Parsons Corporation

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Parsons Corporation
Private (Employee-owned)
Industry Engineering and Construction
Founded California, United States (1944 as Ralph M. Parsons Company)
Headquarters 100 West Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA
Key people
Ralph M. Parsons, Founder
Charles L. Harrington, CEO
Thomas L. Roell, Group Executive, Operations/Risk
James R. Shappell, Group Executive, Development/Strategy
George L. Ball, CFO
Rich McFarland, Government Relations
Erin M. Kuhlman, Corporate  Relations
Mary Ann Hopkins, Group President, Chris Alexander, Executive Vice President
Revenue US$ 3.1 billion (2014)[1]
Parsons Corporation's headquarters in Pasadena

Parsons Corporation (Parsons) is an engineering, construction, technical, and management services firm headquartered in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1944 by engineer Ralph M. Parsons, Parsons Corporation is currently one of the largest such companies in the United States with more than 15,000 employees and revenues of $3.1 billion in 2014. It is 100% owned by its Employee Stock Ownership Trust.


Now in its 72nd year of operations, Parsons was founded by Ralph M. Parsons, a man who loved engineering and solving challenging problems. The story of this man—and the growth of the corporation he founded—offers insight into American entrepreneurship during post-World War II and a company’s evolution over more than seven decades as it meets the challenges of ever-changing business climates and fluctuating service markets.

Parsons’ legacy is seen in the design, engineering, and construction of some of the world’s most complex infrastructure and industrial facilities. One of Parsons’ many legacy projects was a project on the Alaska North Slope. Atlantic Richfield (BP) and Exxon (ExxonMobil) hired Parsons to perform an engineering study that would determine if there was a way to overcome the incredible technical and logistical engineering challenges in Arctic oil production. Parsons’ innovative work transformed the oil industry. Another significant project was the new industrial city of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, situated on the Red Sea. The Royal Commission of Saudi Arabia selected Parsons to transform this historic harbor into a thriving, modern port complex through its master plan, design, and construction management services. This self-contained industrial city of more than 100,000 people produces oil, gas, and petrochemical products used worldwide.

Founder's legacy[edit]

Ralph M. Parsons left behind one of America’s largest engineering corporations, known then as the Ralph M. Parsons Company—and he contributed to other endeavors that live on to this day. In 1961, he founded the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation as the charitable giving arm of the company; when he died, he left the foundation 600,000 shares of the company and $4 million in cash. The foundation soon became entirely independent from the company and to this day has no financial interest in it, sharing only the name of their founder.


Parsons is a leader in many diversified markets with a focus on infrastructure, industrial, federal, and construction. Parsons delivers design/design-build, program/construction management, and other professional services packaged in innovative alternative delivery methods to federal, regional, and local government agencies, as well as to private industrial customers worldwide. Parsons’ market strength comes from applying best practices to generate state-of-the-art solutions.

Landmark projects[edit]

Parsons is currently engaged in projects across the world including bridges, wastewater treatment facilities and homeland security. Such projects include the program/construction management and technical support services for multiple buildings on the Capitol Campus, vehicle inspection in New Jersey, emergency response and construction management in New York following Superstorm Sandy, program support services for the U.S. Army’s Training Support Systems Enterprise, managing information- and cyber-related risks for the intelligence community, program and constructions management for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s multibillion-dollar capital improvement program, design of Oman’s new water reuse infrastructure, construction supervision of the Dubai Metro Red and Green Lines, technical support and program management as well as construction management and labor relations services for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s massive school building program, and managing general contractor services for Miami International Airport’s South Terminal, North Terminal, and MIA Mover construction projects.

Signature Projects[edit]

Parsons is currently engaged in countless projects across the world. From bridges to wastewater treatment facilities to homeland security, Parsons designs, builds, and manages projects for customers worldwide. Notable Parsons projects include:[2]

  • MDA, Engineering and Support Services
  • NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland
  • DTRA, Syrian Chemical Weapons Elimination Program
  • Salt Waste Processing Facility, Phase II, South Carolina
  • Vimy Memorial Bridge, Ottawa, Canada
  • Los Angeles International Airport Tom Bradley International Terminal, California
  • Dubai Metro, Dubai, UAE
  • Doha Expressway, Doha, Qatar
  • Foothill Gold Line, California
  • City of Bakersfield Wastewater Treatment Plant 3 Expansion, California
  • GlassPoint Solar Miraah 1000 MW Solar Steam Plant, Amal Oil Field, Oman
  • San Antonio Water System Brackish Water Desalination Program, Texas
  • Covanta, H-POWER Facility Expansion, Hawaii

Controversial projects[edit]

Parsons was awarded a contract for a $243 million project to build 150 health care centers in Iraq in March 2004. By March 2006, $186 million had been spent, with six centers complete and accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), 135 centers only partly complete, and one reassigned to another contractor. USACE progressively terminated the contract from September 2005 to March 2006, eventually requiring Parsons to complete a total of 20 centers with the others to be completed by other contractors. The estimated cost for the completion of the other 121 centers was $36 million.[3]

Parsons and USACE disputed the degree to which the final 20 centers were completed.[4] A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction cited problems, including "high turnover among government personnel... directions... given without agreement from the contractor... program managers' responsiveness to contractor communications, cost and time reporting, administration and quality assurance".[4]

Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)[edit]

Parsons is one of only five companies in the United States that meets the requirements to participate in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Corporate VPP—a cooperative program that partners with employers and workers who have effective safety and health management systems and who maintain injury and illness rates below federal Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries.

World’s Most Ethical Companies Rankings[edit]

In 2016—and for the seventh consecutive year—the Ethisphere Institute honored Parsons as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. This designation recognizes companies for their commitment to ethical leadership, compliance practices, and corporate social responsibility.

ENR rankings[edit]

Every year, Engineering News-Record magazine performs an annual survey and ranks companies engaged in general contracting, specialty contracting, engineering, architecture, planning, and studies. The rankings are based on annual revenue at home and abroad, and they are further divided into specific market categories.

· ENR 2016 Top 500 Design Firms – Parsons ranked #10 overall for Top 500 Design Firms. In Top 20 Design Firms by Sector, Parsons ranked #4 in Transportation; #11 in General Building; #6 in Telecommunications; #8 in Sewer and Waste, and #9 in Hazardous Waste. In Top 50 Designers in International Markets, Parsons ranked #10.[5]

· ENR 2015 Top 500 Design Firms – Parsons ranked #10 overall for Top 500 Design Firms. In Top 20 Design Firms by Sector, Parsons ranked #5 in Transportation; #9 in General Building; #5 in Telecommunications, and #12 in both Sewer and Waste and Hazardous Waste. In Top 50 Designers in International Markets, Parsons ranked #12.[6]

In media and popular culture[edit]

Parsons been commended for workforce diversity in several publications:

  • In late 2015—and for the 4th year in a row—Parsons was designated a Military Friendly® Employer by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs magazine. Criteria for this award include a benchmark score across key programs and policies such as the strength of a company’s military recruiting efforts, the percentage of new hires with prior military service, company retention programs, and company policies on National Guard and Reserve service.
  • In March 2016, Parsons was named as one of the “Top 50 Employers” for women engineers in the 25th annual edition of Woman Engineer, published by Equal Opportunity Publications (EOP).
  • In July 2015, Parsons was named a “Top 50 Employer” in Workforce Diversity for Engineering & IT Professionals magazine, published by EOP.
  • For 5 years, Parsons has been named as one of the “Top 50 Employers” for minority engineers in Minority Engineer magazine, published by EOP.The "Lanely Institute" depicted in The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" bears an uncanny resemblance to Parsons' Pasadena headquarters as one would approach the complex on North DeLacey Avenue in Old Town Pasadena.

Parsons is mentioned in the documentary No End In Sight, about the US war upon and occupation of Iraq. In the documentary, two US Marines comment that they had begun construction of border forts a year after Parsons had begun construction of their border forts nearby. The Marine, Seth Moulton, said "...we had our forts designed, built and dedicated in a period of about five months. I think when we left, the Parsons forts, which had been started maybe a year before we arrived were still not finished." The documentary goes on to say that while the forts built behind schedule by Parsons cost 1.2 million dollars, the Marines' forts built in conjunction with providing employment for Iraqis cost just $200,000 of US taxpayers' money.

Parsons is also notable to readers of John Perkins' book Confessions of an Economic Hitman, as the company that acquired Chas. T. Main Inc., a New England–based international engineering firm, which according to the book, acted as a consulting firm, trapping many Third World countries into international debts they could not repay.


Further reading[edit]

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