Back in March of 2017, I spoke with PS&S President and Chief Executive Officer John Sartor. At the time, the architecture, engineering, and environmental firm was venturing into the healthcare industry in New Jersey and New York. Plans to expand into the New England market were underway, and its college internship program was starting to pay off.
The company has since penetrated New Jersey and has branched out into the New York market. Eastern Pennsylvania will be the next region to benefit from the services of PS&S, but it will take a little longer. “Now our focus is on New York and New Jersey with plenty of opportunities coming up in both states,” says John.
When PS&S first entered the healthcare industry in July 2015, there was a frenzy of acquisitions as hospital systems were consolidating. Acquisitions are still happening, but the pace has slowed somewhat as there are not as many to take over. It should start progressing faster again, and the company is ready.
Many facilities in New York and New Jersey, some from the Catholic health systems built in the 1920s and 1930s, are aged or have been abandoned due to a lack of money to perform the necessary upgrades. “With these consolidations and larger systems, the aim is to help these older facilities decide between renovating the existing location or consolidating and relocating,” says John.
Surgery, in general, has also changed. There are more outpatient facilities, and these are now affiliated with different hospital systems which is changing how patients are treated. This consolidation is as much a branding exercise as it is a consolidation of specialties. In New York and New Jersey, there are various aged facilities, and some need to be retired. There are other buildings that were not necessarily built for their current purpose.
“We are looking at a lot of businesses based on the geography and the age of the systems that are here. If you go to different parts of the country, which in the last forty years have progressed in terms of development, places like Las Vegas, Atlanta, or Dallas-Fort Worth, there has been so much new development. A lot of these new developments are going through a round of renovations along with interior fit-outs,” says John.
Aside from the work in the healthcare industry, PS&S’ involvement in infrastructure projects has grown immensely over the past few years. After Hurricane Sandy, there was a tremendous amount of reinforcing work and large investments in new underground pipes, natural gas, wires in substations, and the whole backbone of the electrical infrastructure. “All that has been and will continue to be a major focus for us as an entity, and not just here in New York and New Jersey or Pennsylvania, but all the way up the east coast and all the way down south,” says John.
Much of the area’s electrical infrastructure, like the healthcare facilities, was built between the 1930s and 1950s and intended to have a lifespan of around fifty years. It is well beyond that, so there is a need for continued investment. Electricity and gas use has also greatly increased over the last ten to twelve years, with changes in technology being the main driver.
“With that comes the key work of upgrades to the existing system to increase reliance and bandwidth. The demand is driving those increases. Infrastructure is a big part of our practice and my focus, in terms of growth, over the next ten to fifteen years,” says John.
PS&S is also slowly expanding its footprint into the New England market. The company will focus on the pharmaceutical, energy, and utilities sectors in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and southern New Hampshire. This move remains an essential component of PS&S’ targeted growth and strategic plan.
“These areas have very similar issues relative to the gas and electric utility infrastructure, and the Boston market is still one of the hottest, relative to pharma and biopharma in this country and the world. This is something we will remain focused on,” says John.
Expanding their reach in the Northeast with client projects has also meant changes at the corporate level for PS&S. The company has been opening smaller regional offices closer to their clients. PS&S has eight offices in the New York tri-state area which has allowed their employees to be more flexible with their commutes and, ultimately, have a better work-life balance. The company has recently opened an office in New York City to accommodate younger workers wanting to live in more urban settings. John says being flexible to the needs of employees helps to retain valuable workers who are integral to the many projects that PS&S is tackling.
In addition, the company recently announced they would be moving its own corporate headquarters within Warren Township in New Jersey. John says the new headquarters for the company will create a more flexible, adaptable, and sustainable workplace experience for employees. The company wants to foster a culture that makes employees feel good about where they work as well as the space in which they work, creating an environment which will allow their careers to flourish in order to better serve their clients and communities.
John wants PS&S to become a legacy firm. The company is fifty-seven years old, and John wants to stay on board for the next eighteen years to reach that milestone seventy-fifth anniversary. “To do that I have to grow the company geographically – my footprint and scale of operation,” says John.
This kind of planned growth means John is always looking for the next crop of talented employees. PS&S has a college internship program that has about fifteen students a year, with a combination of rising juniors and seniors spanning most disciplines. The goal is to get them real life work experience in their chosen field of study, and if they are a right fit for PS&S and want to continue, the hope is to hire them after graduation.
In that way, the company has a trained workforce, as opposed to working with a new graduate with whom it has not had the opportunity to interact with or train. Offers are being made, as I write, to the interns who went through the summer program. They can spend their senior year knowing that they will have employment come May of 2020.
The architectural, engineering, and construction world took a big hit in the recession of 2007, 2008, and 2009. This sent students into other majors and other businesses upon graduation and led to a scarcity of people in the field.
“There is a gap in the industry, and everyone is dealing with the same challenge, with few people coming into the market. You end up with a combination of very experienced employees ready to retire and a shortfall of staff in the next tier below them ready to takeover. We are looking at the people with seven to twelve years of experience as the future leaders. They will replace the retirees over the next four to seven years. We are wrestling with this as a company and as an industry,” says John.
PS&S is positioned for the future with many new projects in the pipeline in the private and public sector. The depth and breadth of its expertise has helped PS&S grow into a firm offering multi-disciplined, full-service architecture, engineering, design and environmental consulting services.
The firm offers planning, design and regulatory compliance services on diverse projects across a number of market segments including education, energy/utilities, hospitality/entertainment, infrastructure/public improvement, real estate and science/technology. Its ability to present virtually all engineering disciplines side by side with architectural services allows the team to respond quickly and efficiently to clients’ unique needs.
Having served a sophisticated client base operating in numerous industries, PS&S knows the importance of developing the most on-time, cost-effective and high-quality solutions to the most difficult client challenges. John truly feels the company’s success is measured by the success of his clients and the success of each project is the team’s number one priority.