CSRS makes its own success through planning and community involvement.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” goes the quote from Roman philosopher Seneca. It’s also a perspective shared by local architecture and engineering firm CSRS.
In the 21 years the firm has been in business, CSRS has found that preparation—often in the form of forward thinking—has been the key to its success. The firm is owned by Curtis Soderberg, Michael Songy, Ronald Rodi, Christopher Pellegrin, Travis Woodard and Franklin LaCourse.
“We’re always looking 5 to 10 years down the road, asking ourselves where the markets are going to be, and what do we need to do to prepare ourselves and our firm to be competitive in the marketplace,” Soderberg says. “There’s a tendency to focus on the day-to-day, but you’ve got to look down the line and see where things are going.”
The firm got its start through a merger, though the two companies operated in silos until they morphed into a corporate structure, which provided a better service. Over the years, it has been the force behind some of the region’s most high-profile projects, including Baton Rouge’s Green Light Plan, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act Program and the real estate plan for the new University & Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New Orleans.
CSRS and and another firm, Tillage Construction, also recently acquired Georgia-based Garrard Group’s half of the CSRS/Garrard Program Management partnership, which oversees construction management for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. The partnership will manage roughly $200 million in school construction projects, including the new Lee High School, through 2018.
The company says it offers clients integrated options of vertical construction (buildings), horizontal construction (roads), program management, disaster recovery program management, site design, land planning and urban design. Its services cover a project’s continuum from inception to when someone drives on it, works inside of it or rides a boat on it.
“A lot of companies do what they do, and that’s all they do,” CSRS President and CEO Michael Songy says. “They don’t support their region, and one of the things that differentiates us is that we believe in our area.”
CSRS endows a coastal engineering professorship at LSU and is heavily involved in the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (Songy previously served as chairman of the board of directors and remains on the executive committee) and the Center for Planning Excellence, a nonprofit that coordinates urban, rural and regional planning.
“We really feel like we’re part of the community and contributors to the community,” Songy says. “It helps us stay connected with what’s going on. We understand the trends of what’s happening in our region. We’re part of the fabric of Louisiana, and we understand what’s driving the economic growth.”
Expansion is also part of its DNA. The company is venturing into other areas of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Texas and Florida as a result of its strategic plan.
“We decided to look beyond the areas of Baton Rouge and New Orleans and take a look at the entire Gulf Coast,” Songy says. “We’ve already had some success with a few projects in Southwest Louisiana and Mississippi.” He’s referring to the contract the company has for the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, through which it is providing conservation services to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Coastal Impact Assistance Program and the Mississippi Department of Resources.
Taking risks—venturing into new locations and new services—has never been something to shy away from for CSRS. The company recently hired Walter Monsour, former executive director of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, to head up its newly consolidated private sector development business unit.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways to do things, ways to provide more value to the client,” Soderberg says. “We have willingness to explore new markets and develop new lines of servicing. A lot of times you’re venturing into areas that you have not provided services before and you have to basically invent the service offering based on the need. But when you take that avenue and you’re successful, you create a whole new area of business.”
Currently, challenges of federal and state funding put a cloud over the future of planning and design, lending rise to more public-private partnership projects. But in true CSRS fashion, it’s all about perception.
“We look at that as an opportunity,” Songy says. “You’ve got to do more with less, you’ve got to be smarter about the way you do things, and that takes clients away from traditional ways of doing projects to more innovative ways of doing things and that’s in line with why we have been successful. We’re comfortable with the future; the outlook is very good.”