Woolpert enjoys a rich history rooted in a forward-thinking approach that has enabled us to grow and be part of milestone projects throughout the past 100 years.
Charlton Putnam, a prominent surveyor and landscape engineer from Rhode Island, joined forces with Edward Deeds, Charles Kettering and John H. Patterson to develop the landscape, architecture and housing markets in Dayton, Ohio. Deeds and Kettering invented the self-starting automobile ignition system, and Patterson founded NCR Corp.
The great Dayton flood of 1913 forced survivors to move to higher ground and initiated the greatest private public-works effort up to that time, the Miami Conservancy District. Putnam was active in the flood-relief effort, and the firm did surveying and engineering for the new housing developments that followed. In 1916, Ralph L. Woolpert, a civil engineer from Cedarville, Ohio, joined Putnam and his staff: one draftsman and a three-man survey crew.
The firm grew, and in 1930 became known as Putnam & Woolpert. In 1935, Ralph Woolpert took over leadership responsibilities while Charlton Putnam helped to form the Dayton Housing Authority.
The Great Depression brought bleak times for the company, but in 1938, business improved with work for Rural Electric Cooperatives under the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Woolpert hired electrification experts to handle the additional REA work in Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New York and Ohio.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Woolpert recognized the power in partnerships that adapt to ever-changing needs–a philosophy still in place today. In 1942 the company, known then as the Ralph L. Woolpert Company, became involved in significant wartime engineering and surveying work at Wright Field, Wilmington Air Force Base and the Dayton Municipal Airport.
After World War II, the company began working with housing developers to support America’s baby boom. Families focused on finding homes, and the new suburbs provided plenty of opportunities for work. Woolpert expanded its environmental and sanitary engineering services to meet the high demand, and in 1955, Charles Abramovitz joined the firm to pioneer the development of the growing communities surrounding Dayton.
As the communities around Dayton rapidly developed, so did the company’s list of expanding services. Herbert W. Starick, former Dayton City Manager, and Mark Lawner joined the firm to develop city and regional planning capabilities in the late 1960s. In 1969, Wallace Smith joined the firm to guide the development of photogrammetry, the art of making precision mapping from aerial photography.
Ralph Woolpert worked up until his death in 1970 at age 74. His namesake 100-employee company continued expanding with new services, including airport planning and design, traffic engineering, park planning and design, environmental studies, landscape architecture, environmental engineering and environmental sciences. To meet growing demands, the firm opened new offices in Ohio and Alabama, and in 1979, the firm changed its name to Woolpert Consultants.
Woolpert launched services in interactive computer graphics, data management and architecture while expanding its aviation capabilities. Developing geographic information systems (GIS), a computer-based method of geographic information management, became a service of national prominence. Department of Defense work also became a major area of expertise, and the firm engaged in projects at multiple military installations. The firm won new clients across the United States and overseas and opened seven new offices.
Throughout the 1990s, Woolpert continued to grow, establishing new offices and expanding existing ones in Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, South Carolina and Virginia. Woolpert also founded a subsidiary, Woolpert International, Inc. Local and wide area networks linked more than 700 employees in 23 cities nationwide. The firm adopted the name Woolpert LLP in 1997 to reflect its status as a limited liability partnership and moved into Engineering News-Record’s list of top 100 design firms.
The firm developed and implemented a new strategic plan that restructured the company around service lines. Throughout the decade, more than 75 percent of the firm’s ownership changed hands without a hitch, in large part because of Ralph Woolpert’s original model of partnership. In an effort to separate ownership from management, the partnership created the chairman and chief operating officer positions, replacing the need for a managing partner.
Woolpert, focused on positioning and entrepreneurship, continued to expand nationwide, with offices opening in Colorado, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, California and Hawaii. The firm began using the market to dictate its office presence, and the result has been overall expansion and equalized growth between offices. Woolpert’s partnership grew to 25 partners, the largest partnership in the firm’s history.
In 2005, Woolpert became incorporated and changed its name to Woolpert, Inc. Approximately 20 percent of its employees are now shareholders. The firm continued to grow, achieving record sales in 2007. In 2008, the firm acquired three firms in the Orlando, FL, area: TEK Science, a storm water specialty firm; Rockett and Associates, a civil engineering and surveying firm; and Miller, Einhouse Rymer & Boyd (MER&B), a landscape architecture, civil engineering and planning firm.
In 2010, Woolpert once again developed and implemented a strategic plan that restructured the company around three primary service lines: design, infrastructure management and geospatial. Woolpert continues to rank in Engineering News-Record’s list of top 100 design firms. The company now has more than 650 employees in more than 20 offices nationwide.