Catalyst

Up Close With ... Bob Scaer

Bob Scaer, chairman of the Board and CEO of Gannett Fleming, Inc.

 

Robert “Bob” M. Scaer, P.E., is chairman of the Board and CEO of Gannett Fleming, Inc., a global infrastructure and engineering firm that is now home to more than 2,500 employees in 60+ offices worldwide. The firm provides progressive solutions for transportation, earth sciences and natural resources, geospatial, water, power and facilities projects. In his role, Bob is responsible for all operations of Gannett Fleming and its subsidiaries.

 

Prior to assuming the chairmanship in 2017, Bob was president and chief operating officer and vice chair of the Board of Directors of Gannett Fleming, where he was responsible for overseeing planning, design, technology and construction management services for a diverse array of markets and disciplines. Before assuming the firm’s presidency in 2009, Bob was president of GeoDecisions, a division of Gannett Fleming that focuses on comprehensive geographic information systems and IT consulting. He was also the past chief information officer of Gannett Fleming responsible for overseeing the corporation's enterprise IT system.

 

Bob received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from Pennsylvania State University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania. He resides in Mechanicsburg, PA and enjoys spending his free time with his four children and five grandchildren; hiking and golfing.

 

You’ve held various positions at Gannett Fleming – in the engineering, geospatial and information technology spaces - and now as Chairman of the Board and CEO. How have your diversified positions in the company helped prepare you for the role you hold today?

 

I am so fortunate. I’ve had many different careers at Gannett Fleming. I started as a bridge engineer in our structural group but soon found myself designing buildings and catenary for transit lines. I was always hungry for innovation – trying to find better solutions and bring better value. That led me to earn my MBA, which led me to take over our geospatial operations. Each new position was an opportunity, and as I learned the ropes of new roles, it provided me with different perspectives I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Those many experiences shaped me to be agile, with an ability to pivot and respond to our most pressing challenges. I also learned early on that the most important role of being a leader is to inspire and empower others around you, so your vision becomes a shared vision. That’s when the magic happens.

 

More and more companies are looking to make corporate sustainability a key component of their mission. How is Gannett Fleming helping their clients achieve the goals of becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly? 

 

  • Each additional $1 in engineering and related design services revenue contributes $1.55 to U.S. GDP.
  • Our industry pays $142 billion in direct wages each year. And these are well-paying jobs, at an average of $88,000 annually. Our industry also supports an additional $169 billion in annual wages in sectors with which our firms do business.
  • For each new job created in this sector, supporting sectors generate two more jobs.
  • Taxes initiated by our industry total about $122 billion: $83 billion in federal taxes and $39 billion in state and local taxes.
  • In 2019, the engineering and architectural sector was responsible for nearly 3 percent of the U.S. GDP.

 

How has your company worked to overcome unique challenges that have been brought on by COVID-19, with the goal of emerging from the pandemic even stronger?

 

The cornerstone to our pandemic response has been about safety – that of our employees, their families and our clients. We went to being 100 percent remote in under three days. We deployed two pulse surveys last year to obtain feedback and ideas from our employees. As a result, we created several programs to make the working-from-home experience more positive and productive. This year, we’ve launched several working groups looking at different aspects of our culture, and we’ve hired a third-party to conduct an employee engagement survey. Those results, along with the recommendations of our working groups, will form the basis of our new comprehensive workforce development strategy. We’re already a much stronger company than we were a year ago, and I’m excited to see how much more we’ll change as we respond to the new dynamics at play in our economy and with our employees.

 

What advice would you provide to employers looking to recruit and retain top talent?

 

The pandemic has created a different playing field – the location of an employee doesn’t matter like it used to. Last year was one of our most successful, so our employees demonstrated that they could be effective, efficient and successful working remotely. As employers, we need to think about our value proposition. Why would someone want to come and work for us, and more importantly, stay with us? We continuously look at our programs, benefits, and offerings to ensure we are competitive and remain abreast of the latest developments so our employees are engaged, happy to work for Gannett Fleming and refer their friends and colleagues to joins us as well.

 

How does your engagement with the PA Chamber help you understand the needs of employers throughout the state, and how does your position on our Board help you become a stronger corporate leader?

 

We have seven offices and 1,200 employees in Pennsylvania. The PA Chamber offers several important values for Gannett Fleming.  First, it provides an essential connection to the political establishment.  As a significant employer, the laws and the politicians’ areas of focus have a big impact on our success.  The PA Chamber allows us to be part of that voice and ensure that lawmakers consider our issues. Sitting on the PA Chamber board enables me to help shape that voice that is so important to Pennsylvania businesses. Lastly, being connected to other businesses allows me to learn and collaborate to help make my business more successful. 

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Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.