Constructing the future

  @FortuneMagazine June 13, 2013: 7:06 AM ET
CTD01 martin koffel

Martin Koffel , CEO of URS, is bullish on the U.S.

(Fortune)

You may not have heard of URS -- an outside CEO once joked the company is better known as "UR What?" -- but you can most likely appreciate what it does: build things. From pipelines to power plants to airports, URS is one of the world's largest infrastructure players. When current CEO Martin Koffel joined the company 20 years ago, URS did $100 million in revenue with 900 employees. Today, the company rakes in $12 billion in revenue with more than 57,000 employees all over the world. Fortune's Adam Lashinsky interviewed Koffel about nuclear energy, the Keystone Pipeline, and the future of domestic and international infrastructure. A lightly edited transcript follows.

Adam Lashinsky: So URS is number 248 on this year's Fortune 500, so let me ask on behalf of readers and viewers what I think is the most obvious question, which is, What is URS?

Martin Koffel: Well, its name originally was United Research Services, but it's had the acronym URS for, oh, 25 or 30 years. And it is a full-service engineering, construction, and technical service company. And it operates in 40 countries, although it's largely U.S.-centric. And we work on infrastructure, power plants, military contracts, in the oil and gas fields. And it's a portfolio of markets or sectors. That's one way to look at it. And so --

An even shorter way of saying it would be you build things, correct?

We build things, and we operate them. So we design things, we build things, and we operate them. As a result of everything we do, we come to work every day, and the result of everything we do, something physical happens: A lake is cleaned up and wildlife can [live] on it again, or a bridge is built, or an airport is built, or a power plant is built. There's something physical [that] happens.

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