James A. Fox, PE, CEO and Chairman

Message from the CEO


The 2017 Annual Report is overwhelmingly positive and provides a window into OBG’s strong culture, talented leadership and people, and tremendous drive for results.

We steadily built momentum as the year unfolded, making 2017 a year of growth—growth in terms of our clients, people, and performance. The year also was marked by significant progress in many of our business priorities that support future growth and performance, from communications and collaboration to talent management, innovation, and our branding, targeting, and sales initiatives.

We affirmed our commitment to results as we maintained a steadfast focus on our growth and augmented the complementary importance of our performance. With successful achievement of these interdependent areas in 2017, we are driven to sustain our progress through an equitable balance of leadership, resources, and priorities.

As expected, the successful integration of PENTA and NRT into the OBG culture, coupled with higher expectations for our growth and performance, required a high level of engagement with our people and clients. Engagement with our people, especially in areas of safety, career path development, talent management, content and communications, and adoption of our enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, supported successful implementation of our action plans and has set the expectation for higher levels of engagement to sustain our progress in 2018.

Within this report, you will see examples of meaningful engagement shared by our people and our clients, as well as highlights of thought leadership, innovative and integrated solutions, and our talented people who continue to strengthen our brand experience and enhance our culture.


Engagement with our clients resulted in stronger relationships and yielded exceptional business development performance as evidenced by the highest level of internal authorizations in OBG’s history. This performance fueled 18% growth over 2016, which is notable given that 2016 was the Company’s previous record year in authorizations. Our focus on client relationships and synergies generated from our organic, innovation, and acquisition investments will continue to drive growth.

Several notable projects that exemplify our innovative solutions and thought leadership and make a difference for our clients are worthy highlights from 2017.

In advanced manufacturing, we executed a highly complex, fast-track transformation of a major manufacturing facility into a state-of-the-art turbine blade production facility that leverages advanced technology to increase accuracy and efficiency.

In energy, we completed a new, $22 million central utility plant for a healthcare facility in the Northeast that provided $200,000 in energy cost savings.

In environment, we experienced significant growth of our contaminated sediment program, accelerated by the combination with NRT to support clients across the U.S. with unique, cost-effective approaches for remediating and restoring water bodies for long-term protection of human health and the environment.

And in water, we completed a multi-year study for a major urban city’s 144 million-gallon per day drinking water treatment plant with an innovative distribution system solution for a potential $100 million cost savings.


We made great progress in strengthening our unique people-oriented culture—from how our people perceive safety, to the significant vitality in our innovation activities and the celebration of our annual Exceptional Employee Awards.

Our biennial employee satisfaction survey was marked by our highest participation rate to date with valuable feedback that is already enhancing our people experience and culture.

To continue advancing our safety culture, we held our first company-wide Safety Stand Down Hour for all our people, empowering them to stop unsafe work.

We initiated an enterprise-wide talent management program to improve people engagement, development, and career planning and to better align individual aspirations with growth opportunities and future business needs.

And we established an Innovation Technology Committee as a subcommittee of OBG’s Board of Directors that is driving innovation across the Company through a diverse and talented group representing a cross section of businesses, expertise, and experience within the Company. We continued to expand our investments in viable business initiatives generated from our talented people and supported by our custom innovation process and development team.


We continued to enhance the connectivity of our strategic philanthropy program with our clients and brand experience initiatives, thought leadership, and innovation, focused on supporting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, wellness, and philanthropic priorities important to our clients, people, and communities.


Our strong financial results largely met our financial objectives in revenues, profitability, and balance sheet objectives. Internal revenues were up 19% over 2016 results, and gross operating income increased as well.

Once again it was especially gratifying to see all our brands and resource groups achieve financial performance objectives to make 2017 another true team achievement. The commitment and engagement of our people to manage the challenges of integration, while delivering a combination of growth and performance, demonstrates the strong capabilities of our collective talent and unique culture.


Last year marked the seventh year we completed our annual COPAC™ (checking our progress and adaptive changes) business planning cycle and recognized progress toward our strategic plan objectives. With the support of our COPAC™ process, which has evolved to be a competitive advantage for OBG, we continue to strengthen the resiliency of our company.

We take it upon ourselves to reflect on our progress over the past several years and to look forward to the next several. We understand that purposeful change is critical to keep pace with changes in our industry, economic and regulatory environment, client needs, and the acceleration of innovation. Against this canvas, we identify the opportunities to bring more value to our clients and distinguish the Company in a competitive landscape.

Last year, we tested the efficacy of an important component of our planning process driven by significant growth and succession leadership transition needs, and we are pleased by the significant progress in leadership development and planning, and the resulting identification and transition of strong leadership for the future.


As 2018 is my final year as CEO, I am extremely proud of the difference the Company has made for our clients, our people, our communities, and our shareholders. Leading this tremendous organization, setting its direction and principles for how we behave and engage with our clients, people, and communities has been an honor.

It has been a true team approach and a process of forging, shaping, and leveraging our unique culture and business. Along the way it has included, and resulted in, the best kind of succession planning—one based on an extended leadership team and Board, who share in our belief and sense of responsibility that preparing the Company for the future is a continual effort. My greatest aspiration in this transition of leadership and stewardship is that OBG is even more successful in the next decade. I am highly confident that our future leadership is deeply committed and well-prepared to serve in the best interest of our clients, people, communities, and shareholders.

Throughout this year, I’ll be working alongside Thomas A. (Tom) Nowlan, who as you now know is OBG’s CEO-elect and who will officially transition to CEO in 2019. We will begin the transition of strategic planning responsibilities early this year to allow for a smooth transition in the leadership of our business planning processes.

I also want to acknowledge the transition of Joseph M. (Joe) McNulty from Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer and recognize Joe for his tremendous service to OBG. Joe’s contributions are impossible to adequately capture here and extend far beyond traditional financial and corporate resources. His sense of humor, coupled with his sense of timing, have had a positive impact to those around him.

Succeeding Joe are Timothy J. (Tim) Barry—newly elected Chief Growth Officer, and Jeffrey S. (Jeff) Rogers—newly elected Chief Operating Officer. In addition, Brian E. White, newly elected Environment Brand Leader, is succeeding Tom Nowlan, and Kevin B. Bryant, newly elected Advanced Manufacturing Brand Leader, is succeeding Jeff Rogers. I wish these leaders all the best in their next chapters.

OBG’s shareholders should feel confident about the Company’s capacity to sustain growth and performance into 2018. With a strong strategic platform and talented leadership in place, OBG is well-positioned to become even stronger for future generations.

- James A. Fox, PE, CEO and Chairman

Client Satisfaction


In 2017, OBG had multiple Client Appreciation Events to celebrate its clients and partners across the country. In addition, people were recognized through OBG’s Client Service Award Program, which provides clients an opportunity to recognize employees for excellent service.

Celebrating with clients and partners at WasteExpo 2017 in New Orleans, LA; WaterJAM 2017 in Hampton, VA; Syracuse University Football Game Tailgate in Syracuse, NY; and Battelle 2017 Sediments Conference in New Orleans, LA (clockwise)

Corporate Social Responsibility


To support OBG’s mission of People creating a better future by making a difference each day, the Company continually strengthens its efforts of improving natural and built environments. In 2017, OBG’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program continued to build and enhance its alignment with the Company’s mission, vision, and values through thought leadership and innovation, focusing on its five pillars—STEM education; safety, health and wellness; community infrastructure and resilience; environmental stewardship; and philanthropic endeavors aligned with OBG clients.

OBG, together with its people, contributed more than a quarter million dollars and thousands of time and talent hours to support and strengthen communities.
Milwaukee Riverkeeper’s Annual Spring River Cleanup, Milwaukee, WI; Benefit Hockey Game for American Red Cross of Central New York and the Syracuse City School District, Syracuse, NY; Friends of the Chicago River – Chicago River Day, Chicago, IL
CNY Steamboat Challenge, Syracuse, NY; North Fulton Community Charities Annual Back to School Program, Atlanta, GA; Turkey Trot, Liverpool, NY
STEM Expo, Milwaukee, WI; Volunteers of America Operation Backpack Program, Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C.


As part of OBG’s CSR objective and commitment to developing and sustaining a best-in-class safety culture, the Company implemented the following safety initiatives in 2017:

A new version of OBG’s Safety Moments App added features like enhanced security and profile creation to provide safety information customized for users, at home or in the workplace. Since its original launch in 2012, the app has been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

OBG Safety Moments App for iPhone and Android
OBG's people present more than 21,000 safety moments per year—making the Company a top performer in the industry.

The first company-wide Safety Stand Down Hour brought people and clients together for an impactful presentation from a survivor of a workplace safety incident, and launched OBG’s Stop Unsafe Work initiative.

Safety Stand Down Hour, Philadelphia, PA; Safety Break, Syracuse, NY

Safety Ambassadors continued to promote and enhance OBG’s safety culture through safety leadership, awareness, and engagement and trained more than 300 people to be Site Safety Leaders as part of OBG’s Project Safety program.

OBG Safety Ambassador Annual Meeting

People Engagement


The 16th Exceptional Employee Awards program recognized six employees who live OBG’s values, support its mission, and go above and beyond in helping the Company achieve its vision.

From left to right: Michael Rondinelli, Jennifer Reymond, Robert Ganley, Daniel Gordon, Dru Baldwin, Sam Crisino
  • Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr. Corporate Social Responsibility Award – Michael Rondinelli, East Norriton, PA
  • Earl F. O’Brien Leadership Award – Samuel Crisino, East Norriton, PA
  • Edwin C. Tifft, Jr. Unwavering Employee Satisfaction & Spirit Award – Jennifer Reymond, Syracuse, NY
  • John R. Loveland Employee of the Year Award – Dru Baldwin, PE, West Norriton, PA
  • Russell L. Sutphen Client Satisfaction Award – Daniel Gordon, EIT, Lindenhurst, NY
  • Samuel W. Williams Engineering & Sustainable Financial Performance Award – Robert Ganley, PE, Syracuse, NY


OBG celebrated the contributions of its people throughout the year and during special events at each office.

Cookout celebrating employee achievements, Liverpool, NY; Halloween, Milwaukee, WI; Alma Mater Day, East Lansing, MI; National Wear Teal Day in Honor of Ovarian Cancer, Syracuse, NY (clockwise)


OBG started an enterprise-wide talent management program to improve people engagement, people development, and career planning. This program is helping to further build an environment where OBG’s greatest assets, its people, can be actively engaged in their work and their careers.

OBG Talent Managers


Growth and strategies for advancing OBG are cultivated and supported throughout the Company’s innovation ecosystem comprising a network of overlapping programs. Through these programs—from internally capturing ideas, advancing custom innovations, and holding an annual company-wide innovation competition, to externally sourcing open innovation and hosting SPARK Innovation Competitions at universities across the U.S.—OBG continually adapts to the future needs of stakeholders through creative thinking and successful execution.

In 2017, OBG continued to build the collective intelligence of its innovation ecosystem, encompassing all business systems and services, and enhanced the connectivity of its innovation plan to its growth strategy, thought leadership, and CSR program.

Leading with Diversity: Established an Innovation Technology Committee as a subcommittee of OBG’s Board of Directors that strategically drives innovation across the Company and represents varying expertise from across the Company.

Innovation Technology Committee (ITC); Kristin Waller, PE, a member of OBG’s ITC, spoke at the Company’s annual business planning meeting about building an innovation ecosystem across all enterprise systems

Creative Collaborations: Held two SPARK Innovation Competitions, connecting the innovative ideas of students with the Company’s thought leaders and academic and industry partners.

SPARK Innovation Competition, Syracuse, NY

SPARK competitions were held in New York and Pennsylvania with national universities and collaborative client engagement from top global companies such as Ashland Global Holdings, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ikea, Kodak, National Grid, and Merck.

More than 100 students participated in two SPARK competitions from Clarkson University, Drexel University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, Temple University, University of Rochester, and Villanova University.

SPARK Innovation Competition, Syracuse, NY

People Engagement: The fifth I-Factor Competition focused on leveraging innovation to enhance OBG’s growth and challenged people to develop ideas connected to commercial technology and internal process improvements for creating efficiencies.

I-Factor brought in 20 new ideas, with the winning team coming up with a unique idea for intelligent solutions with big data.
OBG’s 2017 I-Factor Competition awarded Meng Wang, PhD, PE and Piotr Domaszczynski, PhD for their idea: Intelligent Solutions with Big Data Analytics

Board of Directors

From left to right: Darek Letkiewicz, PE, David R. Wilkes, PE, BCEE; Nicholas M. Donofrio; Timothy J. Barry, PE; John F. Sutphen, JD; Brian E. White, PE; Joseph M. McNulty; James A. Fox, PE; Jeffrey S. Rogers, PE; Andy Seidel; James F. Lavelle; Thomas A. Nowlan, PE; Richard J. Keck

About OBG

Advanced Manufacturing. Energy. Environment. Water. For more than 75 years, OBG has specialized in engineering and problem solving, but the Company’s greatest strength is creating comprehensive, integrated solutions for its clients.

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