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How Vali Cooper & Associates and TRC Came Together

Agnes Weber | July 17, 2018

The decision to sell a business you’ve worked so hard to build isn’t an easy one. I learned this first-hand when our company, Vali Cooper & Associates (VC&A) decided to put itself on the market earlier this year.

The process over the last six months has been challenging, exciting, stressful, interesting and educational.  In the end, I know we made the right choice in joining the TRC team in a deal that closed June 25.  And I’m so proud that our leadership team was able to maintain such a sharp focus on doing what was best for the VC&A family.

But let me back up a bit and provide a little history. Our company was named after its founder, Vali Cooper, a native Californian [pictured, right]. Vali grew up in Martinez, where she gained her passion for the engineering industry through her father’s surveying and engineering firm.  She started her career there as a surveyor and went on to work for various public agencies and a local consulting firm. In 1987 she founded VC&A as the sole proprietor.

VC&A grew from a WBE/DBE firm into a highly respected and successful construction management company – one that has appeared in Engineering News-Record’s annual ranking of the top 50 CM firms in the U.S in each of the last 16 years.

When Vali unexpectedly passed away in 2009, her husband Gary Bedey was appointed CEO. He and the strong leadership team in place worked hard to remain true to Vali’s vision for the company and have succeeded in executing on it.

Attracting Interest

Over the last 30 years VC&A has shown consistent growth and become a significant player in the transportation, water/wastewater and rail markets.  Because of our growth, success and strong reputation – attributable primarily to the skill and hard work of our superb employees – we’ve been actively pursued by a number of potential buyers looking to increase their presence in California. We resisted these offers for a host of reasons.

But in 2018 there were new factors to consider. One was that Gary wanted to retire and phase out of his involvement with the firm. The second was that it was the perfect time to fulfill Vali’s ultimate dream for her firm.

Vali’s vision was always to be part of something “bigger.” Gary once remarked to me that Vali’s original plan was to continually grow the firm’s reputation and services until we could merge with a national firm. She wanted to ensure that her employees would be able to continue developing their skills and embrace new opportunities.

VC&A’s leadership realized the time had come to take that next step to ensure continued success for our employees and increase the services we could provide our clients. The best way to do that was to merge with another firm.

So we retained Matheson Financial Advisors, a well-respected merger and acquisition consultant for the AEC market, to explore opportunities. And we were flooded with responses. Initially we had more than 25 companies express interest in acquiring VC&A. The leadership team spent countless hours in meetings and discussions vetting and analyzing what would be best for the future of the VC&A team.

Evaluating the Suitors

From the initial list of companies, we narrowed it down to a handful of firms that we felt would value our employee-first culture. VC&A has always felt more like a family than a firm. We’re a close-knit group, and we wanted to ensure that whoever acquired us shared and respected our corporate values, understood the importance we place on our employees (the lifeblood of our company), and how we consider our work with clients a true partnership. That was paramount in developing our short list of potential suitors.

But we were also focused on:

  • Increasing opportunities for the VC&A team and our employees
  • Providing better service to our clients
  • The financial stability of the suitor firms
  • Their reputation within the industry
  • Minimizing conflict with current clients and projects
  • Making the integration as seamless as possible.

In short, TRC checked all the boxes. We had many productive discussions with TRC’s leadership group and it was evident from the start that the various goals of each company aligned quite well. TRC’s 5-Year Strategy, aggressive vision and entrepreneurial culture dovetails nicely with where VC&A’s leadership wanted to take the company; its diverse expertise complements the things that VC&A excels at; and TRC’s executives were willing to let VC&A’s leaders remain in place and have a significant say in how the new practice operates and evolves.

But most of all, TRC stood head and shoulders above the other firms due to its commitment to being a first-choice firm for employees and clients.

The next few months will be a lot of work as we integrate VC&A into TRC as the new Construction Services (West) Practice. But we’re optimistic about what the short- and long-term future holds with regards to new colleagues, new clients, new markets, new services and new projects. It’s the dawn of a new era for both Vali Cooper & Associates and for TRC, and we’re excited to find out where this journey will lead.

Next Steps

Agnes Weber

Agnes Weber has 33 years of experience in the civil engineering field, with major emphasis on construction management of roadway and highway facilities. After more than a decade with Caltrans, Agnes spent 22 years at Vali Cooper & Associates where she held myriad positions, most recently chief strategy officer, and served on the board of directors. She played a key role in the firm’s sale to TRC.

Agnes is a registered professional engineer in California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. She is actively involved in industry organizations such as the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and California Transportation Foundation (CTF), where she has held various board and committee positions.

Agnes holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from San Diego State University.

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