In the early 1950s, Doug Barr contacted Adolph Meyer, a renowned hydraulic engineer, about the prospect of work in Minnesota. Doug’s early projects involved hydraulic engineering and hydrology. One was the Nebraska Mid-State Irrigation Project, which entailed designing 23 reservoirs, four hydropower plants, flood-control channels and dams, and irrigation delivery systems for a 500,000-acre area. Other early projects were at sites where we still work and for clients with whom we have partnered for decades.
By 1960, Doug Barr was established as a one-person firm and took on his first employee, John Dickson, who stayed until his retirement in 1997. Barr’s business with mining clients on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range continued to grow, and we expanded our structural and geotechnical engineering services.
In 1966, Barr Engineering Co. was incorporated as an employee-owned firm with 16 employees. One of them was Al Gebhard, who succeeded Doug Barr as the company’s president in 1985 and served until 1999. Doug Connell was named Barr’s president and CEO in 2000, followed by John Lee in 2013. Ward Swanson became our current president and CEO in 2021.
Today, we often work with clients on large, complex—and sometimes controversial—engineering and environmental projects, for which we provide everything from initial permitting and siting assistance through process and facility design to construction management, operations support, and closure planning.
Over more than half a century, Barr’s services and staff have grown to meet our clients’ needs. We have also expanded geographically, opening offices in seven states and Canada and merging with other firms to provide the exceptional service and expertise our clients have come to expect.