BL Companies: Total Client Satisfaction through Invested Employee-owners
By Molly Shaw
From its 1986 origin in an attic space in North Haven, Conn., BL Companies has grown to become a leader in the design business. Initially focused on traffic services and support for larger engineering firms through the state, BL Companies has developed into so much more.
“Our multi-disciplined design firm is big enough to deliver an array of comprehensive services, but small enough to provide the highest level of client care,” elaborates Carolyn Stanworth, CEO and president of BL Companies. “It’s a good mix and a nice size to be.”
With the high level of customer service BL Companies brings to the table, backed by dedicated employee-owners, it is no surprise the firm deals with 80 percent repeat business and has grown to be one of the most trusted firms in the industry.
One-stop Shop, Nationwide Service
“Over the years, BL Companies has emerged as a multifaceted company with a range of services, from architecture and engineering to environmental science and land surveying to landscape architecture, planning, transportation engineering, structural and MEP engineering and subsurface utility engineering,” notes Stanworth. “We have all of these services and the sub-disciplines that go along with them under one roof. This keeps clients from having to coordinate and manage multiple firms and eases their burden.”
The firm’s one-stop shop capability has taken BL Companies a long way from the original tiny attic space office. “We have 230 employees and are continuing to hire in all of our regions,” shares Stanworth. “We have 13 offices throughout the U.S., including Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.”
With such a wide geographic reach, the company has worked in 48 states. “We focus on three major markets,” says Stanworth. “Those include commercial and retail, as well as public infrastructure, including federal, state and municipalities and energy such as oil, gas and electrical transmission.”
BL Companies’ employee-owners are committed to 100 percent client satisfaction. “Dedicated to total client satisfaction, our success is founded in our employee-owners and a culture that inspires, challenges and insists on nothing short of professional excellence,” BL Companies’ website reads.
Stanworth is proud to note that every employee is an owner and the ownership behavior helps BL Companies share in success and problem-solving. “This is for the benefit of everyone and this is really important to us,” she reveals. However, BL Companies wouldn’t be able to execute the logistical aspects of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) without the support of a trusted legal adviser.
“As BL Companies’ ESOP matures, it is faced with new challenges,” shares Tabitha Croscut, managing shareholder of Steiker Fischer Edwards & Greenapple (SFE&G), BL Companies’ ESOP management partner. “SFE&G is pleased to provide ESOP legal expertise and guidance in partnership with the management team at BL Companies to ensure the sustainability and success of the company and its employee-owners.”
Stanworth says BL Companies’ employee ownership fosters a team spirit unlike any other. “We’ve been an ESOP since 2006, and just moved from 80 percent to 100 percent ESOP in 2011,” reveals Stanworth. “The employee ownership really contributes to an overall company culture and collaborative approach of working together and serving our clients. Employee-owned, client-driven says it all.”
One of BL Companies’ premier recent projects is a compilation of the company’s collective spirit and diversified service. “The Storrs Center in Mansfield, Conn., is a mixed-use village and public private partnership between The University of Connecticut [UCONN], town of Mansfield and lead developer Leyland Alliance teamed with Education Realty Trust [EDR],” notes Stanworth. “The 45-acre green project consists of 1 million square feet of new construction, from restaurants and cafes to housing, town greens and open spaces. The project basically created a main street experience where there was none. It’s a great development for residents, the university and surrounding area. The project won multiple awards and really highlights all of our design services at BL Companies.”
BL Companies has also won numerous educational design awards for its work at the Meeting House Hill School, the Davis Street Arts and Academics School and the Mary M. Hooker Environmental Sciences Magnet School.
“These are the kind of projects that get a lot of attention, but we also do so much more,” shares Stanworth. “For instance, we recently finished the Science Park Parking Garage in New Haven for Winstanley Enterprises to support Yale University as a major tenant. This anchor project supports the university’s expansion and has won multiple awards, because it doesn’t look like a standard garage; it becomes an extension of the existing streetscape and complements the existing neighborhood.”
BL Companies also has extensive commercial and retail experience. The company has worked in partnership with Whole Foods Market on numerous stores, with the most recent opening in Darien, Conn.
“We’re currently working on a hallmark store in Brooklyn,” notes Stanworth. “The Brooklyn location has presented the unique challenges of working in the city, such as spatial constraints and site permitting. The Brooklyn store is targeting LEED Platinum certification, and is scheduled to open later this year.”
Another example of the kind of projects BL Companies is involved with include the design and construction administration services for the renovation and redevelopment of Connecticut’s 23 highway services plazas along Interstate I-95, Interstate I-395 and Route 15 (Merritt Parkway). The project began in 2009 and will continue through 2015.
BL Companies continues to add to a long list of awards and recognitions, including the Zweig Letter 2013 Hot Firms List, the Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, as well as the 2013 Hartford Business Champions award.
“When we won the best workforce category for the Hartford Business Champions award, I think that was my proudest moment,” admits Stanworth. “I think the award is consistent with BL Companies’ employee ownership and the pride we have in it.”
From the East Coast to the southwest, BL Companies never ceases to deliver comprehensive service with a team of the most dedicated professionals in the business.
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