Engineering infrastructure projects
Primary market: Quebec
Number of employees: 5,000
President: Jean-Pierre Sauriol
A well paved road
One of the unexpected silver linings in the recent recession cloud has been the ramp-up in government spending on infrastructure projects. During the past few years, bureaucrats all over the world have emptied their drawers of all the “shovel-ready” or near shovel-ready projects that they could find for new roads, hospitals, sewage systems and so on. One big winner from that trend has been consulting engineering firms, such as Laval-based Dessau.
According Jean-Pierre Sauriol, its president, the company has more than doubled in size during the past three years, by taking on projects ranging from the design, construction and financing of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM) to managing highway and rail construction in Algeria. Many of these projects are public private partnerships, an area in which Dessau is particularly comfortable.
“Engineering is a global business,” says Sauriol. “We have permanent offices in six countries, but if we want to stay independent, we have to grow.”
Sauriol is not kidding. Consolidation in the industry is a major trend. As projects get larger, companies are responding by getting bigger to compete on them. “In 1997, the Association of Consulting Engineers had 134 member firms with 9,000 employees, but now they have just 48 firms with 23,000 employees,” Sauriol points out. “To compete we need to achieve critical mass. Because we don’t want to sell our company, we want to keep it.”
Like many engineering firms, Dessau plays a key role in helping its clients think about the environment. “When we design buildings, we always try to optimize their energy efficiency, even when (they) don’t ask for it,” says Sauriol. “Sustainability is a part of out corporate fabric.”
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Peter Diekmeyer Communications Inc.