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Black & Veatch History

Black & Veatch History

Black & Veatch was founded in 1915 as a two-person partnership between former University of Kansas School of Engineering graduates Ernest Bateman (E.B.) Black and Nathan Thomas (N.T.) Veatch. The company began with 12 employees and an office in Kansas City, Missouri. It landed two large contracts, one in power and one in water, in its first year. The company’s strong ties with government work began in 1917, as the United States Government War Department asked Black & Veatch to supervise construction of military training camps during World War I.

In the early years, the company mostly focused on water and power projects throughout the Midwest. In 1928, Black & Veatch designed and constructed 250 miles of roadways for Jackson County, Missouri. During that time, N.T. Veatch formed a strong friendship with Harry Truman that lasted through Truman’s presidency. Following World War II, Black & Veatch became involved with the work at the United States Atomic Energy Commission at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

After E.B. Black passed away in 1949, Veatch directed the company and in 1956 formed a general partnership with 29 engineers. Black & Veatch later opened its first branch offices outside of Kansas City – locations in Orlando, Florida, and Denver, Colorado.

In the early 1960s, the company made a move into international markets. Black & Veatch won a contract to produce a 60-megawatt power generating unit for Yanhee Electricity Authority, now known as EGAT, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

Before Veatch retired from the company in 1973, he saw the company grow to more than 1,200 professionals, with projects spanning the globe. He was succeeded by managing partner Thomas B. (Tom) Robinson, who led Black & Veatch for 10 years and retired in 1982. His brother, John H. (Jack) Robinson, followed him as managing partner and guided the company for the next decade.

Black & Veatch expanded dramatically in the United States between 1977 and 1984, opening 11 regional offices. The company also began a series of mergers and acquisitions starting in the late 1970s, acquiring Trotter-Yoder & Associates, Southern Science Applications, Inc. and Moore, Gardner & Associates. In 1985, the company acquired The Pritchard Corporation, which helped Black & Veatch enter the gas, oil and chemicals field and gain major energy companies as clients.

Through acquisitions and organic growth, the company grew to 35 offices in the United States by 1990 and was also expanding in other parts of the world. In 1992, P.J. (Jim) Adam succeeded Jack Robinson as managing partner. He became the first Chairman of Black & Veatch in 1998 and served until his retirement in 1999.

In 1995, Black & Veatch merged with Binnie & Partners of the UK, giving the company an opening in the UK, European and Asian water markets. The next year, Black & Veatch also acquired Paterson Candy Ltd., a UK-based water treatment process contractor.

In 1999, the company changed its structure from general partnership to an employee-owned corporation. That change facilitated the company’s growth, as many of its clients were involved in multiple markets across the core sectors of energy, water, information and government.

Len C. Rodman became the sixth leader in the company’s history in 1998 when he was named President and CEO, the title of Chairman was added on January 1, 2000. He guided the company through a series of acquisitions during his 15 years as CEO. In 2005, the company made three acquisitions – R.J. Rudden Associates, Lukens Energy Group and Fortegra – doubling the size of its management consulting business.

Black & Veatch also made major expansion efforts with offices in Pune, India, and Beijing, China, and targeted new markets in Russia, China and the Middle East. The company was involved with reconstruction work in Iraq and helped with the recovery efforts of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States in 2005.

The company acquired the water business of MJ Gleeson in 2006, more than doubling the size of Black & Veatch’s UK water operations and further strengthening its construction expertise. In addition, the acquisition enabled the company to provide added project delivery capabilities to its clients.

In 2007, the acquisition of Richard Connor Riley & Associates enabled Black & Veatch’s telecommunications business to grow exponentially to its industry leadership position in digital infrastructure. In 2009, Black & Veatch acquired Ariston Consulting & Technologies, a software systems integrator. The next year, Black & Veatch purchased Enspiria Solutions, helping to grow its position in the smart grid market.

In 2011, the company fortified its position in the construction industry by creating a group of 1,300 construction, construction management and procurement professionals. That year, the group delivered $1.24 billion in construction and procurement work.

The year 2013 was a time of transition for the company. With the announced retirement of Len Rodman, Steve Edwards was named Chief Operating Officer in April 2013 in a transition role before becoming Chairman and CEO on November 27, 2013.

In 2013, Black & Veatch began working with Tesla Motors to support design and construction of its Supercharger network across North America. This system grew to be the largest contiguous network of electric vehicle charging stations in the world. The relationship with Tesla Motors expanded to include engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for stationary storage projects as well. Beginning in 2014, Black & Veatch provided EPC services for hydrogen fueling station networks for other clients, including 19 stations in California and 12 in the Northeast.  

In 2015, the company’s telecommunications business was ranked No. 1 for the sixth consecutive year by Engineering News-Record. The company became a leader in the floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) market, using its patented PRICO® technology on two vessels, with a third project pending.  

The company became very active in the next generation of energy and water by developing its own microgrid at its World Headquarters, by teaming with Tesla to provide services surrounding Tesla Energy storage products and by partnering with Cisco for a smart city water initiative in Kansas City, Missouri.

Today, the company continues to experience strong growth across its core markets. Black & Veatch currently has a global workforce of more than 10,000 working in over 100 offices worldwide with projects completed in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Timeline

  • 1915 The August 12, 1915, issue of Engineering News reports that Ernest Bateman (E.B.) Black and Nathan Thomas (N.T.) Veatch formed a partnership called Black & Veatch, with 12 employees on the payroll. In the fall, Black & Veatch is awarded its first water supply and treatment contract from American Zinc, Lead & Smelting Co. in Dearing, Kansas.
  • 1917 As the U.S. entry into World War I looms, the U.S. War Department requests that Black & Veatch supervise construction of Camp Pike in Little Rock, Arkansas. Other camps are built later in Oklahoma and New Mexico. The relationship with the U.S. government lasts until this day.
  • 1928 The camaraderie between Harry Truman and N.T. Veatch is sparked by their close association during the Jackson County, Missouri, road project when Truman was a presiding judge. The friendship remains close throughout the years and Truman’s presidency of the United States.
  • 1935 After weathering the Great Depression, Black & Veatch experiences a period of extreme growth and moves the company offices to the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • 1940 The U.S. War Department requests that Black & Veatch reactivate Camp Pike in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is renamed Camp Robinson and is ready for 25,000 troops in three months. Other camp projects include Camp Chaffee in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Camp Hale in Pando, Colorado, and other military installations in the Midwest.
  • 1946 World War II ends in 1945, and soon after, Black & Veatch begins work on highly secret activities in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Atomic Energy Commission hires Black & Veatch to provide design work and engineering services, positioning the company at the forefront of the Atomic Age.
  • 1949 July 4, 1949, E.B. Black passes away at age 67. The company mourns the loss of a great leader known for his civic work and illustrious professional career. N.T. Veatch continues the business as sole proprietor of a growing national company.
  • 1950 N.T. Veatch is appointed to the President’s Water Pollution Control Advisory Board by his long-time friend U.S. President Harry Truman. Veatch, who never asked his friend for a single political favor, was cautious to take the job, but accepted and held the position as long as Truman’s presidency.
  • 1956 N.T. Veatch forms a general partnership with 29 engineers, thereby ensuring the posterity of Black & Veatch. Of the 29, 23 are designated as general partners serving as project managers and department heads. The six others become executive partners with Veatch as managing partner.
  • 1957 Black & Veatch opens its first regional office in Orlando, Florida, serving the power markets.
  • 1963 Black & Veatch International is formed. Executive Partner Thomas B. (Tom) Robinson spearheads the plan for company growth beyond U.S. borders.
  • 1964 Black & Veatch opens its first regional water office in Denver, Colorado. The company designs a 100 million gallon per day water treatment plant in Denver.
  • 1967 Black & Veatch wins a contract to produce a 60-megawatt power generating unit for Yanhee Electricity Authority, now known as EGAT, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
  • 1973 After nearly 60 years with the company, hundreds of successful projects and numerous relationships forged, N.T. Veatch retires from Black & Veatch. He leaves the company in the capable hands of the leadership established through the partnership structure. Upon Veatch’s retirement, Tom Robinson becomes managing partner of the company, making him the third managing partner in the history of Black & Veatch.
  • 1976 Black & Veatch opens a new building at the present-day location in Overland Park, Kansas. The new six-story building sits on 37 acres of land with workspace totaling 276,000 square feet.
  • 1977 Black & Veatch’s work in the nuclear energy business begins in the late 1970s. Black Fox Nuclear Power Generating Station near Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the first project. By the 1980s, the company has nearly a dozen nuclear projects related to design, consulting and engineering.
  • 1983 John H. (Jack) Robinson becomes managing partner in 1983, after the retirement of his brother Tom. Jack had followed in his brother’s footsteps, starting at Black & Veatch in 1949, just a few days before E.B. Black’s death.
  • 1985 Black & Veatch acquires The Pritchard Corporation, gaining entry into the gas, oil and chemicals market.
  • 1988 The Power Division introduces a new computer-aided engineering and project management system called POWRTRAK®. The goal is to reduce the amount of time required for projects, use engineers more efficiently and capture new business.
  • 1990 By 1990, Black & Veatch has built multiple markets across the United States for Sprint’s first PCS network. Just a year before, Black & Veatch was engaged in building the first nationwide fiber optic network with AT&T that included 4,100 miles of fiber optic cable. This year, the number of regional offices across the United States reaches 35 with six international offices.
  • 1992 P.J. (Jim) Adam, previously head of the Energy Group and assistant managing partner, succeeds Jack Robinson upon his retirement in 1992. Adam is the fifth managing partner and the first to come from the energy side of the business.
  • 1995 Black & Veatch merges with Binnie & Partners, gaining 25 global offices and opening the door to the UK, European and Asian water markets.
  • 1996 Black & Veatch acquires Paterson Candy Ltd., a UK-based water treatment process contractor, and PROWA, a German engineering firm. Black & Veatch also teams with General Electric to start design and construction on the Lungmen Nuclear Plant in Taiwan.
  • 1998 As the company prepares for the new millennium, Jim Adam becomes Black & Veatch’s first Chairman, and Len C. Rodman is named President and CEO.
  • 1999 Black & Veatch becomes an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Program), transforming the company from a partnership.
  • 2000 Len Rodman becomes Chairman, President and CEO.
  • 2004 As natural gas prices rise in the early 2000s, liquefied natural gas (LNG) becomes an important priority in the company. Pioneering technology and an ability to lead a consortium of strategic partners help Black & Veatch secure a major win at the Costa Azul LNG facility in Ensenada, Mexico.
  • 2005 Black & Veatch acquires R.J. Rudden Associates, Lukens Energy Group and Fortegra, a move that doubles the size of its management consulting business.
  • 2006 Black & Veatch acquires the water business of MJ Gleeson, more than doubling the size of its existing UK water operations.
  • 2007 Black & Veatch acquires Richard Conner Riley & Associates, a company that provides real estate and site acquisition services to the telecommunications industry.
  • 2008 Kusile Power Station, a 4,800-megawatt supercritical, coal-fired power station, is under construction near Witbank, South Africa. Designed by Black & Veatch, it is one of the largest energy infrastructure projects under construction in the world.
  • 2009 Black & Veatch announces the purchase of its current World Headquarters Building in Overland Park, Kansas, and makes plans for ambitious renovations. The company acquires Ariston Consulting & Technologies, a software systems integrator.
  • 2010 Black & Veatch acquires Enspiria Solutions, a smart grid consultant.
  • 2013 Len Rodman retires as Chairman, President and CEO, after 42 years with Black & Veatch and 15 years as CEO. Steve Edwards is named Chairman and CEO of Black & Veatch, only the seventh person to serve in the top leadership position in the company’s history.
  • 2014 The company dedicates the Rodman Innovation Pavilion at World Headquarters, which is capable of operating on its own microgrid system.
  • 2014 Black & Veatch ushers in the next era of employee ownership. The model moves the company to an S Corporation. This transaction preserves the intent of the company’s founders while positioning the company for continued growth.
  • 2015 Black & Veatch commemorates its centennial with celebrations at its World Headquarters and office locations across the globe.