The Engineers and Constructors Who Build Relationships

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors

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Headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors was founded in 1995 by Ralph Hargrove, who remains the President and CEO to this day. The award-winning firm specializes in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), as well as project management, controls and automation, and technical services for the processing, manufacturing, and energy industries.
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Hargrove, which began with just one man and his idea to fill a much needed market niche, now holds offices in ten locations throughout the South, and one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hargrove started undergoing double-digit growth on a percentage basis almost each and every year since 2003, when it employed about 40 teammates. Today, the company employs over 1,400. Vice President of Construction Management Jason Crain, PE, tells Construction in Focus that the turning point for the business was when Ralph A. Hargrove opened up partnership to other teammates.

“We find that when people want to have ownership financially in something, they are more likely to stay and are going to give it their all because they see the benefit of their efforts,” he explains.

Crain says that being a 100 percent employee-owned company gives Hargrove a competitive advantage that helps attract clients over its competitors—but its real core focus is on building that business-client relationship. 95 percent of Hargrove’s revenue, in fact, is from repeat business. “Once clients discover Hargrove, they don’t look elsewhere,” he notes.

“It’s not just about winning a project, but satisfying a client to the point where they want to give us the next project, and the one after that,” says Crain.

But even throughout this ongoing period of exponential growth, the agile company has still retained its early customer base from the days when the business took on much smaller scale work. Leadership saw the need for specialized technical services and positioned the company to provide support and quick turnaround for small projects largely ignored by other firms.

To this day, Hargrove will not turn away such projects.

“Ralph A. Hargrove had a background embedded in a plant environment and was a field-based teammate for his previous employer prior to starting the company. He was focused on small maintenance projects to keep plants up and running, and serving that small project sector of the heavy industrial client base in the Mobile area,” Crain explains. “As our team started to grow in size, we started doing larger and larger jobs, leading to more recruiting and hiring for bigger projects. But we’ve never left that client base. And we’ve never left the idea of being responsive to the immediate needs of a client, whether it be for a small project or a large project.”

Hargrove Engineers + Constructors specializes in turnkey EPC projects, taking excellent care of its customers by providing them with one point of contact for the entire project, while the company takes responsibility for delivering all aspects of the project and keeping the client up to date with accurate reporting.

“We design the systems, we inspect the equipment and materials, we purchase them, and we hire construction contractors to install all of those things, check out the systems, and turn it over to the owner to operate. It’s a lot riskier because of all of those things that have to be coordinated and executed, but when you put the right people on those teams, we’ve been successful in delivering those projects,” says Crain.

Hargrove assesses each individual customer’s needs and tailors the EPC project to fit, relying on its own construction management team, procurement, safety, and quality specialists, and network of construction partnerships. In doing so, Hargrove offers customers cost control, faster turnaround, and peace of mind.

“They’re exciting projects. They aren’t easy projects, because so much is involved. But they are rewarding when you have a happy client and a happy plant,” adds Crain.

At the moment, Hargrove is actively executing a handful of these EPC projects, the largest being a distributed control system (DCS) migration project. “We’re changing out transmitters in the field, putting in wiring and foundations for small equipment in to the distributor’s control system, and doing all of that while they’re running. Any problems could shut down their whole plant!” Crain remarks.

But those who choose Hargrove can find comfort in the fact that the engineering and construction company has earned industry recognition for its expertise, including its dedication to safety. The firm has consistently been awarded The Alabama Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Safety Excellence Award, and last year was named by the Control Systems Integrator Association (CSIA) as Integrator of the Year. Hargrove was recently named No. 73 Top Design Firm based on revenue by ENR Magazine as well as No. 3 in the chemical industry, No. 8 in Pharmaceuticals, No. 4 in Pulp and Paper, No. 15 in Fossil Fuel, and No. 11 in Refineries and Petrochemical Plants in the ENR Sourcebook.

Each teammate is expected to perform a hazard analysis and report unusual hazards that they identify when visiting a customer’s site, while adhering to any site-specific rules that the customer requires. Safety consciousness is also implemented at the design stage, where Hargrove ensures that the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Environmental Protection Agency rules are integrated into its designs.

Evidence of the company’s commitment to its ethics is revealed through its practices, the way it treats its customers and teammates, and its efforts to give back to the community.

In 2014, Hargrove launched the Hargrove Foundation, a non-profit entity that contributes to various charities in the communities in which Hargrove holds offices. Every year, the Foundation holds a charity gala in the city of its headquarters in Mobile, Alabama. As an extension of the Foundation, in 2016 Hargrove created harGIVES (Hargrove Innovative Volunteer Engineering Services) to benefit the local community through volunteerism.

For their first project, Hargrove engineers and technical teammates designed a drivable, automated toy car that was retrofitted for a child with cerebral palsy, changing the life of one eleven-year-old girl, Emma Pablo. The story was featured by AL.com and FOX 10.

Through its HAT (Hargrove Adaptive Toy) project, harGIVES is fundraising to build these ride-on cars (called EMMAs, or Engineered Machine for Mobility and Access, named in honor of the first recipient) for more children in the future, as most mobility limited children don’t qualify for an insurance-provided electric wheelchair. The team is currently retrofitting ten cars designed to fit the individual needs of recipients.

Teammates are also welcome to contribute to The Hargrove Foundation as a part of their payroll deduction, and the company will match their generosity. If teammates are passionate about a particular cause or involved with another charity, they can request funding through the Foundation or recommend a volunteer project like the adaptive toy cars.

Giving back to the community is a key mission for Hargrove. “When people are considering joining Hargrove and they learn about that philanthropic aspect of the company, they really want to be a part of that,” Crain tells us.

While the firm is currently hiring as Hargrove continues its upward growth trend, the team envisions controlled growth rather than simply adding to the headcount. “We want growth that isn’t overly aggressive, so that we can continue to be flexible in the marketplace with our clients as we grow our team. We want to grow in our capabilities and the range of services we can offer. That may come along with adding additional members to our team, or having current members obtain certain certifications or undergo specialized training to allow us to offer a wider variety of services to our clients. EPC is one of those services that not all firms we compete with can do,” says Crain.

Because EPC projects require a lot of responsibility, Hargrove seeks out candidates with a strong sense of ethics and accountability before inviting them to join the Hargrove team. “We are very selective in regards to the individuals who we bring on the team. When we’re evaluating a potential new teammate, we make sure that we’re hiring the right person and not just the right professional skill set we need. This value of ours has led to a very low turnover rate over the years. Over a 12-month period we run an average of less than two percent turnover rate. In our industry that is quite low, and we’re very proud of that,” says Crain.

Above all, serving as “one team” with their clients’ best interests in mind is of chief importance at Hargrove Engineers + Constructors. Engineers, construction managers, and technical professionals who feel that Hargrove’s values speak to them and want to be part of a growing team that is well respected within the industry are welcome to apply at online at www.hargrove-epc.com/careers/.

“On literally every door of all of our offices, there’s a little plaque that says ‘One Team.’ That’s been largely why we’ve enjoyed success and growth over the years,” says Crain. “We function as an integrated, collaborative team. Even as we’ve grown over the years as much as we have, we continue to operate in that regard.”

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 19, 2019, 8:03 AM EDT