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Weekly Briefing: March 6-10, 2023

Week of March 6, 2023

At EFCG’s 2023 Rising Leaders Conference, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about Valuations & Internal Ownership Transitions. During a breakout session, EFCG walked through the “valuation conundrum,” as well as the metrics used to conduct valuations and the key considerations firms need to make when approaching internal ownership transitions.

Additionally, attendees were asked, “How well do you feel your firm does in terms of educating employees on the topic of employee ownership?” Some key insights resulting from the poll include:

  • 40% of participants responded, “There are very few opportunities to learn more about employee ownership (offered 1-2 times per year)”;

  • 27% of participants answered, “Our firm does not offer educational opportunities or hold designated meetings to learn more about employee ownership”;

  • 20% of respondents noted, “Employee ownership is central to our culture -- our firm actively communicates and encourages employees to learn more about it”, and;

  • 13% of participants answered, “There are a few educational programs and meetings to learn about employee ownership, but not as many or as frequent as I would like.”

To learn more about Company Valuations, Internal Ownership Transitions, or how EFCG can help develop the next generation of leaders at your firm, please reach out to Clay Han (

Two-Year Pause Lifted on $9 Billion Houston Highway Expansion Project

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have reached an agreement, allowing the $9 billion I-45 expansion project to move forward after a two-year pause over concerns about the project’s potential impact on those living along the route.

  • The two entities signed a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA), which takes significant steps to address project impacts to the community and provides clear enforceable timelines that will be monitored by FHWA as TxDOT proceeds with the project.

  • Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner, released a statement about the agreement: "After years of negotiations, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project can now be the project Houston deserves it to be. A project that addresses I-45's repeated flooding while maximizing the opportunities for people to stay in their homes and neighborhoods.”

  • This consensus, by the FHWA and TxDOT, comes as the Biden administration prioritizes remedying the harm done to neighborhoods split by infrastructure projects such as highways.


EPA Rolls Out Toughest Limit on Toxic Wastewater from Coal-Fired Power Plants

  • On March 8th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule for regulating wastewater from coal-fired power plants that is stronger than rules in previous administrations.

  • This proposal follows an announcement in January that the EPA plans to stop six coal-fired power plants from dumping coal ash into unlined pools. “Coal-fired power plants discharge wastewater that can contain toxic metals and other pollutants that contaminate our vital water sources,” EPA Administrator, Michael S. Regan, told reporters.

  • The proposal is also expected to improve public health, particularly in low-income communities that are often the closest to such power plants.

  • “The rule is not aimed at driving a specific outcome in terms of a company’s investment strategies; it’s setting a standard to protect public health and water quality,” Regan said.


FEMA Program Called Successful at Creating Incentives for Community Flood Risk Reduction

  • A multiyear analysis of a voluntary federal program that provides insurance premium discounts to communities that take steps to reduce flood risks shows the effort has been meeting its goal to boost community-wide resilience, incentivizing local climate adaptation actions.

  • In exchange for community engagement in a range of risk-communication and risk-reduction activities that exceed minimum National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements, the Community Rating System (CRS) provides discounts on insurance premiums between 5% and 45%.

  • “FEMA’s Community Rating System serves as an effective model for other federal market-based programs seeking to incentivize community-level investment in climate resilience,” wrote Jesse Gourevitch, a post-doctoral fellow at the Environmental Defense Fund and lead investigator of the study.

  • Researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Davis, analyzed data from NFIP claims, policies, and the CRS program between 1993 and 2020. They found that communities rated eight or better experienced a 12% to 37% decrease in NFIP claims compared to non-participants.


ChatGPT and Other Conversational Artificial Intelligence Have Potential to Help Construction

  • Given the increased project complexity, reduced project duration, and growing expectations from clients and stakeholders in the construction industry, conversational AI may allow project managers to have all relevant project information at their fingertips to ensure that projects meet deadlines and stay within budget.

  • A non-exhaustive list of possible benefits includes: the ability to make time-sensitive decisions on-the-spot that are backed by instantly available data; collaboration with internal and external project stakeholders by answering questions and streamlining communication; and facilitating the seamless integration of technology into operations, encouraging the adoption of technology while stifling tech fatigue.

  • The first step for a construction firm preparing to utilize conversational AI is to define clear project goals, followed by structuring their data and identifying gaps according to the project goals. Next, the firm will need to prepare its data before beginning to train and validate a conversational AI model customized and tailored to its business needs. Finally, the AI solution needs to be tested and performance measured against the goals of the project.

March 2, 2023

Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a UK-based pure play sustainability consultancy, has acquired NINT, a Latin America-based consultancy providing sustainable finance and ESG advisory services focusing on financial institutions, corporations, and other key organizations in the financial sector ecosystem. As a leading player and pioneer in the sustainable debt market in Latin America, NINT brings deep technical knowledge and delivery expertise for providing independent assessments of debt issuances, developing frameworks for sustainable financings, and structuring debt instruments with sustainability benefits. Paulo Santos, Managing Partner at ERM, said, “Sustainable finance is a key tool in delivering on climate commitments and facilitating investments to solve other sustainability challenges. NINT’s team offers a wealth of knowledge and experience in this space, which will strengthen the value we can bring to our clients in Latin America and worldwide. We are very excited to welcome NINT to ERM.”


March 3, 2023

Salas O’Brien, a California-based facility planning, design, construction management, and commissioning firm, has merged with Plus Group, an Ohio-based solutions provider for the agribusiness, chemical, consumer products, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and renewable fuel industries. “Salas O’Brien and Plus Group are perfect complements for each other,” said Darin Anderson, Salas O’Brien chairman and CEO. “Our culture, values, leadership approach, and governance are totally aligned. Plus Group’s strong leadership, dedicated talent, reputation for technical excellence, and strength in important market sectors make this merger a huge positive for our combined team and clients.” The merger creates significant shared value through strengthened leadership, enhanced opportunities for employee ownership, broader service capabilities, and virtually unlimited personal and professional team member growth. Grant Mitchell, CEO of Plus Group, said, “Our leadership team did not take lightly the task of planning the next 25 years and beyond for this talented organization. The decision became easier when we saw how completely our values and skill set aligned with Salas O’Brien. We are all excited to see how this merger will make us even stronger together.”


March 8, 2023

Apex Companies, LLC (Apex), a Maryland-based environmental consulting and engineering services provider, has acquired Water Science Associates, a Florida-based regional provider in water resources and hydrogeology. Water Science Associates brings a team of experienced hydrogeologists, engineers, and scientists who specialize in water resource planning and evaluation, water supply development, and wastewater management. “We are excited to be joining a firm whose capabilities and services are complementary to our own, where we can also expand our influence to solve some of the most pressing water resource challenges of today,” said Water Science Associates Co-Founder and President, Kirk Martin. Mr. Martin will remain with the firm and work hand-in-hand with Apex leadership on integration and future expansion of the business. Apex President and CEO, David Fabianski said, “Water Science Associates’ expertise and capabilities in water resources align perfectly with our growth priorities across water and in the highly attractive Florida market.”


March 9, 2023

Verdantas LLC, an Ohio-based solution provider of engineering, planning, and science services to support their clients’ sustainability, resiliency, and strategic infrastructure objectives, has acquired Leighton, a California-based provider of technical expertise and deep knowledge of the geo-environmental conditions in southern California. This addition to Verdantas significantly strengthens its western US presence and brings added depth to its geologic, geotechnical, and materials capabilities. “We are thrilled to have Leighton and their reputation of bringing the best and brightest people to each of their client’s projects. This commitment to excellent work for clients and Leighton’s efforts to capitalize on a collaborative environment fits well into Verdantas’ intentional people-focused approach,” said Gerry Salontai, CEO of Verdantas.

This April 19-21, EFCG will host our 23rd Annual CFO Conference in Denver, CO!

As the only major CFO Conference in the AEC Industry, this event will provide the first view of the industry’s reported 2022 performance and 2023 projections, and delve into the major strategic and financial decisions CFOs are focused on today.

Visit our 23rd Annual CFO Conference page to sign up, see the agenda, and view the current attendee list. Please note, this event is almost sold out.


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