Remembering the 2020s: Leading the Industry into the Future

Posted September 30, 2022

CHA's award-winning work in the 2000s

We’re finally here: the 2020s! The 2020s—and the years leading up to it—gave us the opportunity to reflect on the core values at the heart of who we are as an organization. At the onset of the decade, CHA was in a unique position to accelerate growth and deliver value within its end markets. With three successful acquisitions and the largest backlog in the company’s history, the time was ripe to take CHA to the next level.

A leadership transition marked the beginning of CHA’s strategic initiative to become the industry’s most client-focused and responsive engineering firm. On January 1, 2020, James Stephenson was promoted to CEO of CHA Holdings, Inc. and President of CHA Consulting, Inc. Jim succeeded Michael Carroll, PE, who became Chairman of the Board for CHA Holdings, Inc. Jim had joined CHA in May 2019 to oversee strategy and growth, bringing with him more than 20 years of broad strategy, financial, and corporate development experience. “We knew he was the right person to deliver exceptional value to our clients, effectively scale the business, and guide our staff to becoming the best firm in the industry,” said Mr. Carroll.

Progress was fast and furious when a week later, and about a year and a half before the release of F9: The Fast Saga, CHA acquired CME Associates, Inc., a transportation engineering firm based in Mansfield, Connecticut. CME’s nationally recognized expertise reinforced the company’s capabilities in accelerated bridge construction (ABC), transportation and bridge engineering, civil/site design, planning, and surveying. This talented team of professionals strengthened the company’s presence in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The challenges resulting from the pandemic tested our professional, social, and personal lives. Illuminated by the blue-tinted glow of computer screens, we gathered virtually in Zoom meetings to discuss news headlines from this strange year that read like campfire stories concerning UFO task forces, murder hornets, and Tiger Kings. As the pandemic radically reshaped the work environment, CHA adapted swiftly to provide essential services while prioritizing the safety of its team members. Overcoming the decade’s tumultuous beginnings has been a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of our employees. Today, with the height of the pandemic behind us, the engineering industry has entered a transformational time promising new opportunities to build our communities and energize our industry and clients.

Despite the challenges of operating in a global pandemic, CHA’s new leadership and a new decade were a perfect intersection to articulate a strategic vision for the company framed by six value pillars to drive CHA’s success:

  • One company, one brand
  • Becoming an employer of choice
  • Pursuing operational excellence
  • Driving profitable growth
  • Employing innovations
  • Delivering sustainable solutions

These value pillars resulted in various new programs and initiatives, including the formation of an Innovation Task Force to drive the development and implementation of innovative technology, project management training focused on operational excellence, a Green Team charged with delivering tangible solutions for sustainability, creating a culture that inspires our teams, and embracing the concept of one company, one brand to bring our many affiliate companies and acquisitions under the CHA brand.

In February 2021, as NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, CHA completed its entry into Florida with the acquisition of Reiss Engineering, an engineering and consulting firm specializing in water and wastewater solutions with 40 employees and four offices in central Florida. The joining of the two teams under the CHA brand brought together some of the highest caliber talents in water and wastewater to provide greater resources and reach into the Southeast. A year later, in 2022, CHA reaffirmed its commitment to Florida and the Southeast with the acquisition of A&P Engineers, a multi-disciplinary consultant with expertise in civil engineering, transportation, water resources, environmental, structural, lighting, electrical, traffic studies, and construction engineering and inspection. The added depth and capabilities of A&P Engineers further advanced CHA’s goal of building a leading national firm to support the growing needs for transportation, energy, and real estate infrastructure throughout the country.

As employees began returning to offices in mid-2021, they walked into fully renovated spaces providing open, bright, collaborative working environments. CHA’s St. Catharine’s office in Ontario and main office in Colonie, New York, completed long renovations. The new spaces are designed by CHA and offer modern, collaborative work areas, including a café and training rooms, hoteling desks for hybrid staff, and other unique spaces to accommodate our changed workforce. In April 2022, CHA moved its Indianapolis office to a beautiful and newly renovated space in the Capital Center South Tower. In addition to a new office in Reading, Pennsylvania, other office moves included Rochester, New York; downtown Boston; and the consolidation of two Connecticut offices in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. These moves provide staff with inspiring, collaborative spaces that embody and present the CHA brand to clients, partners, community members, and potential employees.

Seven decades of partnering with our clients, taking on their challenges as our own, and delivering high-quality, sustainable project deliverables have culminated in a strong and unified brand. In the 2020s, CHA reinforced its position in the industry and the vision of one company, one brand by rebranding Novara GeoSolutions as CHA Integrated Solutions and integrating CHA Architecture, CHA Canada, Wolverton & Associates, CME Associates, Inc., and Reiss Engineering all under one brand. Delivering exceptional and consistent service is a top priority for the company, and uniting the talented technical professionals from these firms under the CHA brand advances our client-focus approach to providing cohesive and integrated solutions for clients no matter their needs or locations.

The 2020s have given the engineering industry a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the nation’s infrastructure. CHA has already impressed juries with transformative projects such as the Knox County Regional Airport Runway 10/28 Rehabilitation, Niagara County Landfill No. 1 Improvements, Maine Plastic Surgery, Roosevelt II Bathhouse, Albany International Airport Parking Garage, Franklin D Roosevelt Park Swimming Pool, and 96th Street and Keystone Parkway Interchange and Corridor. On a national scale, we have been recognized as an industry leader in creativity and teamwork for designing the staddle bent on the new approach ramp bridge on the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford, Connecticut, and rehabilitating the 95-year-old seawall along the Hudson River in the Troy, New York. The launch of CHA’s CHAngemakers program and new editions of the ExCHAnge newsletter further bring to life the thought leadership of our talented engineers, architects, scientists, project managers, and professionals.

As we have celebrated CHA’s 70 years of design excellence, we have seen how, in each decade, CHA has grown and changed to meet the ever-evolving needs of the communities where we live and work. CHA stands ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges head-on with the same sense of responsibility and pride of workmanship that has existed since our founding 70 years ago.