2 min read October 2021 — President and CEO, Kevin Haney, of Colliers Engineering & Design was interviewed by Invest: and spoke about the growing changes in the company and across the design consulting industry. He shared his thoughts, including how the transition to remote work improved employee productivity, how Mobile LiDAR technology is utilized and the changing demands for the company’s services as it relates to telecommunications and sustainability.
What lessons has Colliers Engineering & Design learned and applied in the last year?
From a business perspective, the engineering industry was strong. 2020 was a record year for us, which was common across the engineering market. Our ability to work remotely was better than I anticipated so we experienced a smooth transition. The utilization of our staff increased when we began working remotely. Moreover, there was a significant reduction in expenses as we weren’t traveling, entertaining clients or hosting seminars. It increased our profitability and allowed us to reflect on the day-to-day aspects of our business. We learned that traveling isn’t as essential as it was prior to the pandemic. We can successfully and efficiently complete work in a remote environment.
How have the demands for your services changed over the past year?
The municipalities in the county continued to grow through the pandemic. The budgets of the county at the local level were impacted initially. There was already a great push into the industrial space at the start of the pandemic but work in that area has pushed it further. Our telecommunications work has been strong as well, with the 5G rollout pre-pandemic, and has only increased amidst the pandemic. On the downside, businesses that delayed their spending for three to five months experienced a decrease in work. However, it worked out because of our diversified service base. Demand for our services was balanced across the board.
How will the infrastructure bill affect old and new projects in North New Jersey?
These bills often have a huge impact on construction-ready developments and will be put toward old projects that had been waiting on funding. In my experience, it won’t have much of an impact on new projects initially. They have to be analyzed and designed, which takes time to approve. Phase one of this bill will include funding design-ready projects while phase two would be further delayed as it focuses on new projects that have yet to be fully conceptualized.
I hope funding will go toward the Gateway Project because it’ll have a significant impact on design consulting companies like Colliers Engineering & Design but also on the overall process of shipping between New York and New Jersey. The Gateway Project will require a significant amount of design work from surveying services to the structural aspects of the project. We may not get all of the services for this particular project but the design consulting industry would be impacted in a positive way.
What technological developments are on the rise?
Technology over the last five years has changed our business as it relates to data collection. It has shifted from individuals being in the field to using Mobile LiDAR. Mobile LiDAR can collect terabytes of data accurately, expeditiously and safely. It can calculate and create a 3D model of the improvements necessary for various structures. We’ve been able to take the mobile aspect of this geospatial technology and couple that with drones to create Aerial LiDAR. We were one of the first companies in the country to effectively use Mobile LiDAR in our business. We’re not only on the forefront of the drone geospatial world but we’re also the primary, if not largest, rail surveyor company in the country. We’ve been able to combine the Mobile LiDAR, Aerial LiDAR and rail survey systems to provide the data necessary to build new tunnels.
What is your role in promoting sustainable development practices and eco-conscious designs?
Our largest and growing service lines deal with the ESG (Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance) environment. We offer many services that address issues relating to the energy efficiency of buildings and other structures. We’ll evaluate the energy uses of different buildings to identify where the energy is going and create a design to reduce the energy demands of those structures. The existing owners of those buildings hire us for those services but the developers who are looking to develop new buildings also reach out to us because they realize that a more efficient building has a greater market value in the long run. We see an increased demand for these consulting services continuing for many years.
What is causing the talent shortage and what strategies are you using to retain talent?
Many of the students who are graduating in New Jersey are migrating to other states along with their parents, who are looking to retire and be in areas with lower tax rates. I believe they feel that their lifestyle will improve in those locations. Some of the regulations and other business impacts are making it more difficult for me to continue bringing in employees to the state. However, our business growth isn’t focused on New Jersey. Our transition to remote work coupled with the offices we have throughout the country allows incoming talent to work from almost anywhere.
How do you expect the North Jersey market to grow?
The North Jersey market is and will continue to be strong due to its proximity to New York, the ports and more. I don’t expect the market to grow but I do expect it to remain high.
For more information, visit: https://colliersengineering.com/