Stanley Consultants - an engineering success story in the Midwest

As a global engineering service provider, Stanley Consultants has improved the quality of life of communities across the world and is commonly recognized for its innovative solutions.

Of the top 500 engineering design firms in the nation, Stanley Consultants is ranked No. 73. The company also ranks within the top 50 designers in the international market and within the top 200 environmental firm, according to Engineering News-Record.

Stanley Consultants was founded in 1913 in Muscatine, Iowa, and has since completed more than 25,000 projects in 110 countries. Its largest contract to-date was master planning the reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure after the war.

“We are headquartered in Muscatine and when we get a call to respond anywhere in the world, the people in our local office rise up and go,” said Gayle Roberts, company President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Then, they come back here. I think that is a positive for the Quad City region. Even though we tackle projects outside the area, people come here, have a career, are involved in their communities, complete local projects and also get to experience cultures and projects in many different places,” she said.

Stanley Consultants has 30 offices worldwide and a workforce of 1,000 member-owners. They offer award-winning expertise in the diversified markets of transportation, water, energy, and federal and international programs.

Stanley Consultants also tackles projects in the Iowa-Illinois metropolitan region where it is located, an area called the Quad Cities. Its clients include manufacturing and industry leaders such as Alcoa, Deere & Company and River Gulf Grain. The engineering services firm has tackled large and small projects for local municipalities and the Rock Island Arsenal. The strong relationship Stanley Consultants has with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, has led to a number of significant projects across the world.

Roberts joined Stanley Consultants in 1981 as an engineer and in 2007 she became the fifth president in the company’s history. 

“When I started working here, I could see the company had a great reach and would only grow,” she said. “Even then, we were doing a lot of work internationally and projects across the U.S.” Roberts said.

One of the company’s strengths is its diversified services and markets. Future growth in population and urban centers will spark the need for more roads, energy, water and other infrastructure. “There is no end to what can happen within each market and there are a lot of opportunities cross-market, too” Roberts said. 

“When we think about where and how communities are going to grow, all of our services really come into play,” she added. 

Mike Helms, the company’s U.S. Federal & International Programs Market Leader, said Stanley Consultants approaches its work in a collaborative manner.

“With most projects, we deal with stakeholders more than the owners. It is all about the users. When we work at an airbase, our client is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and their client may be the Airforce or Navy. When we are handed the contract, we spend days at the air base interviewing the many, many users of that facility,” he said.

“We collect their ideas, their interests, how they want and need it to function. Then we come up with a concept design and get approval from the users before we leave. We are very collaborative and take that approach with all of our projects. We include clients as much or little as they want to be included,” Helms said.

Roberts said they are much more than engineers. With every project, they first have to figure out how to develop a solution before it can be engineered. “I don’t think our people realize how innovative and creative they are. They love challenges, and oftentimes, what we do for our clients is one-of-a-kind. We are coming up with solutions to something that has never existed before. Everything our members are doing is unique because the particular problem a client is trying to solve is unique,” she said. 

An example of a one-of-a-kind project was Modern Woodmen Park. The city of Davenport, Iowa, hired Stanley Consultants to find a way to protect the historic riverfront stadium from flooding.

Stanley Consultants designed an 800-foot-long removable floodwall -- one of the three longest in North America -- to protect the stadium. The company also designed a removable bridge to allow pedestrian access during floods.

Not only are the engineers creative, they are willing to go wherever the need arises. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired Stanley Consultants to help rebuild Iraq, the company asked for volunteers. About 10 percent of its members stepped forward. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the Corps of Engineers immediately called on Stanley Consultants to send a team for assessment and program management.

One of the most rewarding aspects of engineering is seeing the impact of the work, Helms said. 

“I like having the opportunity to work on very large complex projects,” Helms said. “Such projects can have a pretty significant and dramatic impact on the quality of life of a community,” he said.

The company has been working in Jamaica for more than 20 years. Stanley Consultants designed and supervised construction of a highway on the north coast, then a highway that replaced a rutted dirt road that links the two coasts, and is now working on a south coast highway.

“This project has been going on since the early ‘90s and we are still working on this small island, but what a difference good roads have made in the lives of those people,” Roberts said.

Helms agreed. “I think about the times when the company was involved in the first wastewater treatment plant in a country, or like the Jordan project, when we brought water into a country. There are some projects we do in the U.S. that you don’t really think about, but when you take that expertise into an emerging country and see the huge impact it makes, it is amazing,” she said. 

Stanley Consultants has received many awards and recognition for its projects, including the design of a $555 million reduced emission coal-fired power plant in Springfield, Missouri; a permeable pavement project at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry; and reconstruction of the historic Credit Island Lodge in Davenport.

“When we receive an award, we stand side-by-side with our clients,” Roberts said, adding the clients also deserve recognition among their peers. “They are out there doing some great things in their communities.”

She said Stanley Consultants plans to expand its reach across the U.S. and internationally. “We need to continue to grow to be able to compete at all levels,” Roberts said.

“You get the call and people go and respond to whatever it happens to be. A lot of times there is engineering tied to it, but many times engineering is just one component,” she said, adding there is greater impact in what they do.

“I don’t want us to think of ourselves as just engineers, because we are so much more than that; we are finding innovative solutions to some pretty significant problems and challenges,” Roberts said.

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