Then & Now: Brad Hammond reflects, looks ahead with Olsson

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 853 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the June 22 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Brad Hammond played a significant role in the history of Northwest Arkansas’ oldest engineering firm. He is in a position now to do the same thing with one of the newest.

Hammond is the office leader for the Arkansas office of Olsson, a nationally recognized engineering and design firm based in Nebraska. The company entered the Arkansas market in January 2018 when it acquired Fayetteville engineering firm McGoodwin Williams & Yates Inc. (MWY).

“I think when we announced the acquisition with our key employees, there was an initial shock,” Hammond said in a recent interview. “But after explaining the reason for the transition, we had everybody on board, which was important. We didn’t want to move forward without our key people being on board.”

L.M. McGoodwin founded MWY in 1946 as McGoodwin Consulting Engineers. Carl Yates, Hammond’s uncle, and Terry Williams joined the company in the 1950s, and it was incorporated as MWY in 1966, with Yates being named president.

A Fayetteville native, Hammond graduated from the University of Arkansas with a civil engineering degree in 1992 and an MBA in 1994. He joined MWY in 1992 and succeeded his uncle as president in 2004. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal selected Hammond as a member of its 2006 Forty Under 40 class.

Hammond remained president until the Olsson merger. After that, he headed up the company’s water/wastewater team until earlier this year, when Olsson promoted him to lead all operations of the Fayetteville office, which now has nearly 50 employees.

“This is probably the largest this office has ever been” he said.

MWY “did a bit of everything,” Hammond said, but the company, historically, specialized in municipal water and wastewater projects. In November 2019, Olsson established a general civil engineering team at its Fayetteville office. The office also provides transportation, power, field operations, land development and surveying services.

“The transportation team has grown from four [employees] to eight just this year,” Hammond said. “To see the growth happening that we envisioned before the transition is exciting. We’re starting to hit our stride and see these fledgling teams start growing and our breadth of services expanding.”

Hammond said his uncle would have been pleased with the growth. After the Olsson acquisition, Carl Yates, board chairman and majority owner of MWY, died in April 2018. He was 88.

“I think he would have loved it,” Hammond said. “We weren’t necessarily seeking a perfect acquisition partner. We wanted to have acquisition as an option, and we didn’t want to explore that until we found the right match. I think Carl would have been thrilled with the position we are in right now. Once we got past the transition, it’s been full steam ahead.”

Hammond’s recent promotion has allowed him to turn more attention to strategic planning and expansion efforts, both in services and geographic areas. Growing the Olsson brand in Arkansas is a goal, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.

The health emergency has changed the way Olsson operates, Hammond said, but production and efficiency have not suffered. Some employees in Fayetteville have only recently returned to the office on East Millsap Road.

“With the planning from our IT folks company-wide and the regional leadership, it allowed us to all go home, for the most part, in late March, and we didn’t see a drop-off,” he said. “We’ve seen that web conferencing is very productive. It doesn’t always take the place of an in-person conversation, obviously, but it does work fairly well in many instances. I think we’ll be doing more of that instead of traveling, and that will save our clients money.”

Hammond is a past president of the nonprofit professional organization American Council of Engineering Companies of Arkansas. He is currently serving a term as vice chairman of the Southwest Section of the American Water Works Association.

Hammond, 51, and his wife Allison — whom he met through a blind date in 2007 and married the following year — have three children under the age of 10.

“My kids make me feel old and young at the same time,” Hammond joked.

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