With five offices now dotting the Texas map, Hanson Professional Services Inc. provides engineering, planning and allied consulting services for clients in the aviation, government, infrastructure, industry, power and railway sectors. The firm has made a mark not only for its design achievements but also in employee ownership, a well-established commitment to diversity and community and inspiring connections with young people at colleges and universities in Texas. It has worked in the state for more than a decade.

“The faces of our staff reflect our belief that differences in background and experience make us stronger and more capable to contribute innovation to the world around us.”
—Anna Aldridge, Vice President, Hanson

The Springfield, Ill.-based company last year generated $14.6 million in regional revenue, contributing to its rise on the 2024 ENR national Top 500 Design Firms list to No. 178, from No. 186, with $136.5 million in total 2023 U.S. revenue.

This year marks seven decades for Hanson in providing engineering services to U.S. and other clients. Civil engineer Walter E. Hanson, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and then a state project bridge designer, formed the current firm’s predecessor in 1954 with two associates.

Since that time, the company has expanded further in transportation engineering specialties, and in environmental and other niches—employing 500 people in offices in 10 states and Canada.

The increase in national infrastructure spending has been a key factor in the firm’s growth. “This surge in investment has empowered our local government clients in South Texas to embark on capital improvement projects, presenting us with abundant opportunities to offer expertise and support,” says Darrel Berry, Hanson corporate communications manager.

Employee ownership since 1972 is another factor. “We are personally invested in our success,” he says, noting it as a benefit that attracts talent. “Everyone has a stake in the company, and the ability to purchase stock shows Hanson’s value in its people.” All employees are eligible to be shareholders, says Berry.

The firm’s Texas presence began in Dallas in 2008. Eight years later, it acquired Naismith Engineering Inc., a full-service engineering, environmental and surveying consultant that added offices in Austin, Corpus Christi and Harlingen, with one in Houston opened in 2018.

The Patricio County Drainage District Project

Drainage improvements to Green Lake Dam in San Patricio County, Texas, which failed in 2021, include a new flood control structure Hanson designed that lowered lake elevation and incorporated a new overflow spillway to increase outfall capacity. The project was completed this year.
Photo courtesy Hanson Professional Services

A Dam and a Water System

For more than 40 years, Hanson has assisted the San Patricio County Drainage District in Texas with multiple drainage master planning and improvement projects.

The most recent master plan for the Green Lake drainage basin included efforts to increase conveyance capacity to support new areas of industrial growth and to provide drainage relief for residential and recreational areas in the region, explains Willie Rivera Jr., firm senior project manager and vice president.

Begun in March 2021, the $10.4-million worth of flood control structure and ditch improvement contracts to Hanson include modifications to Green Lake Dam near Corpus Christi Bay and drainage conveyance systems (see images). Even with historical repairs, the earthen dam was scheduled for major upgrades when it failed in May 2021, he says. The dam’s proximity to the bay allowed the district to safely discharge lake water into it, Rivera says.

Hanson designed a replacement dam that lowered the maximum lake elevation and added an overflow spillway to increase the outfall capacity to 3,900 cu ft per second from 950. Hanson also completed ditch construction. “By lowering the water surface elevation, the system will result in reduced flooding in the areas that fall within the drainage basin,” Rivera explains.

One design challenge was proximity of the old dam to a residence. The district mobilized a team to stabilize the area prior to building the new dam. The construction team also had to divert stormwater runoff that continued to be conveyed through the Green Lake ditch system. This was done primarily through bypass pumping, Rivera says.

bridge crossing

A Hanson crew works at the Green Lake Dam and outfall structure near the end of a concrete pour.
Photo courtesy Hanson Professional Services

Designing for Sustainability

Hanson also was asked by the city of Harlingen to provide added options for residents by extending its 2.7-mile hike and bike trail, built 20 years ago, by another 1.6 miles and constructing a new public parking lot.

Designed to accommodate walkers, joggers, cyclists and families, the trail will feature a variety of amenities, says Paolina Vega, Hanson senior project manager and assistant vice president.

Key elements of the new design are accessibility, safety, sustainability and connectivity with existing parks, neighborhoods and commercial areas. Ensuring that everyone, including those with disabilities, could access the riverbank trail presented challenges from the natural terrain and potential obstacles.

Hanson responded by incorporating gentle slopes, firm and stable surfaces, handrails and ADA-compliant amenities, says Vega.

The team designed the trail to follow natural contours and incorporated bank stabilization, bioengineering, bank protection structures and revegetation to help mitigate erosion and maintain stability, she says.

Swales, berms and vegetated buffers manage stormwater runoff naturally, help prevent erosion and protect nearby water bodies from pollution. The $1.46-million project was completed in 2023.

In Ingleside, Hanson will provide planning, surveying, design, bidding phase services and construction contract administration for a 2-million-gallon-per-day wastewater treatment facility. Project construction has not yet been bid but completion is anticipated in 2026.

Hanson crew members

Crew members tie reinforcing steel during a concrete pour at the Hanson-designed Green Lake dam and spillway structures for the Patricio County Drainage District.
Photo courtesy Hanson Professional Services

The existing 1.2-mgd plant is inefficient, undersized for likely system growth and beyond its useful design life, says Melanie Gavlik, Hanson senior project manager. Built in 1990 on a constrained site, it will be demolished. “With this project, the city is striving to reduce energy consumption and allow for more efficient plant operation,” she says.

Major components will include an automatic bar screen, grit removal system, fine-bubble aeration, double clarifiers, a four-cell sludge digester, chemical disinfection, high-efficiency blowers, fiber loop SCADA system and new support buildings, says Gavlik.

The SCADA system provides a high-speed, reliable communication network that connects various process units, control systems, sensors and monitoring devices with added power redundancy. This enables real-time data collection, remote monitoring, real-time process adjustments and centralized control of plant operations.

Switching from coarse-bubble to fine-bubble aeration and controlling the process with the new SCADA system both result in more efficient oxygen transfer and microbial activity, improving treatment efficiency, and reducing energy consumption and operating costs, Gavlik explains.

“As wastewater treatment plants evolve and adopt advanced automation, digitalization and smart technologies, the fiber loop serves as a foundation for innovation and continuous improvement,” she says.

Hanson employees volunteer

Hanson employees volunteer at a local food bank. Community involvement is part of the firm's teamwork culture.
Photo courtesy Hanson Professional Services

'Rich Diversity'

As Hanson marks its 70th anniversary, the firm notes how a commitment to diversity has also enabled its growth and success in Texas and nationally.

“Our associates represent the rich diversity of our region, bringing a wealth of perspectives and skills to our projects,” says Berry. “We prioritize recruiting from local universities and fostering a workforce ... passionate about contributing to [Texas] development.” The firm benefits from “a promising uptrend in the number of women and minority engineering graduates—one we actively promote through peer-to-peer mentoring aimed at encouraging [candidates] to pursue rewarding careers in engineering,” he says.

Hanson “actively promotes an environment of acceptance and inclusion,” says Marcos Ybarra, associate roadway discipline manager based in Corpus Christi, which he sees as “key to building successful teams and retaining top talent.” He says “diversity is not a trend or a buzzword in the Hanson culture.”

According to Ybarra, a 21-year industry veteran in his third year at Hanson, that approach also has attracted new employees “who want assurance that the company they will work for is diverse and welcomes everyone.”

Anna Aldridge, a vice president and senior project manager who became a Hanson employee in a 2016 Naismith acquisition, recalls that a culture of inclusiveness was in place when she joined.

“We believe that diverse teams bring added collaboration and opportunities for innovation,” she says. “Receiving and providing mentorship in a multicultural, multigenerational environment has been far more rewarding professionally and personally than I could have imagined.”

Aldridge adds that “the faces of our staff reflect ... our belief that differences in background and experience make us stronger and more capable of contributing innovation to the world around us."

regional talent pipeline

Hanson has developed a strong effort to build its regional talent pipeline through recruiting events, class presentations. personalized networking and othere activities.  
Photo courtesy Hanson Professional Services

Environment to Thrive

Since its start, Hanson has secured strong alliances through intern programs, support of student engineering chapters, class presentations and personalized networking to align student education and job opportunities, says Teresa Mazzini, company talent development business partner.

“Interns here have an opportunity to actively contribute to meaningful projects, participate in community service projects and develop professional and life skills through interactive training sessions,” she says.

The company internship program “is more than about building a pipeline—it’s about creating a holistic environment that will help students thrive well beyond their intern experience.”

Hanson employees also volunteer throughout the areas where they work. Aldridge serves on the College of Engineering and Computer Science advisory council at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, while Rivera is on engineering advisory boards at its Kingsville campus.

They also support community initiatives, such as the Beach to Bay Relay in Corpus Christi and beach cleanups in the Coastal Bend area, Berry says.

“Hanson has been an avid supporter of the Coastal Conservation Association for several decades,” says Jay Gardner, its past president who now chairs Habitat Today/Fish for Tomorrow Committee.

He says that company funding “helps the organization complete some of our habitat projects, such as marsh restoration, nearshore artificial reefing and oyster reef restoration up and down the Texas coast from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande.”