HNTB at 100: A celebration of service

June 2014 » Feature Articles » Firms in Focus
Employees are dedicating thousands of hours of service to the communities where they live and work.
Rob Slimp, P.E.

The Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center stands out as one of the crown jewels of the Dallas educational landscape. It is one of only a few high schools in the United States with an ethnically diverse population of high-achieving students. Its School of Science and Engineering (also known as the Science and Engineering Magnet) has earned numerous honors, including being ranked as the fourth best high school in the country by Newsweek magazine in 2010.

HNTB is honored to be engaged in a partnership with this fine school. Engineers from the firm’s Dallas area offices are teaming up with Townview students to introduce them to the architectural, engineering, and planning industry. Through hands-on activities and events, the program emphasizes the integration of academic and workplace activities that involve all aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Townview program is part of what HNTB is doing to celebrate its 100th year of operations. Our 60-plus offices throughout the U.S. have pledged to provide a minimum of 100 hours of service to their communities this year. In addition to what we are doing at Townview Magnet Center, these programs include a Future Library project in Chicago, rebuilding homes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, and feeding the hungry in Kansas City.


The HNTB Climbers team in Milwaukee raised more than $5,000 for the American Lung Association.

At HNTB, we feel that it is only natural to celebrate our centennial through community service. Indeed, community service is the driving force behind our company. Be it a highway, a bridge, a stadium, a transit system, an airport terminal, or water infrastructure, every project we engage in is designed to make a community a better place to live, work, and play.

And while these programs impact our communities, they also impact us. HNTB office leaders report that participation in community service is generating tremendous enthusiasm in our workplaces. We have designed special HNTB T-shirts for our employees to wear as they engage in these activities, and they wear them with pride.   

The roots of our community service philosophy can be discerned in a book we published in honor of our first 100 years in business entitled, “Being HNTB: The Story of HNTB.” The book opens with an anecdote about employees coming to work on Jan. 5, 2005, and finding glossy orange boxes on their desks. Inside the boxes were a pen, a coffee mug, a note pad, a “promise card,” a multifold booklet, and a letter from Chairman Harvey Hammond explaining what the package was all about: HNTB’s new vision and brand.


About 70 HNTB volunteers have been helping rebuild homes impacted by Hurricane Sandy, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and the Office of the Mayor of New York.

“Some people have accused us of aspiring too high,” the letter began, quoting lines often expressed by one of HNTB’s founders, Ernest Howard, more than 90 years earlier, “but we believe that ideals are like stars; you may not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like navigators at sea, you may be guided by them.”

Hammond wrote that the ideals to which Howard aspired — honesty in business, excellence in work, personal responsibility, and respect for others — had silently guided professionals at HNTB for generations, and that they had inspired him personally to reach higher in his career with the transportation design firm.

The promise cards asked employees to pledge six behaviors, including, “Collaborate with others to achieve the best outcome in any situation.” That kind of attitude not only produces the best business outcomes, it motivates companies and employees to engage in service to their communities.

I am proud to report some of the impressive results from our community service initiative. For example, in the Great Lakes region in only the first quarter, HNTB in Indiana had taken the lead with a total of 480.2 hours, averaging more than five hours per employee. Illinois was not far behind, with an average of 2.17 hours per employee and a total of 355.3 hours. Wisconsin held up the No. 3 spot with a total of 204.05 hours and employees averaging 1.57 hours. Next up was Michigan, averaging 1.52 hours per employee with a total of 113.7 hours. Not far behind was Ohio with a total of 102 hours and an average of 3 hours per employee. Minnesota logged a total of 14.4 hours.

In the case of the Townview Magnet Center in Dallas, our partnership enables us to help cultivate the future workforce of our industry. Every month, HNTB engineers engage students in a discussion of all aspects of project management. That includes issues related to design, structure, technology, the environment, urban planning, civil engineering, public involvement, sewer and drainage, and computer-assisted design and drafting.

All projects begin with a scope of work, a project schedule, a fictional budget, and a kick-off meeting. The final assignment requires students to prepare and present a PowerPoint or video presentation that documents their efforts throughout the project schedule.


HNTB employees from Minneapolis volunteered at a local food bank, Second Harvest Heartland.

Around the time this article was written, nearly 20 students at Townview were working with HNTB engineers on a real-life project — the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s South Oak Cliff Blue Line Extension. Some of the students’ recommendations may be used in the design of a new rail station. Thirteen HNTB engineers have volunteered their time for this project.

Other HNTB community service programs around the country include the following:

• Chicago — Our Chicago office has pledged to put in 100 hours of public service per quarter this year. In one project, six volunteers have been working with 15 students on a library rehabilitation project. The team must determine dimensions, size, a per-square-foot cost estimate, etc. All decisions must be explained and warranted based on the resources likely to be attracted to such a proposal in the given community. The mentors emphasize the importance of using materials, building techniques, and approaches that foster sustainability and energy efficiency. Other areas of emphasis include using the latest smart building and security technologies. Additional Chicago-area projects include helping students plan cities and introducing 9- to 13-year-old-girls to engineering and transportation careers. 

• New York and New Jersey — About 70 HNTB volunteers have been helping rebuild private homes impacted by Hurricane Sandy, in conjunction with Monmouth County Habitat for Humanity and North Ocean County Habitat for Humanity in New Jersey and the Office of the Mayor of New York.

HNTB employees staffed a water stop at the Trinity River Levee Run in Dallas.

• Kansas City — HNTB volunteers have helped feed the hungry by collecting two barrels of food weighing 304 pounds, which can supply 253 meals. The HNTB team also sorted food at the Harvesters Food Network’s warehouse. Paula Pratt, Harvesters’ director of community relations, said, “Harvesters could not begin to feed the many hungry people in our community without the ongoing support of our loyal corporate volunteers and donors like HNTB.” In addition, HNTB volunteers will help children plant bulbs in a park near our Kansas City office as part of Take Your Child to Work Day.

It is a humbling yet uplifting experience to be the CEO of a company whose employees give back so much to the communities in which they work and live. At HNTB, we will do everything in our power to foster this culture of giving back for another 100 years.

Rob Slimp, P.E., is CEO of HNTB hntb.com


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