Tetra Tech builds it from the ground up

Kelly Dawson
May 8, 2018
12 min read
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There are more than 250 companies in our combined portfolios, and they are all making amazing advancements. From names you know, like Tesla, to those little gems you haven’t heard of yet, like Xylem, we want you to know all about what your holdings are up to. These ‘deep dives’ will help you understand what you’re invested into and how your dollars are making the world a better place.

Tetra Tech is part of our Clean Water portfolio.

  • For more than 50 years, Tetra Tech has been as a leading force in infrastructure ingenuity from its headquarters in Pasadena, California
  • The company saw a revenue of more than $2.7 billion last year, with more than $2 billion in government contracts for programs related to infrastructure management
  • It announced at the beginning of this year that USAID awarded it a $32 million contract to build water sanitation services in Uganda

There’s a word used a lot in politics these days that you’ve probably heard about. It’s a universal talking point and a rare bureaucratic term that lends itself well to imagery, a word so encompassing that it often comes with equally gargantuan numbers attached to it. That word is infrastructure. We acknowledge it in terms of national budgets and a longstanding crisis. We think about it as a mess of crumbling bridges and potholed roads, of subway closures and inefficient railroads.

In an essay in Popular Mechanics about the boom of building under President Franklin Roosevelt, writer Matt Blitz describes that historic level of industry as a foil to today’s grim setting.

“America's arteries of transportation, responsible for the lifeblood of our economy and way of life, are crumbling,” he wrote. “Years of neglect, political gamesmanship, short-sightedness, economic tightening, and budgetary indecision threaten the accomplishments of a generation of hard-working Americans — from the smallest roads to the largest dams.”

It’s a dire perspective, and one that makes the word such a common aspect of political conversation. But talk isn’t strictly sad. In fact, from Tetra Tech’s perspective, there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.

For more than 50 years, Tetra Tech has been as a leading force in infrastructure ingenuity from its headquarters in Pasadena, California. In 2016 alone, it worked on 60,000 individual projects in more than 100 countries, ranging from initiatives around clean water, environmental protection, energy production, natural resource generation, mining systems, and of course, infrastructure. It oversees the full cycle of a project, from the consultation and design of a structure to its construction and maintenance. And its biggest successes have to do with its longstanding knowledge around water — an aspect of infrastructure that can be overlooked.

As we learn about Tetra Tech’s past and present, we’ll also uncover how this revolutionary company is working to instill a sense of pride in infrastructure here and abroad. That isn’t an easy task, but this company is attempting to make the future of building bright.

If you build it

Long before Tetra Tech was an established name with more than 400 offices and 15,000 employees, it was nothing but a name founded by four people in 1966. At the time, the small team had as many principles as employees. They wanted to provide engineering services to coastal architecture (waterways and harbors, for instance), analyze those systems for best practices, research and develop new ways to provide clean water to communities, and work on geophysics. Simple, yet impactful.

In its first few years, Tetra Tech established itself by providing support to those Los Angeles-area coastal structures, while also working around projects concerning oil and gas. And the best client for its early success happened to be the Department of Defense: Tetra Tech worked with the government to oversee offshore military projects, which included building the first remote-control submarine.

By the next decade, the company went public. It also expanded its water-related services into developing ways to predict the frequency and impact of floods, as well as looking into the causes and preventions of acid rain. And as if that weren’t enough, Tetra Tech was moving further into studying gas networks and oil production, including collecting data from Alaska’s North Slope. By 1982, its progress caught the eye of Honeywell, and the famed conglomerate bought the company to focus on its growing environmental engineering work. It was a big deal, but nevertheless, it didn’t last. Six years later, Honeywell sold the company back to its employees, and that’s when things really took off.

The following decades leading to and directly after the millennium are all about Tetra Tech hitting its stride. It acquired engineering firms that had a range of expertise in building needs, from water infrastructure to civil engineering and hazardous waste management to environmental protection. All the while, it kept its contracts with the government, which grew to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and partnered those projects with others in local communities and international companies. As it expanded globally with acquisitions in Australia, Canada, and Chile, it eventually saw its private and governmental worlds collide. It’s currently working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to build sustainable works abroad.

Tetra Tech has grown to quite a scope in its history. Its current client list can be summed up by its work with the U.S. government — federal, state, local, and commercial — as well as its growing roster of international projects. The company saw a revenue of more than $2.7 billion last year, and it saw more than $2 billion in government contracts for programs related to infrastructure management. That’s not bad for a business that started as a small team of four people, and it seems as though the company has even more it wants to accomplish.

All systems are go

At a time when infrastructure is a defining part of the national conversation, Tetra Tech is a behind-the-scenes advocate for support and future safety — especially after last year. In 2017, the country experienced 18 large natural disasters that created an estimate of $300 billion in damages. It would seem as though such destruction would come with an element of surprise, but Tetra Tech had been planning for this type of disaster relief for years. Thanks to its research and planning, the company was able to assist more than 100 clients in Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, and California with immediate response to disaster-related necessities. It also created plans for future protection.

And that’s just what the company is doing in its home country. It announced at the beginning of this year that USAID awarded it a $32 million contract to build water sanitation services in Uganda, which is a highlight amongst its infrastructure projects across Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. Since it began working with the USAID a decade ago, Tetra Tech has contributed more than $400 million in economic growth programs.

So what’s going to happen to American infrastructure in the years to come? Tetra Tech is working to repair this once highly-regarded system, and to do so in a way that respects the environment. It’s also helping to streamline newer productions, like solar energy, into regular use. Obviously, all of this repair and innovation doesn’t fall on the shoulders of one company. But Tetra Tech is already showing that it is ready to pull its weight.

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