Extraordinary engineering talent, entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of humor, and deep convictions propelled David F. Evans, PE, PLS, and David H. Gould to found David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA) on April 1, 1976. Dave Evans’ specialty was coaxing the maximum number of lots from a parcel of land while preserving the natural beauty of the landscape — which increased the value of the lots for developers. During the national housing boom of the late 1970s, the creative pragmatism of DEA was evident in 75 subdivisions or approximately 4,100 lots in the Portland metropolitan area alone.
In a short time, developers asked the young firm to extend its reach into Washington State. Three offices within three years marked a period of rapid geographic growth and the new offerings of surveying and landscape architecture services. Four years after the firm’s founding, Dave was featured at the National Association of Homebuilders’ 37th convention, speaking on the topic of reducing construction costs to increase housing affordability.
The recession of the 1980s challenged the existence of the young firm. The collapse of the Savings and Loan industry ended funding for land developers, and DEA’s project base evaporated. Ever the entrepreneur, Dave believed that expansion into new geographies and diversification of services would be the means to DEA’s survival. He pursued mergers and acquisitions. The number of staff in Oregon — a state hit particularly hard by the downturn in the housing market due to its lumber-oriented economy — contracted. Having asked outstanding professionals to “hitch their stars to his wagon,” the contraction was a painful time that would color the firm’s future in unexpected ways.
At the same time the firm expanded into Southern California, gaining a foothold in the telecommunications, utilities, and municipal markets. Expansion into planning services soon had the firm providing Mobilization Master Planning work for Fort Lewis in Washington. A merger with an Oregon firm meant DEA began serving the US Army Corps of Engineers and other federal clients and gained offices in Albany and Bend, Oregon. Dave’s leadership, vision, and entrepreneurial drive positioned the firm for rapid growth as the economy recovered.
If “what if we tried this?” expressed the creativity of the firm and earned the respect and appreciation of public- and private-sector clients, it was the articulation of the firm’s philosophy — “We find outstanding professionals and give them the freedom and support to do what they do best” — that attracted some of the best minds in the industry to the again dynamic company. Dave’s belief in others was further expressed in his concern that all who contributed to the firm’s success should share in its rewards. Through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), a relatively new concept at the time, DEA became an ESOP-owned company in 1985.
With a philosophy in place, Dave turned his sought-after attention to what DEA stood for — why did the firm’s existence matter? DEA leaders codified values that had long characterized and continue to characterize the firm: Honesty in relationships; a belief that Openness about good and bad news strengthens the firm; Consideration in dealing with others; Involvement such that DEA is a good citizen in the communities in which it works; recognition that Entrepreneurial Spirit fosters excitement, creativity, and cutting-edge thinking; Enjoyment in the work itself; and Financial Security for employees and their families. And to what end would these deeply and collectively held values be dedicated? DEA leaders distilled and articulated DEA’s core purpose: “To improve the quality of life while demonstrating stewardship of the built and natural environments.”
As the firm’s portfolio of landmark projects grew, so did Dave’s commitment to civic involvement. After hearing a speech by Peter Ueberroth exhorting businesses to get involved in public education, Dave initiated DEA’s adoption of Abernethy Grade School in Portland, Oregon to help purchase educational items not covered in its budget. Staff became involved in various volunteer opportunities at the school. Dave’s belief in the value of public broadcasting led the firm to become a sponsor in Oregon and Washington. Dave has since served as a board member of the Portland Public Schools’ Foundation, Portland’s Japanese Garden Society, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Today, Dave is a member of the board of directors, a senior editor at CE News, and author of the book Achieving Zero: My Life and Love of Consulting Engineering. As always, Dave remains open to any question posed by an employee and retains his habit of walking through DEA offices, coffee cup in hand and a mechanical pencil in his pocket, asking about and appreciative of the work being accomplished by DEA’s talented staff. DEA is a magnet for gifted professional and technical people. Our professionals build on the firm’s past while expanding on our founder’s vision in thoughtful and creative ways.