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Our Geographic Reach Expands – Houston highway the latest in a series of out of province work invitations

Tim Blackburn, who works out of our Kelowna office, recently celebrated his 21st work anniversary. He smiles as he reminisces about the company’s early days when founders would sit in small town municipal halls intent on getting new job opportunities and reflects that from those humble beginnings, the Urban Systems perspective and geographic reach has matured in many ways.

Tim and his team are currently completing the highway and drainage design for the bid engineering phase of the 54-mile Grand Parkway P3 (public private partnership) project in Houston, Texas. The multi-national design team has members from the US, Canada and Spain, and Urban Systems has the role of Segment Lead for approximately 25% of the corridor. They were invited to participate in this billion dollar capital project after turning some heads with good work on the Highway 407 project in Toronto.

Tim says that the trend of getting invitations to work on bigger projects outside the province is not just growing on the transportation side, but also in the company’s Indigenous Communities practice, where there has been recent work in Ontario and the Maritimes.

“It feels good to be spreading our wings on a geographic scale. At Urban there is a consistent thread of humility underpinning everything, but there is also an ever-growing level of confidence and capability—the company is learning to be humble and global at the same time,” says Tim.

A Busy Five Years

FeaturedImageOur growth in the transportation field has been a steady a process that started over 20 years ago. Over that timespan the team has been slowly nurturing client relationships and building experience, credibility and reputation—one successful project at a time.

On the transportation side of things, over the last five years, that solid foundation has stared to pay off in a number of interesting ways, starting with involvement in the Sea to Sky Highway P3 project, which at the time was the biggest project going on in BC. After our successful participation in that project, they went on to work on the Fraser Perimeter Road P3, and then on the Port Mann Highway 1 P3 project.

“It’s been a progression,” says Tim. “We were fortunate to be invited to participate in all those projects, but we also earned our invitations, which is the important thing. More recently we’ve built on our local success and taken steps outside of BC into Ontario and have been pursuing projects in Montreal, Winnipeg and we are working on a P3 project in Regina at the moment.”

When asked what he sees on the horizon for Urban Systems, Tim takes a balanced approach and says he believes that it’s about finding the sweet spot between having aspirations for growth and being concerned about what the implications might be.

“My colleague and key collaborator, Trevor Towers, is instrumental to the success of our P3 practice. He’d like a map of the world up at the office so that we can put pins in everywhere we’re working. I share his enthusiasm to look for opportunities and to not be bound by geography, but I’m also concerned about protecting the things that made us successful – scale, in this case, might not be a good thing. One of the great things about this company is that we’re not so big that we have to go through layers of bureaucracy—we’re nimble and familiar with each other. We have a measured level of willingness to open the windows a little bit and to consider bigger opportunities.”

“One of the great things about this company is that we’re not so big that we have to go through layers of bureaucracy—we’re nimble and familiar with each other.”

This is a mindset that works for the team. They feel inspired and engaged in their work both within and outside of BC, and they’re having fun.

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