Edwards and Kelcey History
Morristown, New Jersey 07962-1936
Telephone: (973) 267-0555
Fax: (973) 267-3555
Sales: $142.3 million (2003)
NAIC: 541330 Engineering Services
Edwards and Kelcey is a client-focused organization built upon strong and enduring commitment to our clients, our partners, and our employees.
- Edwards and Kelcey is formed as an engineering partnership.
- Dean Edwards dies.
- Guy Kelcey dies.
- The firm becomes employee owned.
- A management team buys out the company.
- Kevin J. McMahon is named CEO and chairman.
- The firm is ranked 61st among the top 500 U.S. design firms by Engineering News Record.
Based in Morristown, New Jersey, Edwards and Kelcey is a privately owned engineering and construction firm serving six markets. Originally devoted to the transportation market, Edwards and Kelcey continues to help in the planning and construction of highways, bridges, rail and transit systems, ports and harbors, and airports. The firm has been involved in the communications market since the 1970s and today provides design and construction services for the installation of wireless and fiber optic networks, in-building wireless networks, and integrated security systems, as well as maintenance and inspection services. Another market for Edwards and Kelcey is utilities, providing planning, engineering, and construction services related to generation and storage facilities, transmission and distribution networks, service connections, standby power systems, plant controls, and security systems. The firm serves the institutional and commercial market, designing and constructing facilities for schools, medical centers, and government agencies, as well as commercial projects such as shopping malls, parking garages, warehouses, and industrial plants. Edwards and Kelcey also does work for the federal government, providing civil engineering services to both the military and civilian branches, including agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Postal Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Department of Transportation. Finally, Edwards and Kelcey serves the planning/environment market by helping public and private clients to gain regulatory approval for projects while also gaining public approval by addressing health and safety and economic concerns, and making sure that a community's sense of place is preserved. Edwards and Kelcey maintains more than 20 offices in the United States and one in Puerto Rico.
Founding the Firm Following World War II
The men behind the Edwards and Kelcey name were partners Dean G. Edwards and Guy Kelcey. The longer serving of the pair was Kelcey. Born in Canada in 1889, he moved to Buffalo at the age of ten and became a U.S. citizen in his early 20s. In 1914 he graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and during the 1920s made his mark through pioneering work in traffic control, studying ways to control the flow of vehicles by employing devices such as traffic islands. Kelcey was perhaps the first man in the United States to be known as a "traffic engineer." During World War II, he served as the regional director of local transport in the Southeast for the Office of Defense Transportation. In 1945 he became the highway transportation analyst for the Port of New York Authority. A year later, in June 1946, he joined forces with Edwards, who had recently retired as the chief engineer for the Borough of Manhattan, to form the consulting engineering firm of Edwards and Kelcey.
The partnership moved into offices located at 150 Broadway in lower Manhattan and soon won contracts to do location studies and designs for major highways. During the postwar years, automobiles, trucks, and buses were superseding the railroads at an accelerated clip, and for national defense as well as commercial reasons, the U.S. government and the states were willing to fund massive highway building projects that dovetailed nicely with the expertise of Edwards and Kelcey. By the end of the 1940s the firm opened branch offices in Boston and New Jersey after winning major highway projects.
Edwards and Kelcey landed highway contracts throughout the Northeast during the 1950s. Among the projects the firm worked on during this period were sections of the New Jersey and Connecticut Turnpikes, the Garden State Parkway, and the New York Thruway. Edwards and Kelcey also expanded its operations to the Midwest, establishing an office in Minneapolis in 1958 to work with the Minnesota Department of Highways, initially doing design work for I-35 and I-94. During the next 20 years it also designed interchanges and bridges throughout the Twin Cities. In addition, Edwards and Kelcey ventured overseas during the 1950s. Under the auspices of the Technical Cooperation Administration of the Department of State, the firm was involved in the development of Iraq's first highway system.
Changing Leadership and Expanding Services: 1960s-80s
Both Edwards and Kelcey had been approaching retirement age when they formed their partnership, so that a change in the top ranks of leadership soon came. In 1961 Edwards died, and Kelcey, now in his 70s, began to shift increasing levels of responsibility to the eight engineers he and Edwards had hired in the early years of the firm. Kelcey gradually withdrew from active participation, and in August 1972 he died at the age of 84.
During the 1960s Edwards and Kelcey expanded on a number of fronts. To its highway business, the firm added building design contracts, the first of which was a multilevel parking garage for Boston's Logan Airport. It also began to do work involving recreational facilities. After developing "The New Jersey Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan," which determined the minimum amount of public land that should be set aside as open space or dedicated to recreation, the firm designed two major New Jersey State parks: Round Valley Recreation Area and the Spruce Run Reservoir. The firm also added to its international resume during the 1960s, launching a decade of work in Brazil and Columbia, designing highways, bridges, and other transportation projects.
Edwards and Kelcey added greatly to the breadth of its capabilities during the 1970s, as it attempted to remain competitive by keeping up with the growing needs of its clients. Through the acquisition of a pair of small consulting firms, Edwards and Kelcey became involved in airport planning and design and the rail transit business. During this period the firm also established its bridge inspection practice, which started with a contract to assess and rehabilitate the Manhattan Bridge, linking Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. In addition, the firm began doing communications design work, starting out by helping Western Union build its first nationwide microwave communications network. Later, with the advent of new satellite technology, Edwards and Kelcey assisted Western Union in establishing earth stations at key locations in the United States. The firm established a reputation in the planning/environment field during the 1970s by successfully completing one of the first Environmental Impact Statements, regarding the relocation of Maine's 1A highway, as required for federal agencies by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Edwards and Kelcey also delved into the high-tech area during the 1970s, developing a computerized traffic surveillance system for the New Jersey Turnpike, a forerunner of what would become Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS.
During the 1980s Edwards and Kelcey completed a 20-year assignment, providing design and construction supervision services for the Charlestown Urban Renewal Project, which restored the area surrounding the historic Bunker Hill site. The firm's willingness and ability to take a long view on projects also was demonstrated in New Jersey. In 1985 Ronald Wiss, head of the transportation division, urged legislators to build a new rail transfer station in Secaucus, which he contended was necessary if New Jersey was to remain economically competitive. Dozens of different permits would be required, but undaunted, Wiss received approval, tackled the problem, and 13 years later completed the project. Edwards and Kelcey extended its reach to California in the 1980s, winning a contract to design the Hollywood Bowl Station in Los Angeles' new metro rail system. The firm also added other rail transportation capabilities during this period, becoming involved in railroad signals, traction power, and catenary design.
Going Private in the Mid-1990s
In the late 1980s Edwards and Kelcey became employee owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The ESOP actually had been established in 1976, but because it was composed of nonvoting stock, it served as little more than a pension plan. When Satashi Oishi took over as chief executive officer in 1987, he wanted to curtail the high turnover rate of key employees and, after getting input from outside consultants, decided to revamp the ESOP. It now consisted of voting stock, giving employees more of a say in the direction of the firm. As Edwards and Kelcey entered the 1990s it was doing about $21 million in annual revenues, operating four branch offices. But after enjoying a major growth spurt in the 1970s, it was clear that Edwards and Kelcey had become stagnant. Then, in the mid-1990s, it began to enjoy something of a rebirth. Wiss took over as president and CEO in 1995, and assumed the chairmanship a year later. He named Kevin McMahon as president, and they along with 18 other employees bought out the company and assessed the firm's situation. The team created a three-pronged business plan that called on the firm to improve profitability, grow geographically, and broaden its services.
In the second half of the 1990s, Edwards opened some 20 offices around the country, either as start-ups or by way of acquisition. The firm established a group dedicated to value engineering, a discipline that attempted to identify and eliminate unnecessary costs, then supplemented the new business with the acquisition of VEI Inc., a Dallas firm specializing in value engineering. Another important purchase was Sypher:Mueller Inc., a Baltimore firm specializing in aviation projects as well as energy conservation and alternative fuel studies and design. Edwards and Kelcey also established alliances with manufacturers to develop products and systems, the purpose of which was to package a product and a service to drum up new business. For instance, the firm worked with Engineered Systems/Datron to develop an arresting material system airports could employ to help decelerate aircrafts making emergency landings; teamed up with Trilon, Inc. to create the IBIIS bridge information system software package; and worked with EnTEch to apply infrared thermography and ground-penetrating radar to analyze the structural integrity of airport runways and bridge decks. Perhaps the fastest growing segment of Edwards and Kelcey's business in the late 1990s was the wireless communications market. After forming a dedicated subsidiary in 1996, two years later communications work contributed 40 percent of the firm's revenues. The group not only did work in the United States but also was involved in a major wireless buildout project in The Netherlands. Another subsidiary formed in the 1990s was EK Technology, dedicated to systems integration work providing construction-at-risk solutions.
In August 1999 the 55-year-old Wiss collapsed while dancing with his wife at a wedding reception and subsequently died, the apparent victim of a heart attack. McMahon replaced Wiss as CEO and chairman and led the firm into the new century, essentially carrying out the business plan put into place by his predecessor, opening new offices, making strategic acquisitions, and adding capabilities. In 2001 a new office was opened in Tarrytown, New York, just north of New York City, an area where many engineers resided, as well as offices in Kittery, Maine; New Haven, Connecticut; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also in 2001 Edwards and Kelcey bought a Boston company, CID Associates Inc., a full-service engineering and architectural firm that specialized in building facilities, followed by the acquisition of Tighe, Doty, Carrino, a New Jersey firm that also specialized in building facilities as well as site design and development. In addition, in 2001 Edwards and Kelcey formed a Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Group to further the firm's work in landscape architecture, now allowing it to offer a full range of design, planning, engineering, and permitting services for projects of any size and type.
In the spring of 2002 Edwards and Kelcey acquired Aikenhead & Odon, a Jacksonville, Florida design and consulting firm involved in transportation, utilities, private development, and environmental engineering, an important addition because it strengthened Edwards and Kelcey's presence in Florida and the Southeast, which presented a major opportunity for growth. Later in the year, the firm's presence in the area was further bolstered with the acquisition of Miami-based Kunde Sprecher & Associates, involved in land, sea, and air transportation projects, commercial and industrial facilities, and municipal water and wastewater facilities. The 44-year-old firm was well established, boasting clients such as the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County Government, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, City of Miami, and American Airlines. Also in 2002, Edwards and Kelcey acquired Cincinnati, Ohio-based Pflum, Klausmeier & Gehrum Consultants, Inc., a 35-year-old firm providing professional services in traffic engineering, highway engineering, transportation planning, structural engineering, urban planning, and landscape architecture. Next, in February 2005, Edwards and Kelcey acquired Epsilon Engineering, Inc., a consulting and civil engineering services firm with offices in Houston and College Station, Texas. Mostly serving government agencies, it specialized in the design of highways, traffic control, illumination, utility relocations, and storm drainage systems, as well as value engineering services.
Epsilon was Edwards and Kelcey's 15th acquisition in ten years. With more than $140 million in annual sales, the firm was now ranked 61st among the top 500 U.S. design firms by Engineering News Record. Given its recent record of strong growth, there was every reason to expect Edwards and Kelcey to move up in the rankings in the coming years.
Principal Operating Units: Transportation; Communications; Federal; Utilities; Institutional/Commercial; Planning/Environmental.
Principal Competitors: HNTB; Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.; URS Corporation.
- Bachelor, Blane, "Revved Up," American Executive Magazine, June 2004.
- Fairweather, Virginia, "How To Succeed in Business," Civil Engineering, October 1998, p. 68.
- "Guy Kelcey, Pioneering Engineer on Traffic and Roads, Dies, at 84," New York Times, August 10, 1973, p. 34.
- Prior, James T., "Edwards & Kelcey Redefines the Engineering Profession," New Jersey Business, August 1, 1998, p. 43.
- Sundaramoorthy, Geeta, "Edwards and Kelcey, King of the Roads," NJBIZ, September 2, 2002, p. 25.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 70. St. James Press, 2005.