The dog days of summer are here, and for Practice Matters readers this means one thing: It’s time for the release of RECORD’s Top 250 Firms list. For the uninitiated, the list ranks firms according to last year’s revenue, as reported to our sister publication Engineering News-Record.
Last July we marveled at the fact that while the recession was already well under way during 2008, total revenue for the profession was up 9 percent, from $11.5 billion to $12.5 billion. Waiting to find out how much revenue would decline as projects were cancelled and backlogged work ran out has been a bit like watching a fat man start a swan dive off the high board: You want to avert your eyes so as not to see what happens when his flabby midsection smacks the water, but you look on and hope for a graceful landing. It would have been better to turn away. The combined revenue for the Top 250 firms in 2009 totalled $10.2 billion (B), $2B less than the year before. As difficult as it is to comprehend the evaporation of so much money from the profession’s income stream, growth over the past half-decade was phenomenal, and undoubtedly unsustainable. In 2005, income for the largest 25 firms on the list was $3.3B. By the end of 2008, that had increased a whopping 94 percent, to $6.4B. In any industry that would be a huge gain. In 2009, their income declined to $5.1B.