Driving it Home: Wight & Company’s Transportation & Infrastructure Legacy
By Mark Wight, Wight & Company
April 7, 2021
Wight & Company pioneered the industry-transforming Design Led-Design Build delivery system more than 20 years ago. This integrated model, which focuses on collaboration among architecture, engineering, and construction, is already a large part of Wight’s success story, and is sure to be at the forefront of our business legacy. However, the legacy I’m most proud of is the one that began with my grandfather, the Colonel.
Raulin B. Wight began his engineering career working for IDOT during the depression, and in 1939, he founded Wight & Company as a civil engineering and land surveying business. As the business started to thrive, however, the world had other plans, and my grandfather left to serve his country. As a Colonel in the Corps of Engineers, attached to what was then the Army Air Corps and is now the United States Air Force, his command oversaw the building of vital airstrips in the Pacific theater, including Guadalcanal and Tinian in the Mariana Islands. When his tour was over, he brought his military engineering experience back home and re-opened the doors of Wight & Company.
Always the consummate GI, the Colonel, as everyone called him, was a stickler for rules and details. He started his firm with a small group of military veterans, and, as I’ve been told, he held them to some prickly standards. He would famously lock the doors to the company at 0800. In the Colonel’s world, if you weren’t there early, you were late. While that sort of tenacity may have been underappreciated by his team, it was certainly a factor that helped him grow the firm into a respected industry leader.
Perhaps the most notable accomplishment spearheaded by my grandfather was the development of the Village of Oak Brook, IL. As the land planner and civil engineering firm for the project, Wight & Company designed and supervised work on the town’s roadways, water systems, sewage and waste disposal systems, and drainage control infrastructure. They also laid out the plans for the subdivisions that anchored the community around its world-class sports core, helping to make it one of the country’s most vibrant, upscale developments. During its peak, it was home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other suburb in the country, including McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters. Wight went on to help develop numerous other Chicago area suburbs, such as Barrington and Downers Grove. But the Colonel’s role in the planning of Oak Brook was always his proudest achievement, and it’s a heritage I’m still in awe of today.
When my grandfather’s tenure came to an end, my father, an architect, took over the business. He merged his fledgling architecture firm, Wight & Associates, with my grandfather’s established engineering firm—and a new iteration of Wight & Company was born. Wight & Company’s focus naturally began leaning in the direction of architecture and design, but with its engineering roots firmly planted, the company began growing and strengthening its multidisciplinary portfolio.
Environmental consulting and construction management were added to Wight’s portfolio when I came on board as CEO, and the Design Led-Design Build model was conceived. Now, with all of the disciplines under one roof—architecture, engineering, and construction—and a team of nearly 200 top professionals producing world-class work, I began reflecting on the company’s origin. I knew it was the Colonel’s earliest successes in transportation and infrastructure that helped make us the company we are today. And while we have always sustained the T&I side of the business, we had not focused enough on strengthening it. It was high time to reinvest in this legacy.
After consulting with our management team, we developed a strategy that began with bringing the best and brightest on board. Unlike in architecture, where you can win a job and then hire the right people to achieve the best results, transportation and infrastructure projects require a different approach. You need a qualified, standout team on staff before the work can be secured. For Wight, this meant making a critical, substantial investment into hiring key leaders to guide us towards new opportunities.
We already had a talented group of T&I personnel with in-depth knowledge of the policies, procedures, and requirements for working on local, state, and federally approved projects. However, this strong team needed an even stronger leader to bolster their talents. They needed someone with the expertise, professionalism, and character to take them to the next level. They needed Mike McMurray.
Having known Mike through our Corporate President Pat Cermak, for a number of years, it was clear he was the right fit and had all the right skills and characteristics to help bring the Colonel’s legacy back into the limelight. So, in January 2020, we hired Mike to run our Chicago office and lead the team as Wight’s President of Transportation & Infrastructure. Under his leadership, the T&I group has quickly become one of the company’s fastest-growing segments.
Supporting Mike is a truly exceptional team. John Clinnin, our Vice President and Director of Transportation & Infrastructure, is a modern-day master builder, overseeing each T&I project from concept to completion. His reputation in the industry is impeccable, bolstered by his deep knowledge and passion for his craft. Another asset to the group is Senior Project Manager Robin Martel, one of the most experienced and talented women to be leading in this traditionally male-dominated field. We’ve also been fortune enough to welcome Jeffery Washington as Director of Construction. Throughout his career, Jeff has completed more than 100 construction projects and in 2007, was named Engineer of the Year by the State of Illinois.
In addition to these key leaders, there is a tremendous amount of talent in Wight’s T&I team, including what I believe to be the next generation of trailblazers in the industry. We are harnessing the latest technologies, championing the use of innovative, new processes, and paving the way to even greater success in the field. We are innovating. We are thriving. We are building on what the Colonel started more than 80 years ago. Most importantly, we are doing what Wight has always done best—we’re partnering with our clients to create meaningful impact in the world.
I’m quite confident that the Colonel would be pleased with how his legacy has been nurtured and honored over the years. The military side of him might frown on me for not locking the company’s doors at 0800, but I know his engineering and business side would be thrilled with what we’ve built and where we’re heading.