By Ryan Lynch Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal
Jim Walsh, the new president of Orlando-based Universal Engineering Sciences Inc., plans to continue the growth his company already has created.
His new role comes in at a time when the company has made five acquisitions in the past 18 months. Walsh told Orlando Business Journal he expects the firm to continue to grow as it potentially completes four to five acquisitions this year.
Not only that, but the company has 19 open positions in Orlando it plans to fill.
Walsh's most recent role was as COO with Schaumburg, Illinois-based Degree-One, an HVAC, refrigeration and food equipment services company. He also previously worked at WBG Consulting and AECOM Technology Corp. (NYSE: AEC).
Here, Walsh discusses the opportunities and challenges he expects to face in his new role, his biggest pandemic takeaways and more:
Where do you see opportunities for growth in Orlando? There are plenty of opportunities to grow here. Orlando itself is a massively expanding area, and as it continues to grow, both commercial and residential buildings will expand. FDOT continues to be a compelling customer. I don’t see it ending anytime soon for us. I’m hopeful once Covid goes its course, tourism will tick back up and we will see an influx of spending that might drive some projects for us in hotels, transportation and commercial space. The housing boom down here is massive and we've just started to scratch the surface in Orlando.
What challenges do you see for your company this year? We haven't felt a massive impact from Covid, but we have noticed some of the leisure and hospitality industries have started to slow down projects, so that does affect us. We have seen a few delays. In Florida, the government has stayed open, which has been a positive for us and for the country. In Florida, I’m not as concerned as some of the other states. Some municipalities may struggle, and they do drive a bit of work for us. The other headwind is finding the right talent.
What's your economic outlook? Covid hasn’t washed all the way through the economy. I think we’ll have an economic tail that’s probably going to stay with us another nine to 12 months. It will take a while to get this thing worked through economically.
What are you biggest takeaways from the pandemic? Our safety programs will need to continue on. What this virus did teach most people is we were not socially or economically prepared. That was kind of a shock to the whole country, and being a business that resides here, we have learned a lot from that. There are a lot of positives in some of the procedures we put in place with the protective equipment, notifications and safety programs that we can pull should we ever need to.
Where are you expecting to see new project growth? I think we will get a liquidity infusion into the economy that will make money cheap and projects will continue to move forward. Some projects might get delayed. In a civil space, if you look across the U.S., our infrastructure is getting older and we are in dire need of some infrastructure investments, if we can get some of that stuff pushed through from the federal government down to the states. The population shift from the cold weather states and from the coasts to the south, I don’t see that slowing down with boomers retiring. I see that increasing as people look for cheaper places to live. Those are the two dynamics helping to drive business.
What segments is your company looking at for acquisitions? We expect to acquire about the same number of companies this year that we did last year. Our plan calls for a large chunk of acquisition. We probably will continue in our core space of geotechnical, construction inspection, construction services and environmental testing. I don’t see us expanding out of our five core service lines.