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Bohannan Huston celebrates 60 years of engineering expertise

Bohannan Huston operates it own materials testing lab. Here tech Victor Losolla examines soil specimens at the lab as the company celebrates its 60 year anniversary. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As Albuquerque has grown, so has Bohannan Huston, a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in engineering, surveying, mapping and spatial data, along with advanced technologies.

The firm, headquartered in Journal Center, near Masthead and Jefferson NE, celebrated its 60th anniversary this summer.

During its six decades they have been a leader in projects that shape the city, the state and beyond.

Journal Center, the Very Large Array west of Socorro, Balloon Fiesta Park, Isotopes Park, the Paseo del Norte interchange reconstruction, the Albuquerque Regional Sports Complex, High Desert and other master-planned communities, the Nusenda Community Stadium on the Westside, the San Juan Chama Drinking Water Project, Cottonwood Mall and ABQ Uptown are some of the highlights of the company’s history, says Bruce Stidworthy, BHI president and CEO.

“It fits with our vision as a company to make long-term positive impacts on the communities we serve. We are willing to pursue challenging and complex projects and envision and implement solutions,” said Stidworthy of the diverse projects in BHI’s portfolio. “You move rivers and mountains and then you put them back again.”

Strategic partners

Bruce Stidworthy, CEO of Bohannan Huston talks about the materials testing lab as the company celebrates its 60 year anniversary. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

He stressed that the 200-employee company doesn’t do all the work on projects, but has strategic partners all through the process.

“We are one piece of the puzzle or sometimes more than one, but we (at BHI) are not the whole puzzle,” he explained. Stidworthy has been with the company 25 years.

Kerry Davis, the company’s chief financial officer, said over the years

Bohannan Huston has grown by “understanding our clients’ needs and helping them solve problems and accomplish their goals.”

That’s a tall order because the company takes on about 500 projects a year, said Davis, who has been with BHI for 36 years.

Like many area businesses the recession slowed its growth, but the company rebounded with more than $33.3 million in gross revenue for the 2019 fiscal year. And gross revenue is projected to exceed $36.3 million for fiscal year 2020, the highest amount since the recession, Davis said.

The privately-held company has 16 partners and has offices in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Denver.

For all their hard work they have been recognized for the past 20 years by Engineering News-Record, a national weekly magazine for the construction industry, as one of the top 500 engineering firms in the country.

Davis says the state Department of Transportation is the company’s single largest client.

Plaudits

Like all successful working partners, the respect goes both ways.

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Michael R. Sandoval said in an email, “The NMDOT appreciates our long standing partnership with BHI and the service they provide to our citizens.”

Software developer Leslie Small serves as BHI’s Chief Operations Officer and is responsible for the firm’s daily operations and overall project performance.

Small, who has been with the firm for 34 years, says it particularly gratifying to see software she created to solve problems for one project be used by another. For example the software she created for High Desert has been used in other subdivisions.

“See to me, it’s all about us being innovative. There aren’t many engineering firms where I would have worked. I like innovation.”

One recent innovation and relatively new venture for Bohannan Huston is a material testing lab on Corona NE.

In-house testing lab

Bohannan Huston lab manager Skylar DeWeese holds an asphalt specimen at the materials testing lab as the company celebrates its 60 year anniversary.

Lab manager Skylar DeWeese and his crew have been testing construction materials, like soil, asphalt, gravel and concrete to make sure that roadways, bridges and buildings stand the test of time and pressure. There are series of tests – heat, compression, agitation and even a scan to measure radioactivity to make sure the materials meet the project specifications, DeWeese explained on a tour.

Previously Bohannan Huston outsourced the testing. But bringing the materials testing in house “Was a logical extension of the services we provide,” Stidworthy said. “We would like to do the survey and data collection, the up-front design, inspection and materials testing.”

To honor the community support BHI has received over the past 60 years the company chose Habitat for Humanity as the charity to mark the anniversary with a team volunteer effort to give back.

Beth Goldman, director of resource development greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity, says she is grateful.

“I am ecstatic that Bohannan Huston chose Habitat to be their community partner for their 60th anniversary. The intense heat this month didn’t stop their team at all, they were out in full force helping to make homeownership a reality for two low-income families.”

A community partner

Over the years BHI has volunteered for many other nonprofits, including UNM Foundation School of Engineering Labs,

Albuquerque Community Foundation, American Red Cross and Albuquerque Animal Humane.

Jerry Bohannan started the company in 1959, after working for another civil engineering company for almost a decade.

Bohannan, 90, retired and sold his shares in the company in 1985, but he remembers the early days when Albuquerque’s population was less than 100,000.

He started the company with another civil engineer, Robert Stephenson, also an attorney, who left the company in 1962 to practice law.

Although he hired Larry Huston, who would later become a partner, in 1964, as a part-time draftsman, there were still dark days ahead for the company.

“In 1965 I was running the company by myself. I didn’t have any work or any work in sight. I promised my wife if I didn’t have any work by the end of the week, I would shut the doors and close the company.”

Almost toast

The tide turned by Wednesday, he said. Mountain Bell had a project to run phone lines from Raton to York Canyon and Vermijo Ranch.

“It was about 35 miles and a pretty good job,” Bohannan said. “I ran that job myself. From then on the company kept growing.”

“It turned out hiring Larry was a pretty big deal,” he remembered.

It changed Huston’s life too.

Huston had been surveying and mapping for the U.S. Forest Service when he started working for Bohannan part time.

After a few years, Bohannan offered him chance to have his own photogrammetry (using aerial and satellite photography to survey and map) business under the company umbrella.

“That lit me up pretty good,” Huston said.

Asphalt specimens from projects are seen at the materials testing lab. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Eventually the two business were integrated in the same company and Huston became CEO, he added.

Photogrammetry services expanded in the 1980s when BHI bought a VAX computer, one of the early models that could fill an entire suite of rooms. “We were the first VAX in the private sector. I was always interested in computers,” Huston said.

That allowed the company to do more satellite mapping.

At the company, “we’re proud of our honesty and integrity. We always took care of anything that went wrong without question. We treated our people well. We made sure they had the tools and training they needed. And we did good work.”

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