The 36 firms on the San Diego Business Journal’s Engineering Firms list embody the history and the future of San Diego County. The history stretches back to the vision and execution of Mission Bay. The future is in sight at the airport, on the freeways, in state-of-the-art medical facilities and new housing communities.

The criterion used to rank the list is the number of local full-time licensed engineers as of Jan. 1, 2012.

Parsons, No. 1 on the list, increased its staff of local full-time licensed engineers by 64. Richard Trembath, senior vice president, attributes the increase in local engineers to the ongoing Capital Improvement Project for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, or NAVFAC, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and Coronado, the San Vicente Dam raise for the San Diego County Water Authority, and Parsons Transportation’s work on the Interstate 15/French Valley Parkway in Temecula.

The San Vicente Dam raise is notable in that it is the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam raise in the country, along with the tallest of its type in the world.

Parsons, a global engineering, construction, technical and management services firm with 11,500 employees around the world, began work in San Diego in 1962 on a pumping station for the City of San Diego. Trembath, a veteran of 32 years with the company, has witnessed many economic cycles in San Diego during his tenure.

Dealing With Downturn

“Usually we see cycles of 18 months to two years, this (downturn) has been going on five years,” Trembath said. “I’m optimistic that things are improving. There are signs the economy is getting better, but it’s been slow in coming — I hope we’re in the last quarter of it.”

The highest ranking engineering firm with headquarters in San Diego is Rick Engineering Co. at No. 4 on the list. Rick increased its local full-time licensed engineers by 12. Kai Ramer, vice president and principal, is also seeing signs the economy is improving.

“The increase is primarily due to the fact that we have stabilized out of the worst economic times our industry has seen in a lot of years, maybe ever,” Ramer said. “Rick is benefiting from the diversity of services we offer to private and public entities, including projects in the design-build arena.”

The company was founded in 1955 in San Diego by Glenn A. Rick, after he left the City of San Diego’s planning department, where he had served from 1928. The San Diego Historical Society website refers to Rick as “the father of Mission Bay,” because of his foresight in envisioning and creating one of San Diego’s greatest recreation areas out of tidelands and mudflats. Ramer noted that during the next several decades Rick developed some of San Diego’s finest communities such as La Jolla Farms, Scripps Ranch, Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Bernardo, in addition to the Fashion Valley and University Towne Center malls — now a seamless part of the San Diego landscape.