ENR Senior Transportation Editor Aileen Cho held an encore interview with Michael Della Rocca about how Halcrow plans to use its strength in PPPs, transit and asset management to grow its North American business.
How was Halcrow’s 10-year strategic plan formed?
It took about six months. The team included three from the States and three from the U.K. We formed a SWAT team. We interviewed 100+ clients by phone and did face-to-face visits with another 30 clients or non-clients. “How do you see the world in the next 10 years? What about LEED? PPPs?” We just listened and took a lot of notes.
What are the basics of the plan?
Twenty-five percent of our global business will be in North America. There are well-entrenched U.S. firms—we’re not taking on battles we know we’d lose. We have multiple specialties; we’re not trying to be everything to everyone. We’ll be more laserlike in our focus. We will look for clients where that is welcomed.
What are those specialties?
If you look at coastal protection, that’s a huge issue. [Halcrow has been doing] coastal solutions for a long time. We can bring that here. Asset management is a focus that cuts across all markets. Especially with today’s economic times, agenices must ask “how we will lengthen our assets’ lives?” Transportation—tolls, rail and P3s. Transit has got to get stronger. Oil independence, urbanization, technology...and I think there will be more private investment in transit. These all mean a huge growth market.
Do you think P3s will still play a growing role in transportation projects despite the current credit crunch?
We’re watching P3s closely. Financial institutions may find that with credit tight, they will slow down and not invest. But I don’t believe that. The needs are still there. The feds will have even fewer dollars now for infrastructure. They will have to permit more creative funding mechanisms. So I believe we will see an increase in PPP deals. But people will be more diligent. They will pay us to do more homework.
What is Halcrow’s company culture?
We recently had 150 of us get together for three days, just talking about the company culture. I thought: “How will we spend 3 days just talking about ‘soft’ stuff”? But it went by fast. We were challenged to think about personal versus company values. It sounds abstract, but we used real-world examples, i.e. How do you reward people in the Middle East versus North America versus the U.K.? An American might want more bonuses. Another person might want assurance of longevity at the firm. We talked about what values should be consistent.