In 1977, the country was in recession, oil prices were rising, inflation was rampant, and the nation was struggling to recover. That January, Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President of the United States. The minimum wage was $2.30 an hour; the DOW average was 831. Where others saw doom and gloom, Barry Isett saw opportunity. After being an employee for almost 20 years, he decided to start an engineering firm, with Shirley, his helpmate, taking on all administrative duties in the second-floor offices they rented on Route 100 in Trexlertown, PA. In the beginning, services were limited to survey, civil engineering, and structural engineering. An early project –perhaps the first– was a survey of the campus of Allentown College of St. Francis DeSales. Now known as DeSales University, the institution still looks to Barry Isett & Associates for a range of services.
Today, the company that bears Barry’s name employs over 100 associates in five offices in two states. The staff includes: professional civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, utility, forensic, and traffic engineers; licensed surveyors; planners; certified facilities managers; registered landscape architects; LEED accredited professionals; professional geologists; environmental scientists; soil scientists; certified building code officials; construction specialists; grant writers; and specialists in the development of geographic information systems.
We take pride in the long-term relationships we have forged with a wide range of public and private sector clients, as well as, other design firms. A privately held corporation, company ownership is shared between about 30 associates, an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and the company founder. Virtually every project team includes shareholders who have an owner’s interest in making sure that our clients are satisfied. “As time goes on, my objective is to fully transfer company ownership to the next set of leaders, people who I believe care about the business as much as I do,” says Barry.
Reflecting on the recent past, Barry says, “The economy has made us a better team because it challenged us in ways we wouldn’t have thought of. Leadership has developed throughout the company as we have identified strengths and expanded and diversified the range of services in nine departments. Through it all, the values of the staff and the team spirit has helped us grow technologically and intellectually.” Looking to the future, Barry is confident in the success of the company transition as long as everyone keeps in mind the core values that have driven his career. “It has been my dream to develop a reputation that attracts clients, so we devote our energy to the project, not getting the project. We want clients who appreciate value. Finally, the company exists for the benefit of our associates. Our good work creates employment and supports many families. As long as we hold that value we will prosper in our endeavors.”