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Engineering and site consulting firm looks inward to name 5 new owners

Staff //January 26, 2022//

Engineering and site consulting firm looks inward to name 5 new owners

Staff //January 26, 2022//

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When Barry Whalen’s business partner announced his retirement, Whalen could have sold their consulting firm to a national group — a trend he’s seeing more and more these days.

WhalenBut instead of moving out, HLA Inc. chose to focus inward. The Charleston company upped the ante and promoted five owners from within so HLA could continue to offer local consideration of local priorities when it comes to economic development.

“Live here, do your work here, make your money here,” Whalen said.

Earlier this month, Adriana Carson, Amy Chico, Ron Felkel, Richard Lacey and Kyle Neff have joined Whalen, current HLA president, as company owners.

“The timing of it coincided with John retiring, but everyone has basically been doing the important foundational work already leading up to this moment,” Whalen said.

The multi-discipline consulting firm was founded in Charleston more than 35 years ago and is involved in all phases of development across the area. The firm serves public and private companies, small and large, residential, multi-family, industrial, office, commercial and parks. Employees also perform voluntary work with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Lowcountry Food Bank.

What sets HLA apart, however, is its rounded staff of licensed professional land surveyors, engineers, engineers-in-training and landscaped artists, who combine as experts in economic development, attainable housing and infill development.

“Most companies have some combination of those things, but when you have them all in-house, you have a much higher quality of collaboration and services,” Whalen said. “We have site experts, which really means we have in-house solutions to site problems, draining issues, zoning problems or wetland permits versus having to call out.”

Each of HLA’s new owners combine to create the company’s full, multi-disciplinary vision and four out of five having more than 20 years’ tenure with HLA.

The ownership expansion was a natural progression for the associates, Whalen said.

“We always envisioned bringing along those that wanted to stay committed to what they’re doing. It’s a product of self-investment of the individual. They’re all hardworking, smart and their roles became self-evident,” he said. “Rather than bringing on one owner, they’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder carrying this work forward as a team for years.”

As HLA expands, so does the Charleston population as people moving away from urban centers to less dense regions of the country because of the pandemic. HLA Senior Vice President Amy Chico is eager to see where the new ownership can take the company.

“The Charleston metropolitan-area market is uniquely positioned for housing growth, economic-development, and infrastructure-expansion opportunities,” she said. “HLA is committed to remaining focused on bettering our community through responsible design and development. The team is thrilled for this ownership opportunity and looks forward to leading the firm for another 35 years.”