Born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida, it was always Steve Morrison’s dream to become a pilot in the United States Air Force. As soon as he graduated from North Fort Myers High School in 1973, Steve ventured off to South Carolina to The Citadel in pursuit of his dream. Halfway through his schooling, he realized there were so many pilots waiting for flight training school, that there was no guarantee he would have the opportunity to actually get to fly, prompting him to rethink things and focus on his major of civil engineering.
After graduating with his Bachelor of Science degree in May 1977 and having passed his Engineer in Training (EIT) exam, Steve came back to Fort Myers for the summer. His plan was to pursue his master’s degree in construction management from Georgia Tech that fall, but as fate would have it, his part-time summer job ended up turning into a 42-year career with Johnson Engineering.
Steve began working for Johnson Engineering the summer of 1977 as a survey rodman just to earn money and get some experience before returning to school. Steve spent a month or so on the survey crew, when then president, Forrest Banks, PE, asked Steve to fill in for Dan Dickey, who was going on vacation. Dan was right in the middle of the Eastwood Golf Course construction project, so Steve moved from doing survey field work to engineering construction inspections.
Forrest saw something in Steve and didn’t want to lose him, so he asked him to stay on for a year and offered him a company sponsored scholarship to earn his master’s degree. Since it looked like he now had a job in Florida, Steve accepted and decided to attend the University of Florida (UF), and within one year, earned his Master’s in Engineering, specializing in water and wastewater utility design.
When Steve returned to work, Forrest asked him to help on a project for the master plan of the Charlotte County Airport, now known as the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD). Forrest placed a large stack of FAA/FDOT manuals and books on Steve’s desk and told him to read up! Steve spent countless hours educating himself about FAA regulations, which later helped Johnson Engineering become the Airport’s General Consultant. He became the design engineer for the Charlotte County Development Authority, where he designed the runway 3/21 extension, taxiway improvements, the replacement of the airport sewers, and the force main along Piper Road, connecting the I-75 rest area and the Airport to the City of Punta Gorda.
Within four years, Steve earned his Florida Professional Engineering license (PE) and was made a partner of the firm. Throughout the 1980s, the company transformed quite a bit with the introduction of computers and cell phones. Steve made a name for himself at the company, working as a project engineer on many of the area’s most recognizable projects such as the Florida Cities Water Company, Sanibel Sewer System, the Edison Mall, Shell Point Retirement Village, HealthPark, Gateway, and Babcock Ranch, to name a few.
In 1997, Steve was elected the company’s fourth president. He ran the company through the best of times and the worst of times. During this time, the company reorganized its management structure, having seven board members with an elected president. Under his direction, the company also created seven distinct specialized market groups, each led by one market leader for development, surveying & mapping, transportation, water resources, utilities, environmental, planning & landscape architecture.
Throughout the 2000s, the company thrived, more than doubling its employee count from 137 to 320 team members in a mere eight years. The company was named in ZweigWhite’s annual list of the 100 Fastest Growing Engineering/Architecture Firms in the United States for three consecutive years.
Under Steve’s leadership, the company had a healthy momentum moving forward as new services were added to complement our civil engineering work, the addition of new branch offices, and even a new corporate headquarters expansion in 2007.
The year 2008 proved to be the most challenging year for the company, and for Steve. The economic downturn forced many companies out of business. Steve was forced to make many difficult decisions to keep the firm from also going out of business. Steve, along with the company’s board and market leaders, came up with various ways to cut operational costs, initiating team member furlough days, imposed salary reductions, and eventually had to lay off more than half the company’s team members. “It was heartbreaking having to let go of some really great people”, said Steve. In the end, the company was fortunate to rebound from the recession and began thriving again. To date, we were able to rehire 11% of those former team members who were laid off during that taxing year.
After getting to the light at the end of this tunnel, Steve decided it was time to let the next generation of folks lead the company into the future. After 15 successful years serving as president, in 2012, Steve passed the torch to current president, Lonnie Howard, PE and Board Chairman Kevin Winter, PE. This transition was planned and accomplished over a year’s time to strategically shift responsibilities to Lonnie and Kevin. Steve was not ready to retire yet and wanted to return to his role as project engineer for a few of his major clients he had developed over the years.
Fast forward to 2019 and now after 42 years at Johnson Engineering, Steve decided he was ready to move onto the next chapter of his life…retirement. He and his wife Lisa packed up their Newmar motor home, with a Jeep Wrangler in tow and set off on the adventure of a lifetime traveling around the United States.
We wish Steve well in his journey and thank him for his commitment and dedication to Johnson Engineering.