Wilcox Associates: One of the nation’s fastest-growing firms

CADILLAC – What does it mean to be 26th on the “Top 50 Hot Firm” list? Ask Wilcox Associates Inc. (WAI), an engineering firm headquartered in Cadillac.

“It means we’re doing something right. And that trickles down to everyone,” said Roxanne Hunter, vice president of WAI.

The “Hot Firm” award, created by Boston-based management company ZweigWhite, honors architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting firms solely based on gross revenue for fiscal years 1998 and 1999. Just a month ago, WAI was presented with the award in Boston.

“It’s great to be recognized as one of the fastest-growing firms in the nation,” said WAI President/CEO Richard Wilcox.

Especially for a firm that is constantly growing and changing. The company began as a surveying firm in 1968 by then-President/CEO Jerry Wilcox, a former MDOT surveyor and father of both Wilcox and Hunter. A few years later, the senior Wilcox decided that instead of continually partnering with outside engineers on projects, he would expand his company to include engineering.

“It was a good opportunity to expand into that area,” Hunter said.

They started by working on subdivisions, private development and oil fields.

“From the start they had a good relationship with the oil companies,” said Hunter. “That grew into environmental issues around oil and gas exploration.”

In the 1980s, the firm did a lot of work in Environmental Services, including development of water and wastewater treatment systems and cleaning up hazardous waste sites. But the hazardous waste portion “dwindled as the funding of that dwindled,” Hunter said.

Although WAI no longer deals in “hard environmental” services, they still believe in being environmentally responsible.

“Anything we do–design a road, design a bridge–it’s environmentally friendly. A road shouldn’t be a big obtrusive thing in nature,” said Hunter.

And since over 50 percent of their business is transportation-related, they are constantly trying to balance new development with respect for the existing environment.

It’s something they deal with in all aspects of their business; whether it’s design, construction management or surveying–governmental or private.

And it’s part of their mission statement: “to provide quality, cost-effective consulting and environmental services for infrastructure and facilities to public and private clients primarily throughout Michigan with an ever-growing client base throughout the U.S. WAI commits to perform its services in a socially, ethically and environmentally responsible manner to the highest professional standards.”

This “ever-growing client base” includes corporations such as Ford, Chrysler and General Motors.

“We have a niche as one of the world’s premiere test track designers,” Hunter said.

Currently, they have offices in Caledonia, Alpena, Farmington Hills, Lansing and Phoenix. Plans for expansion include offices all over the Midwest, including Ohio, Illinois and Indiana.

“We really intend to be one of the leading Great Lakes firms,” said Hunter.

And they hope to continue to stand out as a “Hot Firm.”

“It always feels good to be recognized,” Hunter commented. “We’ve all done something special and we hope we keep staying on this list.” BN