tracks design work performed in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—the top 10 firms reported a total of $2.37 billion in revenue in 2021, nearly identical to the $2.38 billion the top 10 collected in 2020.

Transportation work continues to be a major market for MidAtlantic firms. The top 10 firms in the transportation sector compiled a combined $1.2 billion in revenue, although that does represent a 27% decrease from the previous year.

In the power sector, the top 10 firms reported $239.33 million in revenue, an increase of more than 9% from the $218.81 million reported last year. Gains in the distribution and warehouse sector also were significant, with the top 20 firms posting an increase of more than 38%, to $62.60 million.

The top 10 water supply firms reported a nearly 4% decrease to $262.47 million, compared with $272.64 million in revenue last year.

ENR spoke to executives from design firms regarding this year’s MidAtlantic ranking. Their comments have been edited for clarity and length.

Mechanical Systems at Iron City Brewery

FULL TANK | McKim & Creed, ranked No. 61 with $25.40 million in revenue, designed the mechanical systems for the Pittsburgh Brewing Co.’s facility at the former Pittsburgh Glass Works Plant, which is now known as the Iron City Brewery distillery, restaurant and entertainment venue.
Photo courtesy of McKim & Creed

What lessons from the last two years have most shaped the way you do business now?

José Bustamante, vice president, MidAtlantic regional manager, STV: We have learned just how resilient and adaptable our employees are. STV’s dedication to our clients and our communities never wavered, and we continued to deliver solutions with top-notch service. We have also witnessed first hand our public clients’ dedication to continue providing the general public with reliable services through unprecedented tough times, and that keeps us going.

Street Lee, chief executive officer, McKim & Creed: We’ve made every effort to prioritize technology and innovation, and we’ve continued to put our people and their needs at the forefront of everything we do. Prior to the spring of 2020, McKim & Creed implemented collaborative work-sharing platforms and workflow processes allowing us to readily adapt to the required remote work situations. As the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up, this investment allowed us to continue to work effectively. In some cases, additional hardware or software was needed to ensure performance of those remote users, and we were able to quickly meet those needs. During this time frame, we completed three successful acquisitions that have expanded our geographic footprint and our technical capabilities.

Which sectors have offered the biggest opportunities in the region?

Bustamante: Across all sectors, we are seeing massive opportunity in the MidAtlantic region. Agencies are strategically positioning themselves to make the case for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds. As populations in the MidAtlantic continue to expand, the need for transit, rail, roadway and other transportation work has grown exponentially. We are also seeing a lot of transportation planning studies. Clients are trying to remedy the challenges associated with growth throughout the region.

Lee: The majority of work performed out of our three Pennsylvania and two Virginia offices is from our industrial design-build and our buildings, energy and infrastructure groups. We have experienced growth in healthcare, bio-agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing. More recently, we’re seeing growth in the need for subsurface utility engineering and locating work.

Betsy Ross Interchange

CROSS ROADS | Ranked No. 21 with $88.77 million in revenue, STV is providing environmental, engineering and construction-services during the $880-million multiphase reconfiguration, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Betsy Ross Interchange along I-95 in Philadelphia.
Photo courtesy of STV

Which sectors have cooled down in the region?

Lee: Energy sector work, specifically the reduced emphasis on fossil fuels-based energy, has been stymied by the regulatory climate. While we’ve been successful in increasing our design involvement in alternative energy, it hasn’t completely filled the void in the traditional energy sector.

How do you think the market will perform in your region during the next year or two?

Bustamante: Undoubtedly, IIJA funding will galvanize the market. When you look at how these funds are being distributed, each state in the MidAtlantic region and the District of Columbia is expected to be awarded more than 80% of its funding to support federal highway, water and public transportation, so we can anticipate those sectors to offer great opportunity. Beyond the IIJA, clients generally are very active right now. They are eager to move their projects ahead as we emerge from the pandemic and come out of that hibernation.

Lee: I believe the market sectors we’re involved with in the region will be mixed during the next two years. There remains a lot of activity and funding behind some of the sectors, while other sectors will continue to be lethargic. There are likely longer-term implications from rising interest rates and inflation that will impact work volume further out.