Evoqua Water Technologies has more than one hundred years of experience providing water treatment and filtration services to industry and municipalities. But even as it expanded to more than 170 offices, plants, and factories around the world, it never had any one person coordinating oversight of its global facilities—until 2016. That’s when Christopher Wild joined the company as its first global corporate real estate manager.
Wild’s initial goal was to develop accurate insight into the status of each location so that strategic decisions could be aligned with business objectives. However, he discovered that the existing database hadn’t been adequately updated.
“Many of our leases were in holdover because no one was aware that decisions needed to be made about renewing or terminating them,” Wild says. “In one instance, we were in a location with an option to leave a building that we didn’t want to stay in, but missed the opportunity because we weren’t properly tracking our lease information.”
He set about organizing the portfolio by visiting many sites and communicating extensively with everyone involved globally to identify priorities, local issues, business strategies, and the pros and cons of specific situations.
“Previously, employees in the field had limited involvement in the real estate process,” Wild points out. “But stakeholder communication is key. The better information I have, the better I can do my job.”
He also coordinated with the company’s business units to understand their plans, and completed analyses to compare sales volume with the size of different venues to determine the most effective use of space. These assessments helped provide a full understanding of US facilities, most of which are leased as part of the company’s service model, which focuses on being close to customers. Overseas sites predominantly handle product manufacturing and technology development, so they require more substantial infrastructure, and are often owned, rather than leased.
“Nearly all of our US properties have leases coming up in the next few years, so we need to stay ahead of that,” Wild says. “We have to examine how they fit with the rest of the portfolio, determine if nearby businesses with common goals or operations can be combined under one roof, and make those decisions in a timely fashion.”
To help accomplish this, Evoqua has partnered with JLL to handle all lease administrative services. JLL functions as a central repository for all correspondence for all of Evoqua’s locations.
Two months after joining the company, Wild also took on responsibility for figuring out the best way to accommodate a headcount that was increasing so quickly that Evoqua headquarters was running out of room for new hires.
“Updating and renovating our old space would cost millions of dollars, and still wouldn’t have provided the type of space we really wanted,” Wild says. “I advocated for moving to a new location so we could create a bright, open environment that better reflects our identity.”
The executive team was convinced. After looking at more than thirty different sites in the Pittsburgh area, all of the corporate offices and personnel are now in 55,000 square-feet on the thirty-first, thirty-second, and thirty-third floors of downtown Pittsburgh’s K&L Gates Center. The space provides panoramic views, a lifestyle center where staff can relax or collaborate informally, a bar, a cafeteria with views of PNC Park, and a training center that can expand to accommodate large town hall meetings. Evoqua also has illuminated exterior signage on the building.
There was some resistance to the move from employees who faced a longer commute, but they were easily won over.
“The bright, open space and the views helped convince nearly everyone,” Wild says. “The vibrancy of being in the heart of the city is much more in line with the character of the company. There are also lots of great schools here, and our presence raises awareness with those graduates, who we want to attract as we continue growing.”
This is Wild’s second experience moving a company’s headquarters into the city center. He previously relocated Kennametal to the US Steel building in 2015. However, that was intended to be a temporary space, so Wild found Evoqua’s commitment to fully customizing its location to be a much more exciting and gratifying experience.
There were several key elements that he believes also made it immensely successful. Moving the entire staff helped preserve the company culture and keep morale high. Furthermore, ongoing communication helped everyone understand the company’s vision and its reason for moving, which enhanced excitement about the new space and the benefits of being downtown.
“The ways people interact and do business are changing,” Wild says. “The flexibility and openness of our new headquarters positions us to become even stronger as a company by maximizing the capabilities of all our current staff and being prepared for the next wave of employees, as well.”
Photos: Courtesy of The Design Alliance Architects