Dewberry seeks new services as engineering, architecture work slows

March 25, 2012

From reselling Amazon cloud services to partnering with an electric-car-charging station manufacturer, Fairfax-based professional services firm Dewberry, squeezed by the recession, is looking outside the box.

The company has a storied history; founded in 1956 in Arlington County by well-known business leader Sidney O. Dewberry, it had a hand in some of the most prominent development projects in the region, including the Dulles Toll Road and Tysons II. The company began with a specialty in land design and surveying but eventually expanded into other services, such as disaster assistance and hazardous materials management. In 2010, the 1,800-employee firm said it posted $300 million in revenue.

Now, Dewberry is again moving beyond its traditional portfolio of architecture, engineering and management services. In recent weeks, it has announced several new deals, including one with Amazon Web Services to resell the company’s products.

The agreement would allow Dewberry to help migrate data from client-owned computer servers to the cloud, where Amazon-owned and -maintained servers can host client data. Advocates of cloud computing say the shift can save space and money by pooling computing resources.

“You don’t usually hear Dewberry and Amazon in the same sentence,” Donald E. Stone Jr., Dewberry’s chief executive, said in an interview. “What we need are partners that have a high degree of expertise in a specific area.”

Dewberry has also teamed up with Shelton, Conn.-based Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems in an arrangement to offer easy installation of electric-vehicle-charging stations known as PEP stations. Stone said Dewberry will design the installation, including handling permitting, zoning and siting issues.

Dewberry’s clients, also constrained by shrinking budgets, increasingly want a single procurement source, said Stone, pushing Dewberry to expand its capabilities.

“What we’re trying to do is not sit back . . . and say, ‘Well, I’m just here to design,’ ” he said. “We have to be innovating with our clients.”

Still, he said that Dewberry is staying close to its core competencies. The company remains involved in some of the region’s most-watched development projects, including the Dulles rail project and the recently completed Intercounty Connector in Maryland.

“We’re not manufacturing or designing a car-charging station; we’re using our engineering skills to site it,” he said. “We could design a server farm, [but] we couldn’t operate it and we couldn’t host it.”

Kevin Culbert, a senior analyst at market research firm IBISWorld, said companies across the services industry are expanding into nontraditional lines of business.

In some cases, the recession has meant that “revenue streams that previously existed have dried up,” Culbert said. “You look for revenue streams that are actually still flowing.”

Because services firms generally work closely with their clients, they can often expand into lines of business they already know their customers might use.

Companies are “going after services that are just complementary to the ones that they already offer,” Culbert said. “If a client wants to have these car-charging stations in a parking garage that the engineering firm is already assigned to build . . . why not make that a service [and] why not offer that service to additional clients down the road?”

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