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  • Robert A. Healy AIA, Partner
  • Rob Pepe, Partner
  • Sergio Esteban, PE Partner
  • Steven Metzger, Partner

    • Website: www.labellapc.com
    • Top Executive: Sergio Esteban, Chief Executive Officer
    • Local Employees: 406
    • Headquarters: Rochester, NY
    • Founded: 1978
    • Total Employees: 674
    • Years on List: 16
    • Last Year's Rank: 32

LaBella Associates: powered by partnership

When Bob Healy started the architectural division of LaBella Associates in 1990, Canandaigua's outdoor concert venue, CMAC, was one of his first projects.

"I'm a big music enthusiast, so working on that was something special," says Healy, who is now the firm's president. "I'm proud to have worked on such a fantastic public venue that's so people-oriented.

"People-oriented" also describes the culture at the engineering and architectural firm, which provides architectural, engineering, planning and environmental services to a wide range of companies and organizations all along the East Coast.

"Our people are our products," says Beth Curran, director of marketing. "Our culture is focused on empowering employees. We also have great leadership, but they'd be the first to say that our best ideas come from all over the company."

It's one reason the firm enjoys significant growth year after year, with an annual average growth rate of 25 percent over the past three years. Remarkably, this is the 16 th time the firm has been on the Rochester Chamber Top 100 list.

When Healy joined the now 40-year-old firm 12 years after it was founded, there were 35 employees. In 2010 when he became president, LaBella employed 125. Today, there are more than 700 people working in nine divisions and 18 locations.

Growth has come by adding services, opening offices in new locations, and through acquisitions.

While employees are a dependable source of ideas for new business and services, many growth opportunities also come from existing clients expanding into new regions and from clients recommending the firm to others.

"After 40 years, we have a strong reputation for partnering with clients to help improve their businesses," says Healy.
Continual growth requires attentive leadership.

"Our biggest challenge is to make sure our regional employees are integrated into the rest of the company and have the same spirit. Making sure people feel connected takes a lot of effort and work," Healy says.
Curran notes several initiatives that help, ranging from professional development at "LaBella University" to a new mentorship program.

"A lot of companies talk about culture, but our ranking in the Top Workplaces list and our Glassdoor rating show that for us, it's not just lip service," she says.

Most of the company's projects fall into four areas: buildings across multiple industries, infrastructure work involving roads and bridges for municipalities, environmental consulting and contracting, and energy initiatives involving utilities and renewable energy programs.

The depth and breadth of services and talent set the firm apart.

"Our clients have access to the experienced professional consultants they need regardless of how their project develops or their needs change," says Curran.

As a result, the firm's work is often honored regionally and nationally. Projects receiving recognition this year alone include the MCC Downtown Campus, the Niagara Waterfront Opportunity Area Plan, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Therapeutic Rooftop Terrace, and the Hermance Family Chapel at St. John Fisher College.

Healy is particularly proud of the chapel. As it has with other projects on the campus over the past 15 years, the firm worked to make certain this building fit in with the college's visual aesthetic. His affinity for the building, which fronts Route 31F in Pittsford, extends beyond pride in another job well done.

"It sets a very nice tone, especially in the winter, when you drive by at night and see local artist Valerie O'Hara's abstract stained-glass windows lit up," Healy says.
Some projects are rewarding in other ways. The new Southeast Family YMCA opening next fall at the corner of Jefferson Road and Clover Street in Pittsford is a showcase for the firm's ability to manage the needs of many stakeholders. LaBella employees needed to listen carefully not only to the client but to the town planning and zoning board as well as community members.

"It takes patience and a willingness to be engaged throughout the process so we can make adjustments that work for everybody," says Healy.

Thanks to ongoing growth, LaBella employees look forward to a year-end bonus structure that includes rewards for all employees, as well as extra incentives for those that have purchased shares in the broad-based ownership firm -- about 30 percent of those who have been with the company at least a year.
"Although we've always been structured as an employee-owned firm, it fits well with our tagline, 'Powered by Partnership.' And if you were a client, wouldn't you rather deal directly with an owner of the company?" Curran adds with a smile.