Thomas Gambino, PE


How one company reflects larger economic trends
It’s early in a new year and the predictions, forecasts and tea-leave readings are out. We’ve had Davos, something JP Morgan’s Jamie Morgan once described as “…an event where billionaires tell millionaires how the middle class feels.” We’ve had the State of the Union, an event that millions describe based solely upon what news network they follow. And we’ve had the Super Bowl, an event where some things didn’t (the Patriots were in it again) and did (they lost) change.

There’s been a lot of talk locally and globally about the state of the economy. Political and sporting differences aside, there’s been pretty broad, slightly nervous agreement that it’s pretty good. Allow me to jump on that bandwagon from my own micro-perspective. I agree. Things are good.

Bear with me as I offer up Prime Engineering as a case study for national trends. We’re not yet one of the Dow 30. But what we’ve experienced over the last decade mirrors the world economy. I’m hoping that we continue to be a self-proclaimed economic bellwether into the future.

I’ll be honest. The 2007-12 recession hurt. Like many businesses, we saw a sharp downturn in RFPs, corporate procurement outreach, capital expenditures, and a general distrust of market conditions by companies at all levels of the economic spectrum. Demand for our services—integrated planning, surveying, engineering, architecture, procurement, and construction—dropped appreciably. By extension, so did the size of our staff, the square footage of our offices, and the price tags for social outings. It wasn’t bleak. But it certainly wasn’t Always Sunny in Philadelphia. From 2008-2015, sleep didn’t come quite so easily.

But things began to improve and there was a noticeable uptick in 2016. Fast forward to 2017 and we achieved one of our best years in company history. From gross and net revenue to EBITA and workforce utilization, we set company records. We hired new talent, paid down our debt to zero, invested in our IT infrastructure, opened an office in Pittsburgh, and are about to launch a new company website. We’re not repatriating billions in offshore cash, but we are making tangible and meaningful investments in our business.

We’re far from finished. These trends are continuing in 2018.

I’ve always had a very simple philosophy in leading Prime Engineering: “Good work begets good work.” That’s certainly been true for us and so our aggressive hiring practices will continue in 2018. We need additional talent to keep up with the burgeoning demand for our services. It’s a wonderful problem to have but one that bedevils so many people in so many industries.

We’ll continue to hold ourselves to high standards on behalf of our clients. We conduct routine surveys of our clients and ask for very candid performance feedback. Our clients are not shy folk. They let us know what they think, and we’ve received very high response rates and very high marks. But I’m not satisfied (just ask my staff) because they’re not perfect. But we’re getting there.

And we’ll continue to reach high by tackling complex projects and brining integrated work teams together to deliver on time and on (under?) budget, while keeping performance high.

Like much of the rest of the U.S. and global economies, our foreseeable future looks bright. Sometimes we compete; sometimes we collaborate; sometimes we merge; sometimes we acquire. Regardless of the dynamic, I wish you all a successful 2018. Here’s to a rising tide!

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