Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the April 26 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.
Rick Rogers defines success this way: by creating opportunities for others to succeed.
“I love sharing wisdom; love mentoring,” he said in a recent interview. “I get pride and satisfaction in seeing people grow and become more. To know I had a part in that is very satisfying.”
Rogers said those principles are also crucial to his employer, Bentonville firm CEI Engineering Associates Inc., which has about 150 employees in 10 offices throughout the country. It’s understandable, then, why Rogers takes pride in representing the company for more than 25 years.
“I’ve worn just about every shoe there is to wear in this firm,” he said. “It’s been exciting to grow with the company the past 26 years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and I enjoy coming to work every day.”
Rogers, 56, is a principal and the vice president of finance and accounting at CEI, where he’s worked since 1995. CEI started in 1973. The national firm provides civil engineering, planning, land surveying and landscape architecture services for medium- to large-scale developments and multi-structure sites in the U.S. The company’s niche is commercial retail program work for large corporate clients like Walmart, Love’s Travel Stops and Murphy USA. Rogers said the company also does quite a bit of transportation and public works projects and — because of its location in Bentonville — plays a role in the region’s budding parks and trail development sector.
A Bryant native and a University of Arkansas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, Rogers began work after college in January 1990 with Winrock Development Co. in Little Rock. He was responsible for coordinating residential subdivision designs and developments among the firm, the consulting engineer and contractors.
“I got to learn real estate and land development as my first career,” he recalled. “I wanted to get more into project management when I found CEI. They gave you opportunities as long as you had the desire to work hard. I found them to be an exciting firm.”
Rogers started at CEI as a designer in the local development department. With his license in landscape architecture and his performance, Rogers rose to be the company’s senior landscape architect. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 1999.
In 2004, by this time a partner and CEI board member, Rogers left the company to become president of a new entity called Orion Development Co. LLC. He said the firm acted as a site-work contractor and a development manager. His stay there lasted just a year.
“I worked hard and was kind of burned out,” Rogers said regarding the reason for departing CEI. “I was looking for a new opportunity. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun [with Orion], but my love was consulting. I wanted to come back to that and was fortunate to be able to come back to CEI.”
Back at CEI in 2005, Rogers was promoted to a divisional leader and dispatched to the firm’s Atlanta office, in charge of the company’s operations in the southeastern U.S. He spent three years there. While helping guide the company through the recession, CEI promoted Rogers to his current finance role. That coincided with his move back to Northwest Arkansas in 2008.
“Atlanta is a fun and beautiful place to be, but I’m a hometown guy,” he said. “I was born and raised in Arkansas, and I was missing Arkansas. And it made sense for me to be in our home office.”
Rogers said CEI co-founder Mike Shupe, who retired in 2012 but remained a board member, CEO Jeff Geurian and vice president of operations Brent Massey have had a meaningful impact on his career.
Though he has waned training for such events in recent years, Rogers is an endurance athlete and a multiple Ironman finisher. He still enjoys mountain biking and being in nature.
Giving back to the community is another CEI value Rogers takes to heart. For him, that’s meant civic involvement. He’s served on planning boards at both the city and county level and is currently chairman of the Bentonville Board of Adjustments. He also sits on a handful of nonprofit boards, including the Bentonville Library Foundation and the Rampy MS Research Foundation.