Terracon will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2025. It has grown from a single office in Iowa to 175 locations nationwide and now has more than 6,000 employees. At the end of 2022, the Olathe, Kan.-based firm became a $1-billion company, bolstered in part by the solid performance of its Midwest offices. Regional revenue peaked at $245 million for 2023, up nearly 12% over 2022, contributing to the company’s overall revenue of $1.16 billion.

Of the 65,000 projects that Terracon completed across the country in 2023, 13,800 were in the Midwest.

With such an expansive project portfolio, comprehensive regional impact and commitment to the growth of its employee-owners, Terracon has been named ENR Midwest’s 2024 Design Firm of the Year.


Driving Success

While most of Terracon’s growth was organic, a small percentage came from a series of recent acquisitions. Since 2017, the company has completed 20 deals nationwide, with three recent additions in the Midwest: St. John-Mittelhauser & Associates Inc. in 2018, Wang Engineering Inc. in 2022 and Pivvot in 2021.

A robust strategic planning process engages operations, business sector and service line leaders across the company to help determine where opportunities lie, explains Jason Sander, senior vice president and national director of materials services at Terracon. The firm also aims to determine “what markets are we in that we could be in more? What markets are we dabbling in that maybe it doesn’t make sense and we need to concentrate those efforts elsewhere. So it’s basically finding the focus.”

Another driving factor behind that success is employee ownership, which has helped foster a sense of pride and commitment companywide—“because if Terracon does well, all of our employees do well, not just a small handful,” Sander says.

A commitment to fostering the potential of each employee is another contributor. “Our strategic vision is to have the best people,” says Linda Yang, senior principal, vice president and regional manager at Terracon. “When employees are happy, clients are happy.”

“Our strategic vision is to have the best people. When employees are happy, clients are happy.”
—Linda Yang, Senior Principal, Vice President and Regional Manager, Terracon

To that end, the company has placed a renewed focus on employee engagement and development. In just the past year, it has gone from having three employee resource groups to six, which is helping to bridge geographic distances and better connect employees.

Synergies transcend employee relationships and impact Terracon’s capabilities as well. With so many offices and resources, “we can provide quicker access to project locations, helping clients get their work implemented in a shorter period of time and with lower cost,” Yang says. “That’s one way we can help clients stay competitive.”

A wide range of service offerings that cover the entire project life cycle, from geotechnical to environmental, materials and facilities, gives clients a one-stop shop.

“Our success is really based on so many things coming together—our safety culture, our strategic vision, our values and our service offerings in all major business sectors and our project delivery,” Yang says. “So all these things and [also that] we’re providing high-quality service to our clients.”

Having a strong growth organization and combining that with innovation and technology also helps set Terracon apart, “which is helping our clients see extra value in what we do,” Sander adds.

Chicago’s Jane Byrne Interchange project

Terracon’s Wang Engineering team navigated underground utility challenges on Chicago’s Jane Byrne Interchange project.
Photo courtesy of Terracon

Specialized Expertise

To meet the growing challenge of aggressive project schedules, Terracon’s teams are using innovative site characterization techniques. From cone penetration testing (CPT) to ground penetrating radar and solar pile load testing, Terracon has greatly expanded its geophysical service offerings, Sander says.

The company also owns a huge set of subsurface data that has come together over the last 60 years, Yang adds.

It’s specialized knowledge like this that has clients coming back. For nearly 30 years, MC Group LLC has turned to Terracon as a go-to resource for complex soils issues.

“We’re a demanding client needing well researched technical data and resulting recommendations quickly so that we can leverage that information into timely ... decisions for our hyper-tracked schedules,” says Ric Miller, founding partner at MC Group LLC. “We’ve worked with Terracon’s experts for a vast majority of these projects due to their extensive knowledge of complex soils conditions and more importantly the practical cost-saving ideas and solutions that they bring.”

“So far, 2024 is a bit of a repeat of last year, which is good. Just like winning back-to-back Super Bowls.”
—Jason Sander, Senior Principal, Senior Vice President, National Director of Materials Services, Terracon

One project currently underway is the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, where Terracon’s experts evaluated foundation system options for various cancer treatment linear accelerator vaults—notoriously heavy structures because of their radiation shielding requirements—and provided cost-effective solutions to managing below-grade occupied areas that are within the water table at the Center for Advanced Care facility, Miller explains.

“Speed to market is important for our large projects—reduced time between groundbreaking to revenue generating occupancy is a big factor in meeting or exceeding established project expectations,” Miller says. “Having a front-end resource that understands and embraces our overall goals is a differentiator that Terracon brings. That’s why Terracon is our go-to resource for complex projects.”

The firm’s consulting engineers are also some of the best people with which Abel Construction Co. has worked, adds Jeff Doss, director of business development and marketing. Abel and Terracon’s partnership goes back nearly a decade on projects such as an Advance Ready Mix concrete plant in Elizabethtown, Ky., and the nearby BOSK Electric Vehicle Plant for Ford Motor Co.

“There are engineering and consulting firms and then there’s Terracon,” Doss says. “Our teams are impressed with how everyone breaks down very complicated data to make it make sense. That’s not very easy to do with the services Terracon provides.”

Chester Bridge project

The $284-million design-build Chester Bridge project, which spans the Mississippi River, will reduce flood-related closures.
Photo courtesy of Terracon

Projects Aplenty

Although all Terracon service lines are growing, some are faring better than others. Over the last year, the most growth has come in solar and renewable energy, digital infrastructure in the form of tech and data centers and transportation and other infrastructure.

“We’re starting to see a lot of the IIJA money and projects that were started in design that are now beginning to go into construction,” Sander says.

Throughout 2023, Terracon’s teams were part of more than 6,100 road, highway, bridge and tunnel projects, one of the largest being the Chester Bridge replacement project. At $284 million, the design-build effort connects Perryville, Mo., and Chester, Ill., across the Mississippi River. Terracon is providing QA/QC in partnership with Ames Construction.

As part of the construction engineering inspection and testing services on the Chester Bridge, Terracon’s team set up a field laboratory to perform materials testing in accordance with AASHTO standards while also performing high-strain dynamic testing and analyses for driven pipe piles.

“Projects like this require very specialized experience, very specialized certification requirements,” Sander adds. “But the project is on track, and things are going well.”

Other 2023 Midwest project starts include a $100-million foundry for A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing Co. in Dickeyville, Wis., the $350-million American Royal facility in Kansas City, Mo., and a $732-million Lock and Dam 25 improvement project in Winfield, Mo.

Recently completed work includes the $75-million, three-story, 61,000-sq-ft, 650,000-gallon Sobela Ocean Aquarium at the Kansas City Zoo, for which Terracon provided materials testing and special inspections. And in early 2023, one of the firm’s recent acquisitions, Wang Engineering, completed work on the Jane Byrne Interchange in Chicago.

Formerly called the Circle Interchange, this junction of four major highways near downtown Chicago sees more than 400,000 vehicles daily. Scope of work included 20 bridges, a flyover, 51 retaining walls and realignment or reconstruction of pavement utilities.

“That had a $640-million budget over 10 years and is one of the largest projects in state history,” Yang says. “This new interchange eliminated a notorious bottleneck.”

As the geotechnical consultant and engineers on the project, Wang Engineering’s team navigated challenges that included historic and commuter train tunnels and a 40-foot thick layer of native clay to help rebuild the interchange. The team advanced 350 borings alone, adds Corina Farez, senior geotechnical consultant with Wang.

Over in Covington, Ky., construction on the new Brent Spence Bridge that will carry Interstates 71 and 75 over the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati is set to begin in 2025.

“The original bridge is structurally sound, but it’s functionally obsolete. So the IIJA was really kind of the catalyst that gave the necessary funding to initiate construction of that project and go full design-build,” Sander says.

The new double-decker bridge will carry northbound and southbound interstate traffic, but the existing bridge will remain in place to ferry local traffic across the river. Terracon will help provide construction administration and oversight for the Ohio Dept. of Transportation over the next six to seven years.


Keep on Growing

Terracon’s strategic planning leadership team is now working on a revised strategic plan, which will be presented to company principals next May. “So far, 2024 is a bit of a repeat of last year, which is good. Just like winning back-to-back Super Bowls,” Sander says.

Plentiful public sector opportunities have helped outweigh the somewhat less active private sector over the past year, Yang says. But with interest rates expected to ease as the year progresses, private sector work seems poised to pick back up.

“Increased awareness in sustainability, climate change and resiliency are definitely driving more opportunities in the Midwest,” Yang says. “This is the election year, and things may become a little bit tricky, but overall, we’re very confident about 2024 and beyond.”