CORVALLIS An engineering firm that started as a collaboration between an Oregon State University professor and three of his former students has won the contract of a lifetime: to manage the $5.25 billion redevelopment of the Panama Canal.
CH2M Hill was founded in 1946 in Corvallis and has grown to 24,000 employees and $5 billion in annual revenues. It transferred headquarters to Colorado in the early 1980s but has maintained a strong presence in Corvallis, with 370 local jobs and a lively calendar of events at OSU’s CH2M Hill Alumni Center.
The company specializes in mega-projects, none with stronger name recognition than the Panama Canal. The canal was praised as the greatest engineering feat in history when it was completed in 1914, but it must be expanded to make room for the gargantuan ships of the future.
Mark Carlson, design delivery director for CH2M Hill’s Corvallis office, calls the project a “huge endeavor” that will entail overseeing hundreds of engineering contracts and dealing with any surprises that are bound to pop up in a project of such magnitude.
No one from Corvallis has been transferred to Panama yet, but the Oregon group has a history of leading up major efforts. Ray Topping, a longtime Corvallis employee, left several years ago to help manage the $12.5 billion preparation of London for the 2012 Olympics. From there he moved on to the Middle East, where he is working on designing a $22 billion, car-free, carbon-neutral city near Abu Dhabi.
This is not a company that thinks small.
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