From the Family Basement to International Success
Resource International, Inc.
Resource International, Inc. (Rii) is an award-winning, family-run engineering and consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio that offers an amazing array of services.
“We’re not focused on just one service. Where we thrive, is when we get all of [our segments] involved … We’re very results-oriented [with] a focus on quality. There’s some clients that always come back to us for repeat work,” says Dane Redinger, director of construction services.
The main services rendered by Rii are civil engineering for municipalities and transportation departments as well as construction administration/engineering and inspection services, ground penetrating radar (GPR) and environmental services. It also offers information technology, asset management and pavement engineering, construction management, geotechnical/material engineering services and survey/mapping/subsurface utility engineering.
These categories barely give justice to the range of Rii’s work. The company can do everything from pavement design to stormwater management, fireproofing inspection, environmental compliance audits, wetland mitigation design, asbestos surveys, soil and rock drilling, customized software, roadway design, deep foundation design and bridge inspection. “There’s no other firm like us,” notes Redinger proudly.
The lion’s share of Resource’s work is for the public sector. The company regularly does projects for state and municipal transportation agencies, airport authorities and other government departments.
In addition to its head office, Resource has a laboratory facility in Columbus. The company also operates branches or labs in Cleveland and Cincinnati in Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. Rii has project offices in other locales, but these are not permanent facilities. Resource has taken on assignments across most of the United States, including bridges in California and New York State and roadways in Wyoming.
Rii has performed overseas as well in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Company Chief Executive Officer Farah Majidzadeh helped create an international joint venture, registered as the Highway Maintenance Associates (HMA), for jobs in Saudi Arabia. Companies involved in HMA came from the U.S, Greece and Saudi Arabia itself. HMA developed a cutting-edge highway maintenance management program for the Saudi government.
Vertical integration is one of the keys to Resource’s success. “We [often] act as support for other engineering firms, but we also do a lot of projects where we’re the lead consultants … it’s amazing how well our departments interact with each other. There’s a seamless transition from planning, engineering, design through construction,” says Redinger.
The company was incorporated August 21, 1973, by Farah Majidzadeh. She got the idea for the firm after accompanying her husband Kamran Majidzadeh, then a professor at Ohio State University, to a conference on pavement design in London, UK in 1972. At the conference, Farah became intrigued by non-destructive and non-intrusive pavement testing technology under development in Europe.
At the time, Kamran was doing research and experiments with cutting-edge pavement testing equipment, stored in his house. Inspired by the conference, Farah decided to market this equipment. In this manner, Resource International was born. The company focused mostly on nondestructive pavement testing in the beginning and was a one-person operation, run by Farah from the basement of her family home.
The firm grew “very slowly” recalls Kamran but now boasts around 160 to 170 employees during peak construction season. He attributes much of the company’s success to his wife, whom he describes as “a CEO, great leader, manager, with a vision and passion for her employees.”
Kamran Majidzadeh is currently the company president. Other family members work in construction management, technology, design and legal counsel at the firm.
Rii has very clear ideas about attributes it wants in new hires. “We’re always looking for the right people. If there’s someone that’s the best and brightest at what they do but they don’t fit our quality culture, we’d rather not have them,” says Redinger.
The company also puts a high value on loyalty. “We have a wall in our office where we have pictures of all the people who have been here twenty years. We’re slowly running out of room [for new pictures],” says Redinger, with a laugh.
One way Rii ensures loyalty is by promoting from within. “Some of the best people we have working here are the ones who are ‘homegrown’—who [worked their way up]. They started working in the field, either on a drill rig, in a laboratory or a construction project. And you’ll find a lot of the people on our twenty-year wall started off in [an entry-level] position and then moved up,” states Redinger.
Resource’s emphasis on quality is exemplified by the company’s ISO 9001:2008 certification for quality management systems. Rii has several other state and municipal, public and private sector certifications and registrations as well. “We’re an ISO 9001 certified firm, so all of our services adhere to a quality management system that started at the executive level and worked its way through all of our departments,” says Redinger.
He describes the firm as “very hands on. We bring in interns that are in engineering college. I feel that working as a field technician is probably one of the best experiences they’re going to get. A lot of our best design engineers have worked in the field … It wouldn’t be uncommon to see myself or some of our regional managers on large concrete pours or out looking at pavement sections. In order to be a good engineer or a good design engineer, you need to have that background.”
In addition to being focused on quality and loyalty, Rii is extremely concerned about safety. “We’re very safety conscious. It can almost be a deal breaker for us if we don’t feel we’re going to be in a safe environment or the project isn’t going to allow for safe access. When we hire people, we put them through some very rigorous safety training, especially in the construction department, because it’s a potentially high-risk environment they’re working in. We renew all the safety certifications that are applicable to what they do … We’re always trying to keep our staff safe, and not just meet the minimum requirements,” says Redinger.
Resource has worked with many high-profile clients, including the Ohio Turnpike Commission. In 2008, the commission hired Resource to develop a master plan to reconstruct and replace 241.1 miles of pavement on a toll road in the state. The original pavement in question was over five decades old and badly in need of an upgrade. Rii’s master plan was accepted and the company then came up with construction drawings and technical specifications for roadway work in Sandusky County, Ohio. Resource also provided construction management services for the Sandusky segment.
Rii’s ground penetrating radar (GPR) section worked on a series of bridges and other large structures for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in Santa Monica, San Francisco-Oakland and elsewhere in the state. Among other things, the company was charged with evaluating bridge deck conditions, with a view towards safety and potential repairs.
Resource was also hired to do testing and inspection as part of a construction initiative called the Cleveland I-90 Innerbelt Bridge Project. Based out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the whole project was valued at nearly $300 million in total.
Resource has developed a patented program and project management website, called ProjectGrid.com. Each team member on a specific project receives a unique password with which they can access the system. The system itself features a centralized database of information, documents and data about given assignments. Email notifications are sent out when the site is updated or changed.
Resource has won many awards over the years. These include The Global Achievement Awards for Quality Management, Construction Management, Technology, and the Flexible Pavements of Ohio Quality Award in 2010, for asphalt paving on the runway of Ohio State University’s airport. In 2008, Resource earned the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE) Project of the Year Award, for its work with Rickenbacker International Airport. Rii also won a 2003 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Engineering Excellence Award for design support in the State Route 16 Freeway Project.
Farah Majidzadeh has been honored with several industry awards and appointments as well. She has served as executive director and vice-chairperson of the International Road Federation (IRF) and was the chairperson of the International Road Education Foundation (IREF). She is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award and the Small Business and National Entrepreneur of the Year Award, among many other recognitions.
Resource promotes itself with a website and other means. “We do a lot of trade shows and we so some social media. However, our best advertisement is the quality of our work. People call and say, ‘You did such a great job for this municipality; we’d like you to be involved in the project we have coming up,’” says Redinger.
The company wants to grow, but not in an uncontrolled fashion. The Indiana branch, in particular, has been expanding considerably in recent years, with Rii doing assignments for the state transportation department and airports in the region. Still, company officials are wary of growing too quickly, given how the construction trade is prone to boom and bust cycles. “It is no fun to grow then lay off people,” notes Kamran Majidzadeh.
Indeed, Rii’s focus on loyalty goes two ways: not only does the firm appreciate loyal staffers, but it hopes to make long-term employees out of personnel who work hard and fit in.
“The reason for our success is the people we’ve hired … Ideally, we want everyone on our twenty-year wall,” states Redinger.