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Len Rodman is stepping down as head of Black & Veatch at the end of the year

Updated: 2013-04-04T00:02:57Z

By KEVIN COLLISON

The Kansas City Star

Len Rodman plans to step down as chief executive of Black & Veatch after 42 years at the Kansas City area’s largest engineering firm.

Rodman, 64, will be replaced by Steve Edwards, who is currently executive vice president of Black & Veatch.

The Overland Park firm employs 3,400 people locally and 10,000 overall and is the 14th-largest engineering firm in the country, according to Engineering News-Record, a trade publication.

The decision was announced Wednesday by the Black & Veatch board of directors. Rodman plans to leave at the end of the year, and Edwards, 57, will serve as the firm’s chief operating officer until he takes the helm in 2014.

“The Black & Veatch board of directors has confidence in Steve based on his global, cross-functional skills, project management capabilities and based on the challenging assignments he has managed during his 35-year career,” Rodman said in a statement.

Rodman has been president and CEO of Black & Veatch since 1998 and was elected chairman in 2000.

The timing of Rodman’s departure is being tied to the 100th anniversary of Black & Veatch in 2015 and completion of a major upgrade of its headquarters at 11401 Lamar Ave. The work includes an overhaul of the 600,000-square-foot building and addition of a 12,000-square-foot pavilion.

“These events should be about looking forward with a vision toward the next 100 years, while respecting the company’s rich history,” Rodman said. “For these positive events it is fitting that the new chairman, president and CEO be in place to celebrate the company’s bright future.”

Edwards has been with the firm for 35 years and has been involved in energy projects in North America, Southeast Asia, Australia and India. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2000 and became senior vice president of the Americas Region for Energy in 2003.

He has been on the executive committee since 2005 and was elected to the board last year. Edwards received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri.

Black & Veatch reported $4 billion in sales last year, up 35 percent, and $3.3 billion in revenue, up 28 percent.

Since Rodman became chairman in 2000, sales have grown 110.5 percent, up from $1.9 billion, and revenue has grown 43.5 percent, up from $2.3 billion.

In an interview earlier this year with The Star, Rodman said Black & Veatch also was expecting a banner year in 2013 based on its $4 billion in bookings, a record for the firm.

“We were awarded some really nice projects,” he said.

Last year, the firm won its largest single contract ever, a $627 million deal with Alliant Energy to be prime contractor for an air quality control retrofit project at a power plant near Madison, Wis.

Defense work has increased too, much of it highly classified. One project involves technology that greatly shortens the time it takes to detect anthrax in blood samples.

And Black & Veatch continued to surge ahead in its telecommunication operation, ranked the nation’s largest by Engineering News-Record. Rodman said the business has grown from $100 million annually four years ago to $800 million today.

Water, energy and security projects also are part of the global portfolio for what the firm refers to as “critical human infrastructure.”

“If there’s a big, ugly, complex, challenging project, we’re likely involved, “ Rodman said.

The company’s total employment grew 11.1 percent last year to 10,000 people. Locally, Black & Veatch finished 2012 with 3,400 employees, up 9 percent. When Rodman became chairman 13 years ago, the firm had a total staff of 8,000 people.

The firm had 450 positions open locally, an additional 1,000 across the U.S. and 400 outside the country. Most of the job postings are for engineers and other technical fields.

To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to kcollison@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at kckansascity.

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