Three Hidden Takeaways from the ACEC 2018 Annual Convention

I recently returned from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) 2018 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. – one of the best annual conventions that I have attended in recent years. I would expect that it is difficult to provide in-depth content to all conference attendees; however, I think they succeeded this year. There were great sessions on a number of timely topics, but here are three hidden takeaways I came away with:

  • Infrastructure – Most of our industry is aware of the planned $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package proposed by President Trump. While discussions on roads, rail, water and wastewater took center stage, energy infrastructure quietly stole the show. A new energy realism, in which innovation and private investment is leading the way, is upon us. The US has become the number one producer of oil and gas worldwide and renewables are the fastest growing energy source. The changes in energy infrastructure are occurring so fast that innovation and technology are driving policy while regulations and the market are simply trying to keep up.
  • Mergers and Acquisition – Growth through mergers and acquisition (M&A) has always been a business strategy deployed in the engineering industry. Current trends indicate that the M&A growth strategy will continue in the foreseeable future. The US domestic engineering market sector grew last year by 3.8%, yet consolidation of firms continues. One hidden nugget is an influx of private equity firms venturing into M&A of engineering companies. There appears to be an ever growing interest in private equity firms pushing to invest in the design field.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention – There is a major issue looming in our industry and it has to do with people. Currently, many firms have open positions, ranging from entry level to C-suite, which they cannot fill. The traditional methods of recruiting and hiring have just not supplied enough talent to meet the demand. However, some companies are having significant success through an unintended benefit from strengthening diversity and inclusion (D&I) within their company. Companies that a few years ago struggled to fill openings now have excess candidates. The most successful companies are including diversity and inclusion strategies into their hiring practices but more importantly into internal initiatives and growth strategies. Inclusiveness in your company’s vision may help solve your talent problem; let alone the other billion reasons to include it.

I hope this added value or provided some insight that you have found beneficial. If not, here is some food for thought…How will machine learning and artificial intelligence change your engineering world? It’s real and it’s on its way, but that’s for another post.

Clay P. Riley, PE is dedicated to the development and growth of infrastructure in the eastern region of the United States. Clay serves as Vice President of Business Develop and shareholder at The Thrasher Group, Inc. He provides input and direction for the strategic growth of the corporation’s infrastructure, energy, and industrial clients. Clay is a licensed professional engineer in the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Maryland. He serves on the American Council of Engineering Companies Energy and Environment committee as well as the West Virginia Chapter Executive Board. These roles have given him a platform to be involved in state and national engineering issues and to help identify infrastructure needs to create economic growth opportunities.