A Bangor firm that has played a behind-the-scenes engineering and surveying role in several major projects in the region acquired three out-of-state companies this fall. This expands the company’s footprint to four states outside of Maine — Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Florida.
Haley Ward offers a range of engineering, environmental and surveying services. The company has seen significant growth over the past few years and is anticipating more — both in and outside of Maine — in the coming year following its latest acquisitions, according to President and CEO Denis St. Peter.
In September, Haley Ward purchased Lenard Engineering Inc., an engineering and environmental firm headquartered in Glastonbury, Connecticut, with offices in Winsted, Connecticut, and Auburn, Massachusetts. The acquisition marked Haley Ward’s first establishments in Connecticut.
The company then acquired The MilCor Group Inc. a woman-owned engineering firm with offices in Port St. Lucie and Hobe Sound, Florida, the following month. The purchase gave Haley Ward more locations in Florida, joining its existing office in Fort Myers, Florida.
And in November, Haley Ward purchased Ambit Engineering Inc., a civil engineering and land surveying company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, giving the company its first New Hampshire location.
Haley Ward welcomed 42 total employees through the three purchases, adding to the firm’s roughly 100 employees in Maine.
Locally, the company has done engineering work on efforts to restart the waste processing plant in Hampden that has been dormant for more than two years and the pending expansion of Penobscot County Jail. It also conducts PFAS sampling and analysis work for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which has had to greatly expand its testing for the chemicals linked to a range of health problems, according to Travis Noyes, Haley Ward’s chief operating officer.
The latest growth follows Haley Ward’s move to downtown Bangor two years ago after it outgrew its previous location in Brewer. The company also changed its name from CES Inc. to Haley Ward after acquiring a Massachusetts-based engineering firm named Haley Ward.
This wave of acquisitions is the company’s latest push to grow its geographic footprint — a mission it began around the 2008 recession, St. Peter said. At the time, Haley Ward was centered north of Waterville, but it slowly started buying smaller companies in more populated areas in southern Maine, first in Lewiston, then Saco and Portland.
“The strategy of geographic expansion works, so we wanted to keep going,” St. Peter said. “We’re still looking in Maine, and there are companies that we’re talking to. My guess is that we’ll probably acquire another Maine company within three to six months of next year.”
Haley Ward typically purchases smaller companies in which the owner is nearing retirement age and wants to see the business continue, but employees are unable or unwilling to buy shares, Noyes said.
“The one key takeaway of every acquisition is that the owner’s goal and ours is the same — they don’t want their employees to not have a home,” Noyes said. “We don’t come in, acquire a company, then try to downsize and streamline things. We find a home for their employees. Even if they don’t necessarily fit, we’ll find a fit for them.”
As the company expands, St. Peter said it’s becoming more widely known, and sometimes recommendations for new businesses to acquire come to Haley Ward through word of mouth.
“We’re getting more and more known outside Maine and seller brokers know us,” St. Peter said. “We want them to know who we are and what we’re looking for.”
Though Haley Ward has and will continue to buy other companies, St. Peter said the percentage of its growth that comes from the expansion of its existing business and from acquisitions is about even. This is because smaller companies Haley Ward purchases often need more employees but don’t have the resources to hire them. Haley Ward provides the resources of a larger firm.
“A lot of these firms need one or two people and we can hire them and put them wherever they’d like to be,” Noyes said. “Seeing that snowball effect is the exciting part for me.”
As the company continues to expand its reach and offerings, Noyes said the main challenge remains operating like a smaller company.
“We all grew up in a small company, and bureaucracy is something we don’t appreciate and don’t want,” Noyes said. “Growth will be constant, so I think the challenge for us moving forward is continuing that growth with limited bureaucracy but efficient operation is a challenge.”