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CDM Smith Inc.
International Directory of Company Histories. Ed. Jay P. Pederson. Vol. 169. Farmington Hills, MI: St. James Press, 2015. p107-110.
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning
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Page 107

CDM Smith Inc.

50 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
Telephone: (617) 452-6000
Fax: (617) 452-8000
Web site:

Private Company
1947 as Camp Dresser & McKee
Incorporated: 1970 as Camp Dresser and McKee, Inc.
Employees: 6,000
Sales: $752.9 million (2013)
NAICS: 541330 Engineering Services; 541310 Architectural Services; 5416110 Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services

CDM Smith Inc. is a construction and engineering company with more than 100 offices worldwide that has traditionally specialized in projects related to civic water management, such as water mains, storm water drains, and wastewater processing. The company also provides consultation, engineering, and construction services related to transportation, waste management, and geotechnical projects. Originally known as Camp Dresser & McKee, the company adapted its current name in 2011 with its acquisition of Wilbur Smith Associates. CDM Smith Inc. is a private company, owned by its employees.


Thomas Camp, founder of the firm that would eventually become known as CDM Smith Inc., began his engineering career with a degree in architectural engineering from Texas A&M College in 1916. Remaining in Texas, Camp initially secured a position with the Fort Worth based Hawley & Sands engineering firm as resident engineer at the water and sewage treatment plant for the city of Breckenridge, while also working part time as the town's city engineer. When work at the Breckenridge plant wound down, Camp was put to work on a major expansion of the Fort Worth water and sewer systems. After that project ended in 1923, the firm had little work to offer Camp and granted him a leave of absence to seek further education.

Landing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Camp married and settled permanently in Boston. After completing his studies at MIT, Camp obtained a faculty position at the school, where he would remain for most of the next two decades. Camp would eventually become chair of MIT's sanitary engineering program. At the same time, he was active as a private consultant. In September 1944, hoping to expand his business, Camp purchased the engineering practice of Samuel Ellsworth, who had recently passed away.

The chief engineer at the Ellsworth firm was Herman Garland Dresser, an accomplished engineering mathematician who had taught at Rutgers University and obtained his degrees from Tufts University and Princeton University. Like Camp, Dresser specialized in

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CDM Smith provides lasting and integrated solutions in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities to public and private clients worldwide. As a full-service engineering and construction firm, we deliver exceptional client service, quality results and enduring value across the entire project life cycle. The firm is distinguished by our leadership and flexibility in design-build and alternative delivery approaches for environmental and infrastructure projects.

water-based projects. He was somewhat famous in the field for developing mathematical formulas for use in hydraulic engineering and for significantly influencing the modern design of dams, pumping stations, water filtration plants, and other such facilities. Almost as much as his engineering pedigree, Camp was impressed with Dresser's organizational and administrative skills. As Samuel Ellsworth's health had faded, Dresser had overseen and managed the day-to-day operations of the firm.

With the end of World War II, a housing boom and general expansion of the nation's economy brought a wave of civil engineering projects and a critical need for engineers and consultants. Sensing an opportunity to establish a foothold in the private sector and to contribute in a practical and long-lasting way to his community, Camp decided to fold the Ellsworth practice and open a new consulting firm that would focus specifically on hydraulic and sanitation projects. In need of partners, Camp brought Dresser aboard to oversee the administrative functions of the new firm and to ensure that everything ran smoothly. He also recruited a younger partner, a colorful character who had just returned from a stint with the Army Corps of Engineers, overseeing sanitation projects for the Normandy campaign.

Jack Edward McKee was 36 years old when he joined Camp and Dresser's new endeavor, nearly two decades younger than his partners. McKee was originally from Pittsburgh, where he had witnessed firsthand the various problems that arose from the city's confluence of heavily polluted rivers. After obtaining a civil engineering degree from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, McKee went to work analyzing and forecasting flooding for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Soon, however, he moved on to Harvard University, where he eventually obtained a doctorate in sanitary engineering.

Following a brief tenure with the U.S. Public Health Service, McKee joined the Army Corps of Engineers, where he eventually ascended to the rank of major while plying his trade at Normandy and elsewhere in Europe. In addition to his engineering talents, McKee was known as a skilled banjo player who performed with a succession of jazz bands. Camp was impressed with journal accounts of McKee's work in Europe, including a number of water purification techniques he had developed, as well as the younger man's studies of groundwater dynamics. After McKee accepted Camp's invitation to join the firm, Camp Dresser & McKee opened for business in 1947.


For its first decade, Camp Dresser & McKee remained a regional operation. The partners focused on water supply and pollution projects, primarily in New England. By the 1960s, however, the company had begun to operate across the United States and internationally, providing sanitation and filtration systems for developing nations in Asia and South America. The talents of the company's founding partners eventually lent the firm a reputation as a cutting-edge leader in the field of sanitation and waste management.

Thomas Camp, for example, engineered gamechanging advances in water filtration and treatment. He helped develop a multiple-tray design for settling tanks, to remove sediment from water more efficiently. He was heavily influential in the design of tanks for flocculation, the process by which impurities can be made to clump together for easier removal. Camp also pioneered a number of new filtration techniques, including the use of anthracite coal in filter systems.

For his part, Herman Dresser continued the advances in engineering mathematics that had established his reputation in the field. He created a set of formulas for analyzing the movement of fluids through sewage systems that would become standard across the industry. In addition to his administrative duties for the partnership, Dresser would serve in leadership positions for several professional associations, including the Boston Society of Civil Engineers and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.

McKee's contributions to the field included adapting molecular filtration techniques, methods by which filters are designed to block molecules of particular sizes and shapes, for use in removing bacteria from wastewater. In 1952, he compiled a number of studies he had performed for the firm as Water Quality Criteria. Initially created for the California Water Pollution

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Thomas Camp, Herman Dresser, and Jack McKee form engineering partnership.
Company incorporates as an employee-owned firm.
CDM Federal Programs Corporation subsidiary is formed.
Company acquires Wilbur Smith Associates and becomes CDM Smith, Inc.
Company acquires Louis Perry Group.

Control Board, the book would become a standard text for pollution control engineers. During his years with the partnership, McKee continued the work in groundwater recharge, through which wastewater could be returned to a natural aquifer in a purified state, that he had pioneered in Europe. McKee also performed some of the earliest studies on the effect of nuclear power plants on local water sources and even helped develop waste management systems for the early space program. Operating from Los Angeles, after accepting an invitation to create a new environmental health engineering program at the California Institute of Technology in 1949, he would act as national director of the American Society of Civil Engineers during the early 1960s.

The 1960s proved to be a period of expansion for Camp Dresser & McKee, even as the active careers of the original partners were winding down. The decade brought a growing public awareness of the problem of pollution and other threats to the environment, as well as a newfound interest, embodied by the Peace Corps and other groups, in improving the quality of life in developing nations. Accordingly, another wave of new civil engineering projects, funded by the United States, other governments, and nonprofit organizations, began to spring up around the globe. Because these projects often included civic infrastructure concerns beyond water and waste management, the firm began to expand its focus, hiring new engineers who specialized in transportation design and facilities construction.

By 1970, Thomas Camp and Herman Dresser, now in their 70s, were less engaged with the day-to-day operations of the firm. Dresser had been given the title partner emeritus in 1969, while Camp had mostly retired. The younger McKee, while still active in his profession, was busy with several endeavors outside the firm. In 1970, he became chairman of the National Research Council Committee on Air Quality Management. During this period, he continued as a consultant for the Atomic Energy Commission and chaired a committee on Sanitary Engineering for the National Institutes of Health.

With the three partners no longer actively overseeing the firm, a decision was made to dissolve the original partnership and incorporate the business as a new firm that could operate independently of its founders. By the end of 1970, Camp Dresser & McKee had been replaced by Camp Dresser and McKee, Inc. The new company would remain private, its ownership stock held exclusively by the engineers and other operatives who made up its employee roster. Shortly after the change, the first incarnation of the firm came to a symbolic end with the death of Thomas Camp in 1971.


The 1970s saw the firm continue its evolution and expansion. By the time of the deaths of Herman Dresser in 1977 and Jack McKee in 1979, the company had moved beyond its reputation as a wastewater engineering firm and added engineering departments dedicated to other fields, such as hazardous waste management, and a renewed push for more transportation contracts. The hazardous waste field proved particularly lucrative during this period, with the firm picking up contracts for some of the Environmental Protection Agency's earliest Superfund environmental cleanup projects in the early 1980s. This led to the establishment of a new subsidiary in 1986. The CDM Federal Programs Corporation would be devoted specifically to the firm's contract work for the U.S.government.

By the early 1990s, the firm, which was now using the business name CDM, had begun adding more ground-up design, construction, and maintenance contracts to its traditional slate of consultation work. CDM had also added a number of new specialties to its menu of offerings. One promising addition was geotechnical consultation, the analysis of the engineering behavior of geological materials including rock, earth, and sand. The company also began offering information management services for engineering projects.

Besides the Federal Programs subsidiary, CDM had created several other wholly owned subsidiaries around the world to handle its international contracts and other endeavors. Germany, Turkey, Ireland, and Poland had their own subsidiary offices that managed CDM projects on a regional basis. In 1992, CDM created CDM Constructors Inc. to handle its growing schedule of construction projects. In 1998, the company incorporated CDM International Inc. to manage its Asian business.

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The dawn of the 21st century brought a renewed expansion of CDM's mission. The company operated across a wide spectrum of civil engineering fields. The company had begun to work on energy-related projects, including plants that could convert solid waste into energy and solar power generation facilities. CDM had also significantly stepped up its transportation engineering work, designing rail systems, toll roads, and even lock-and-dam structures. The increasing emphasis on transportation contracts inspired CDM executives, led by CEO Richard Fox, to take a major step.

From its inception, Camp Dresser & McKee had followed the tried-and-true strategy of expansion through acquisition. As their client base expanded beyond New England and across the United States, the partners had established new field offices by purchasing smaller engineering firms. In 2010, CDM orchestrated its biggest acquisition to date when it made an offer to buy out Wilbur Smith Associates (WSA). Founded in 1952 by the first state traffic engineer for South Carolina, WSA specialized in transportation infrastructure projects. In its last year as an independent company, WSA had brought in some $200 million in revenue, compared to CDM's $720 million, and had around 1,000 employees. Like CDM, it was an employee-owned company.

When the deal was finalized in early 2011, CDM initially announced that the Smith firm would operate as a subsidiary. Within a year, however, it had been fully merged with CDM. To mark the merger, CDM officially changed its name to CDM Smith Inc. The combined operation had around 6,000 employees working out of around 100 offices in some 28 countries. CDM Smith now offered services in 100 distinct engineering specialties. The company was not finished growing, however.

Near the end of 2014, CDM Smith Inc. acquired the 75-employee Louis Perry Group of Wadsworth, Ohio. After the purchase, the company announced that, unlike the Smith company, the Perry Group would stay in Wadsworth and operate as an independent subsidiary. The Perry Group specialized in industrial design and construction, and CDM Smith executives announced that the Wadsworth office would become one of the company's primary design facilities. While CDM Smith remained one of the most respected names in hydraulic engineering and water system design, the company continued its expansion into new specialties and new engineering frontiers.

Chris Herzog


CDM Constructors Inc.; CDM Federal Programs Corporation; CDM International Inc.; CDM Smith Consult GmbH (Germany); CDM Smith Danismanlik ve Mühendislik Ltd. (Turkey); CDM Smith Ireland Limited; CDM Smith Sp.z.o.o. (Poland); The Louis Perry Group.


Federal Services Unit; International Unit; North America Unit.


AECOM Technology Corporation; Black & Veatch Corporation; Fluor Corporation; Tetra Tech, Inc.


Anderson, Katie. “Wadsworth's Louis Perry Is Retiring on His Own Terms.” Medina Gazette (Medina County, OH), December 13, 2014.

Fitts, Mike. “Wilbur Smith Associates Discussing Merger with Massachusetts Company.” Charleston Regional Business Journal, July 20, 2010.

Kramer, Bradley. “Leading Clients into the Future.” Trenchless Technology, December 2005.

“Richard D. Fox—2013 CEOs Who ‘Get It.’” Safety & Health, February 2013.

Rubin, Debra K. “CDM Inks Purchase of Transportation Firm Wilbur Smith.” Energy News-Record, February 25, 2011.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
Herzog, Chris. "CDM Smith Inc." International Directory of Company Histories, edited by Jay P. Pederson, vol. 169, St. James Press, 2015, pp. 107-110. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 24 June 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3771100032

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