When asked what design firm Stantec does, Jason Leadingham says to look around — you’ll likely see examples of its work in office buildings, bridges or the expanding network of natural gas production in Western Pennsylvania.
“We design communities,” said Leadingham, 40, of North Strabane, director of the U.S. oil and gas pipeline office that Edmonton-based Stantec has established in Cecil. “Anything that is built.”
A team of engineers, architects and others led by Leadingham last month moved into an office at Southpointe, ground zero for companies working in the Marcellus shale and a hub for Stantec’s engineering and environmental services for the oil and gas industry.
The company doubled its Washington County staff during the past two years to 56 as it looks to expand its presence in the shale fields. The company has 480 employees at nine offices in Pennsylvania and 15,000 across North America.
“We’re focused here on pipeline development, building well pads and all the environmental services for that,” Leadingham said.
The move occurs at a tough time for some of Stantec’s neighbors in Cecil and potential clients. The lowest natural gas prices since 2012 and a six-year low for oil prices have slowed drilling and associated activity as producers cut capital budgets by 40 percent or more.
Analysts expect the pipeline sector to remain robust, though, because new pipes could ease the gas glut and boost prices by opening more markets.
Revenue in Stantec’s energy and resources line increased 12 percent last year to $1.1 billion; the company reported $164.5 million in profit last year, up from $146.2 million the year before.
Leadingham expects revenue in the pipelines unit to increase by 15 percent with the build-out, and his office is hiring engineers.
Part of Stantec’s growth has come from acquiring smaller companies, such as its 2012 purchase of Landmark Survey and Mapping, a Washington-based company that Leadingham founded. In 2010, Stantec bought Burt Hill, then Pittsburgh’s largest architectural firm.
Pulling resources from different companies locally and from its divisions in North America gives Stantec an advantage, said Craig Swope, a principal in the Southpointe office. It can provide an energy client all the services it needs to design a well pad or pipeline system, handle its environmental permits and studies, and oversee construction of related infrastructure, he said.
“For example, all of these oil and gas companies have needs for folks doing bridges and roads,” Swope, 37, of Cecil said about building access across Western Pennsylvania farmland and hills to well pads and pipeline sites. “There’s a lot of different disciplines that come into oil and gas. Stantec can provide a fully integrated package.”
Its staff can handle specialized issues that large projects can encounter without needing to subcontract consultants, including dealing with protected habitats and species such as the Indiana bat in Ohio, Leadingham said.
Clients working in Appalachia include Blue Racer Midstream, which is building systems to connect the growing gas fields in the Utica shale in Ohio to transmission pipelines. Stantec helped Dallas-based Blue Racer with its Guernsey to Lewis Ohio Pipeline, which included crossing several delicate streams.
Blue Racer CEO Jack Lafield called Stantec “a key partner in providing routing, survey, and environmental assistance to many of the new projects that Blue Racer Midstream has undertaken.”
Leadingham said his office looks at working with a client as “teaming” with the company during a project. Recruiting local talent and acquiring local companies allow companies here to work with Western Pennsylvanians, he said.
The company encourages staff to get involved in the community. The Washington County staff has done park cleanups, participates in the Muscle Walk for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and supports Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.
“We like to give our clients a smaller office feel, but with 15,000 employees behind us,” Swope said.
This article was written by DAVID CONTI from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.