Accepting the status quo in the construction industry is simply no longer enough. Today, it takes a real commitment to innovation, change enablement, and inclusion and to build sustainable, profitable operations. In fact, evidence shows that firms committed to inclusion and diversity see measurable benefits in terms of engagement, productivity, and profitability. For instance, according to research by McKinsey & Company, firms in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity outperform companies in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. Additionally, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive leadership teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
There’s no better way to find encouragement and inspiration for making that commitment than to look at the industry players who are leading by example.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with one of those industry players, Dr. Anthony Taylor, the President of Engineering Design Technologies, Inc. Anthony shared his insights on the value of minority and female-owned business enterprises, his take on the unique nature of construction projects in Atlanta, and advice for new professionals in the field. Dive into this story below.
Tell me a little bit about Engineering Design Technologies and what you specialize in.
Engineering Design Technologies (EDT) was founded in 1993. We’re a fully integrated design build firm, with disciplines in architecture, water resources, transportation, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and renewable energy engineering, as well as construction, in-house.
EDT works in both the public and private sectors. In the public sector, we work for the federal government, US Army Corps of Engineers, NAVFAC, EPA, the VA, amongst others. In the government sector as well, we work with state and local governments.
In terms of the private sector, EDT has an affiliate firm that allows us to pursue development projects. This allows us to bring our own financing, make our own investments, and create a design-build-finance-leaseback project. Then we perform the design and build for the development firm ourselves. We have successfully delivered many of these design-build-finance-leaseback projects for a host of clients including the Department of Veterans Affairs where we built community based outpatient clinics for them.
What have been the highlights of your career so far? How did you become President of EDT?
I completed my PhD in engineering management and was working for an ENR Top 5 engineering firm at that time on a $245M hospital prison project. I later moved out of North Carolina and began working on a $3 billion project on a military installation for the same firm. I had the opportunity to spend several years there as the engineering manager. It’s safe to say I received a “baptism by fire” experience.
This project gave me the opportunity to work with a phenomenal team and do great work that’s very important to our country.
I later moved to Atlanta, with the same firm, where I became the Program Director for the Fulton County’s water/wastewater CIP program. This is where I had the chance to meet a lot of local minority and female-owned business enterprises in the metro Atlanta area. My time in this role helped me build a networking platform and focus on best business practices, such as teamwork, safety, quality, and having the client’s best interests at heart.
Then I was fortunate enough to become Vice President of that large engineering firm. This was a true blessing and gift. I was their youngest vice president at the time. During this time, I did a lot of work with local government clients and met the leadership of EDT. We spent time getting to know more about each other over a period of several years and developed a strong relationship. I joined EDT in 2009 and after a few years, the majority owner, Mr. Curry, retired and sold his majority ownership to me. This was and still remains the biggest blessing in my professional life.
EDT is known for its history of promoting and working with minority and female-owned business enterprises. Could you share some more details about this commitment?
EDT was founded as a minority business enterprise. My predecessor, the previous majority owner of EDT, Mr. Haywood Curry is an African American veteran. There’s always been a sensitivity and understanding of what a diverse firm means in both our service offerings and ownership.
We take this very seriously, being able to be a minority business, and to actually thrive in that space and to help other businesses to thrive as well. EDT competes against much larger firms and is successful in winning and delivering high-quality projects.
About five years ago, we began working with two diverse firms: an 8A firm that’s a general contractor and a service veteran-owned business enterprise. We took time to get to know their values. We wanted to make sure they had the same values of integrity, honesty, quality, and safety, above all else. We then entered SBA approved mentor-protege programs with these firms. These partnerships have been very successful. We’re working on numerous projects in and around the state of Georgia, on the military bases for the federal government, and then also outside of that for local and state government as well.
Our partnership with the service veteran-owned business enterprise is a bit more recent. We’re currently looking at opportunities for the firm to grow and further establish itself.
For firms looking to build similar partnerships, I’d like to say to first recognize that there are always opportunities to meet good people, whether it be through solicitations, networking events, the business community, etc. We were able to learn more about the two firms I mentioned through these connections and we already knew diversity and inclusion were important to them. So, take time to create those networks in the business world and make sure the desire is there first before going to step two.
When considering construction trends in Atlanta and the Southeastern United States, what stands out to you?
In Atlanta, you’ll find a natural tendency for significant teaming on almost any project that occurs in and around Metro Atlanta. There are a few different things driving this teaming.
First, it occurs in part for project needs, but also by socioeconomic and/or requirements issued by local governments and state governments, etc. Some of our local government clients actually require a majority firm and a minority firm to team in a joint venture partnership. This joint venture is required to have a certain level of participation of both minority and female, and in some instances, small business participation.
You’ve mentioned that the controlled recordation of information is one of the main values of technology to your company. Why is that?
These records allow you to quickly and easily access the history of a project so you can recount what happened on the project in a clear and concise manner. The more efficiently and effectively you can access this information, the more advantageous it is. This is particularly true if you have any concerns, challenges or questions associated with the project.
One thing I’ve heard from other people in the industry is that nobody really has excellent project documents recorded in a way that paints an accurate picture of the project. However, it’s critical to improve the quality of this document storage and get it as close to excellent as possible for the reasons I just mentioned.
There’s also the matter of bottom-line metrics. PlanGrid and other Autodesk tools have helped us with our design and construction documents and its recording, increasing our coordination and collaboration. I am hopeful the use of these tools will help significantly.
Do you have any pieces of advice for the latest generation starting out in the industry?
First, I’d like to say congratulations. The most important step you can take is to value and understand the industry. From safety to schedule and budget, make sure you have a solid grasp on the fundamentals. Then bring in technology to support those fundamentals. You have to be up-to-date with technology or you will absolutely lose potential projects.
That goes for best practices as well and making sure they are put in place.
After all, some firms don’t survive because their business practices aren’t consistent with what the industry needs.
Finally, remember relationships are key. Take time to network and to build relationships in and outside your organization.