Duffield merges agency in three-way nationwide deal
PIKE CREEK – Duffield Associates, the state’s largest environmental engineering firm, announced Friday that it has merged with two other firms across the country to create a new national firm.
The deal also includes Hull & Associates, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and HSW Consulting, headquartered in Tampa, Fla. The combination of the three resulted in an eight-state presence with 20 offices and more than 275 staff members.
Behind the deal is New York-based private equity firm Round Table Capital Partners, which first acquired Hull & Associates in July and is now acquiring Duffield and HSW in turn. Terms of the latest acquisitions were not disclosed.
Round Table Capital has previously invested in two other buy-and-build platforms in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. In a statement announcing the Friday acquisitions, Tony Brindisi, co-founder and managing partner at RTC, said, “We are very bullish on the AEC industry, given the strong tailwinds driving demand for environmental services and sustainable infrastructure development. With these acquisitions, which bring together three highly successful organizations and an exemplary team of experienced executives, we are confident we have the foundation to build a true market leader over the coming years.”
The merged companies will retain their individual brands in their markets for now and the leaders of each firm will continue to participate as senior leaders. Gerry Salontai, CEO of Hull & Associates, will serve as the chief executive of the combined firm, while former Duffield President Guy Marcozzi will now serve as its executive vice president. Deirdre Smith, the former chief operating officer of Duffield, will serve in the same role for the merged firm and reportedly run the Delaware operations.
Marcozzi told Delaware Business Times that the deal came together after he had conversations with Salontai, whom he’s known through the industry for about 25 years. It was Salontai, a former longtime CEO of the California-based national engineering firm Kleinfelder, who brought in HSW Consulting as well. Marcozzi said that Duffield had been exploring expansion opportunities before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as guided by its 2019 strategic plan.
“In our business, you get to a certain size and you have to think about how you get to the next level,” he added. “This seemed like a great way to do it, so we’re excited about the breadth and depth of services and service areas that come with this pretty exciting prospect.”
Marcozzi said that a new brand may be established in the future for the combined firm, but it is also looking to continue acquiring other firms looking to increase their scope and profile, including in New England, the Northwest, and the West Coast where the combined firm doesn’t yet have a presence.
“We’re really trying to develop around the geoscience and the environmental sector,” he said. “We want to grow around the services of the future, as opposed to the traditional engineering offerings.”
A bigger national presence will help prevent the limited amount of attrition that Duffield sees mainly due to relocations while also helping its recruitment efforts, Marcozzi said. Duffield has five offices, including Pike Creek, Dover, Philadelphia, West Deptford, N.J.; and Bel Air, Md., and counts former Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small among its directors.
“I think the big thing to getting and keeping the best talent is having opportunities, and we think they will have more opportunities through this merger,” he said.
Duffield has already contributed to high-profile projects like Incyte Corporation’s Alapocas headquarters campus, the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, ChristianaCare’s Newark-area campus, the Delaware City Refinery, and the development of the Fort Dupont project, among others.
Well-known in the region for its expertise in environmental and geotechnical engineering, Duffield is poised to potentially gain from a Biden administration that is expected to strengthen requirements for builders to consider climate change impacts on their developments. The combined firm is expected to play into that opportunity, but also energy, water and wastewater, transportation, commercial and industrial real estate, and manufacturing.
“Hull in particular has a large presence in green energy, a lot of solar and wind work, and we think that’s going to create a lot of opportunities in the future,” Marcozzi said. “There’s a lot of, no pun intended, tailwind pushing in that direction.”
By Jacob Owens