The economy is slowing, but ENR Midwest’s Top Design Firms showed robust growth over last year with participating firms reporting $8.1 billion in total regional revenue.

ENR Midwest’s 2023 Top Design Firms ranking lists 116 companies based on their 2022 revenue across the 11-state region.

The total for all companies in this year’s ranking exceeded by $1.2 billion last year’s total of $6.9 billion for the 122 firms that participated. It also topped the revenue total of $6.5 billion for calendar year 2020 when 110 firms were on the list.

Barr Engineering Co., which is No. 16 on the list, attributes its resilience to the range of sectors it services, including mining, power, fuels, manufacturing and the public sector.

“A diverse client base gives us a good line of sight into drivers of growth for clients as well as ballast against the economic cycles variously affecting our markets,” says Ward Swanson, president and CEO.

Diversity is also crucial at Burns & McDonnell, which reported total Midwest revenue of $906 million in 2022; $664 million in 2021 and $568 million in 2020.

The company is not resting on its laurels, however.

“We also know how quickly markets can change,” says Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO. “Our firm [benefits from] a diversified skill set and project delivery models.”

Both companies are helping clients cope with uncertainties.

“Right now, cost and schedule risks are not quantifiable,” Kowalik says. “Working together to define the scope and purchasing equipment early allows the customer to better predict the outcome for the project.”

“At the onset of projects, we tend to add higher capital costs to estimates—as well as additional months to project schedules—in order to account for shortages and delays related to labor or equipment,” Swanson says. “In addition, it’s becoming common to pre-procure large capital purchases even before design is complete so we can help clients move their projects along—but this does introduce some additional risk.”

Swanson believes there are forces in play that will support future growth for his company.

“For starters, the Inflation Reduction Act is generating new plans as well as accelerating existing plans for investment in areas such as infrastructure, climate resiliency, and a shift to lower-carbon and no-carbon energy sources,” Swanson says. “Projects that center on water management, a central aspect of Barr’s work, continue to move forward at a strong pace across the Midwest.”

Barr is also seeing strong activity in manufacturing due to the renewed importance of the North American supply chain in recent years.

“Even as economic growth begins to cool across the economy generally, we continue to see strong demand for our services at Barr,” Swanson says. “We believe our experience is fairly common among AEC firms in the Midwest and across North America.”