Though known and respected in the construction industry for their geotechnical expertise and related field and laboratory services, French & Parrello Associates (FPA) has not rested on its laurels since their inception in 1974. Today, celebrating over 40 years of engineering and consulting excellence, FPA has grown to over 140 employees, providing multi-discipline engineering services for both the public and private sectors.
It is no surprise that this diverse and professional organization has been in business for over 40 years. In fact the company’s mission statement clearly expresses the view of its founders: “Our mission is to provide value-added, service oriented, and client-focused engineering and environmental consulting solutions, advancing our clients’ visions and improving our world.”
The roots of FPA go back to the early 1970’s, when Laurence E. French, PE was expanding the southern New Jersey client base of Raamot Associates PC (Raamot), a Manhattan-based geotechnical engineering group. With both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Newark College of Engineering (NCE), Larry would go on to build a career of over 45 years in soil mechanics and foundation engineering, becoming the first geotechnical engineer from the United States to provide geotechnical consultation and foundation design for a facility in China. He also served as a professor at NCE during a five year stint from 1966-1971.
As an Associate of Raamot, Larry launched a New Jersey branch office in Brielle in 1972 to better serve the company’s growing list of projects in the Garden State. Argo T. Parrello, PE, who had known Larry since college, joined the Brielle office in 1973. Argo had earned an undergraduate degree from NCE, which was followed by a master’s degree from the University of Illinois. He served in the United States Naval Civil Engineering Corps as Assistant Resident Officer in charge of projects in Thailand and the United States, prior to entering private practice.
Shortly thereafter, Larry and Argo were joined by Joseph M. Edwards, PE and James B. Heller, PE. Joe and Jim, like the other founders, earned bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering from the NCE with an emphasis on geotechnical and construction engineering. Jim also earned a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
The Brielle office quickly gained a reputation for providing clients with solid expertise in geotechnical engineering and related field and laboratory services. The office’s high quality engineering skills and cost effective designs complemented by its ability to provide field and laboratory services during construction helped them stand out in the marketplace.
In March of 1974, the seeds of what would eventually become FPA were sown with the formation of Raamot Associates PA, a New Jersey based branch office of their New York City parent firm. Their early services were concentrated on geotechnical engineering and related construction phase services. Notable projects during the first decade included oceanfront high rise structures in Monmouth Beach, major water and sewerage systems in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, ocean outfalls, subaqueous pipe crossings and sewage treatment facilities in Wall, Neptune, and Hamilton Township.
The success of the firm and its culture – steeped in professionalism, technical excellence, and top-notch service – can be attributed to the ambition and determination of these four talented engineers.
In 1980 the Raamot Associates PA operation began to broaden its services by offering environmental engineering. Three years later in 1983, Larry, Argo, Jim, and Joe, “the Founders”, decided to separate the group’s ties to Raamot Associates PC. In 1983, Raamot Associates PA was purchased by “the Founders” and the name was changed to French & Parrello Associates, PA.
By the mid-1980’s, FPA had entered the emerging wireless telecommunications market, a decision that would be the impetus for future growth and their transition to a multi-discipline engineering firm. Throughout this decade, the firm focused on organic growth by providing additional service lines such as site, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering and surveying services to primarily serve the telecommunications market. Notable projects during this time included the early buildout of wireless telecommunication networks for some of the industry’s major carriers. Today, the telecommunications market remains a strong suit.
Coinciding with an October 1990 move to a new location in Holmdel, New Jersey, the firm formally committed to being recognized as a multi-discipline firm. Through the asset purchase of a structural engineering firm, FPA officially entered the building design field. Combined with their mechanical, electrical, plumbing, site, geotechnical, and environmental capabilities along with survey, landscape architecture, and related construction phase services, they could now offer a client full engineering services from concept, through permitting, design, and construction. In 1994, they opened a branch office in Hackettstown, New Jersey, and also began to offer highway and bridge engineering services.
From the early 90’s on, the firm has set its focus on applying their multi-discipline skills to such diverse assignments as schools, hospitals, dams, landfills, parks, highways, bridges, power plants, solar installations, commercial facilities, and residential and apartment projects.
In 2002, French & Parrello Associates opened a branch office in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to position themselves for the redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel Plant. Then in October 2005, they came full circle when they returned to their geographical roots by relocating their main office to its present location in Wall, New Jersey, a few miles from the original Brielle office.
In 2015, Larry French retired from full-time service, and currently holds the title of Chairman Emeritus. Since his retirement, he has continued to assist the firm in business development. Argo Parrello retired in 2016 and still resides in Monmouth County. Argo spends much of his free time pursuing his passions, which include fitness, adult learning, volunteering, and his grandchildren. He has also become certified as a Master Gardener.
Founding member, Jim Heller, currently serves as the firm’s Chief Executive Officer and President. Presiding over the Board of Directors, Jim is responsible for the overall direction and management of the firm. Joe Edwards, also one of the firm’s Founders, currently serves as the company’s Executive Vice President, Secretary and Quality Control Officer, and is responsible for maintaining the corporate business documents and record of Board of Director proceedings. Joe also leads the firm’s solid waste engineering group through both design and construction related aspects of work.
Joining the Board of Directors in 2006, Steven Tardy currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer of the Board of Directors. As Chief Operating Officer, Steve is responsible for FPA’s operating units. His management responsibilities include business development, staff oversight, quality control, client relations and project implementation. As Treasurer, Steve oversees financial planning and performance monitoring activities.
In 2011, the standing Board members were joined by Keith Smith, Dave Calnan, Andrew “Drew” French, and Matthew Gizzi. More recently in 2015, Pete Tardy and Brian Decina also joined FPA’s Board of Directors. You can learn more about all of FPA’s Board members by visiting our BOARD OF DIRECTORS page.
Today, “the Founders” are in the process of transitioning FPA to the group of talented new leaders and shareholders. “Our primary role, for the next decade, is to transition the firm to our new leaders, as the future is in their hands. We are providing them with a strong foundation to build their future on. They take with them our legacy and ‘can do’ culture,” stated Argo Parrello, past President of the firm.
It is no surprise that this diverse and professional organization has been in business for over 40 years. In fact, the company’s mission statement carries on the beliefs of its founders: “Our mission is to provide value-added, service oriented, and client-focused engineering and environmental consulting solutions, advancing our clients’ visions and improving our world.”