HR Green Celebrates 110 Years!
Founded in 1913, HR Green is one of the nation’s longest-operating engineering and consulting firms.
The anniversary of HR Green is celebrated on March 10 each year. In 2023, we are thrilled to mark 110 years in continuous operation. This is a distinction few other consulting firms can claim. The firm has triumphed through good times and bad: from pandemics, wars, and recessions to strong economies, growth, and celebrations. Throughout the history of the firm, we have never forgotten our basic responsibility to deliver the right results for our clients and each other.
In honor of this milestone, this blog contains some fun facts about the company and takes a step back through history by way of music, linking to a Spotify playlist containing a few of the top hits from each decade that the company has been in operation. The evolution of the company is mimicked through this evolution of music. Enjoy this walk down memory lane, and Happy Founders Day, HR Green!
- Marion Harris “After You’ve Gone”
- Al Jolson “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)”
- American Quartet “Moonlight Bay”
The company was founded in 1913, a decade characterized by a slow but steady modernizing trend. The company’s first design project was the west seawall of the Red Cedar River, and the client was the Cedar Rapids River Front Commission. In March 1916, Engineering News wrote an article on the project entitled “Large River Wall of Unusual Design in Cedar Rapids.”
- Isham Jones “It Had to Be You”
- Gene Austin “My Blue Heaven”
- Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues”
The 1920s was a decade of prosperity in the US. At HR Green, the postwar spurt of public works construction had lifted the company to the point where it was now handling a million dollars’ worth of business each year. The State of Iowa’s first comprehensive county highway program was prepared by HR Green during this decade. Additionally, a significant contribution to the civil engineering industry was made when cities and towns “got their first good water and indoor plumbing through the company’s efforts” in sewage treatment.
- Judy Garland “Over the Rainbow”
- Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All the Time)”
- Fred Astaire with Johnny Green “The Way You Look Tonight”
The 1930s was certainly defined by a global economic and political crisis. At HR Green, pioneering strategies such as sewer rentals and proposing tax credits for property owners who would pave their streets were some of the innovative ideas developed by the firm. Early “business development” strategies were employed as well as the company’s leaders traveled to small towns to meet with city councils, convincing them to hire the firm to design needed projects on a cost-only basis. This meant that as soon as funds became available, the firm would supervise construction. This kept the firm busy for many years to come and meant that by the end of the decade, the firm had established a notable reputation.
- Les Brown with Doris Day “Sentimental Journey”
- Duke Ellington “Take the ‘A’ Train”
- Dooley Wilson “As Time Goes By”
A decade of War and Peace characterizes the 1940s. Late in 1940, the national engineering societies were asked by the government to request from their membership a complete record of personnel, experience, and facilities. HR Green complied, and six months later, the first call came, and a relationship began with the US Government. The firm’s dedication was an instrumental part of the war effort, and the ability to tackle huge projects with speed and accuracy expanded the firm’s influence throughout four states. All told, the total cost of War Department assignments during this decade topped $100 million.
- Bill Haley & His Comets “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock”
- Elvis Presley “Don’t Be Cruel”
- Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode”
In a decade marked by the post-World War II boom, HR Green found the civil engineering industry expanding so broadly that it became impossible for a single individual to become proficient in every aspect of its divisions or branches. And so began the specialization within the firm, bringing a team of individuals with specific expertise to realize client success. The scope of the company’s projects expanded greatly during this period to include airports and reservoirs, bridges to warehouses, libraries to electric substations, and factories to wells. Now very well known for water/wastewater services, the firm completed specifications for 30 water treatment projects, 33 sewage treatment plants, and 52 sanitary sewer projects in Iowa alone in the late 1950s.
- Aretha Franklin “Respect”
- Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”
- Otis Redding “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”
Preserving the environment emerged as a major trend in the 1960s and, along with growth in transportation, created untold business for the engineering industry. The 50th anniversary of HR Green was celebrated in 1963; the firm now growing into a multimillion-dollar corporation. By 1969 the whole country was in a mad dash to clean up the environment, and the firm joined in the search for new and better methods of delivering a pollution-free environment. The question of environmental impact became the cornerstone for every new project undertaken.
- Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”
- John Lennon “Imagine”
- Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
The 1970s were known as a tumultuous time, but engineering had gained new respect as the US flung itself into the technological race. Vast changes confronted the firm – changes in governmental regulations, technology, and methods of doing business. With the establishment of the EPA in 1970, the company’s water and wastewater services were again in high demand, and environmental engineering took hold. This decade also set the firm’s trajectory toward geographic expansion. The projects undertaken in the 1970s would ultimately take the company into neighboring states and beyond. Notably, this decade also ushered in the emergence of marketing as a discipline for engineering firms.
- Joan Jett & the Blackhearts “I Love Rock and Roll”
- Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer”
- Van Halen “Jump”
The 1980s’ economic times forced the firm to seek new ways to find additional business. Marketing became a key strategy for growth as well as branching out to four new office locations. Additionally, the need to grow and diversify to maintain a competitive edge became apparent, and the firm added electrical engineering to its portfolio and expanded its private industry services.
- Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- Oasis “Wonderwall”
- U2 “One”
In many ways, the 1990s were a breakout decade for HR Green. By 1995, the firm appeared – for the first time – on ENR’s list of the Top 500 Design firms in the US. The firm opened offices in South Dakota as Sioux Falls was named the “Best City in America” by Money magazine. The company completed progressively large projects, including major infrastructure renovation like interstate interchange design, and focused on its brand as an employer, recognizing that recruiting and retaining staff was one of the most crucial success factors for the firm. An acquisition in St. Paul in the late 1990s brought the company to Minnesota as well.
- Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”
- Rihanna with Jay-Z “Umbrella”
- OutKast “Hey Ya!”
The start of the 21st century saw HR Green looking for new opportunities to grow stronger, not just older. Maintaining a spirit of progress and innovation was an essential aspect of the firm’s culture. Between 2001 and 2009, the company opened new offices in Missouri, Illinois, and Texas and positioned itself for major transportation work, including at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, where the firm still works today. An acquisition in northern Illinois further diversified services, bringing Land Development into the fold. Another acquisition in Houston brought HR Green to the country’s fourth-largest city.
- Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
- B.o.B. “Airplanes”
- Pharrell Williams “Happy”
The 2010s were a prosperous decade for the economy, fueled by strong growth and increased investment in infrastructure. Exciting expansion continued for HR Green in this decade, with the firm opening offices in Denver, Colorado, and Southern California. An opportunity to provide innovative services presented itself in California, and the firm’s governmental services business sprang into action to provide staff augmentation and consulting services, growing scalable solutions tailored to fit clients’ needs. Always focused on differentiating and defining its purpose, the company developed its mission statement: Building Communities. Improving Lives. during this decade, and it has been a unifying statement for employees and clients alike.
- Chris Stapleton “Starting Over”
- Maren Morris “The Bones”
- Olivia Rodrigo “Drivers License”
In 2023, the firm celebrates 110 years of continuous operation. From humble beginnings to a staff of over 600 professionals, the firm continues to innovate, expanding to offer services in engineering, geospatial, governmental, planning, fiber and broadband, and land development. Already this decade, the firm expanded in the Dallas and Austin, Texas metros, through organic and acquisitive growth; in the Coachella Valley in California, in central Illinois; and in Colorado Springs, Colorado.