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Strong core values drive HLA's 30 years of success in Lowcountry

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EXECTUIVE TEAM OF HLA, INC. Pictured (left to right) Richard Lacey, John S. Lester, Amy Chico, Thomas Kellum, Adriana Carson, Frann Carlton, Barry Whalen and Ron Felkel

29A Leinbach Drive
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 763-1166 •​

HLA, Inc. is celebrating 30 years of service to the Lowcountry. This milestone is a testament to the land-planning and civil engineering consulting firm’s long commitment to and passion for improving the quality of life for everyone who lives, works and plays in the greater Charleston area.

HLA’s longtime president, John S. Lester, is transitioning from a full-time role to become chairman of the board/special projects. A newly reorganized executive management team of seasoned HLA professionals is now in place with a wide range of skills and expertise in land planning, wetlands consulting, civil engineering and landscape architecture design. 

Barry Whalen, one of the company’s founders, has taken on the role of president.
“Our Executive Team has meshed well,” Whalen said. “They understand their crafts and have the ability to make project designs more cost-effective, sustainable, attractive and special.” 

Amy Chico and Thomas Kellum have been promoted to Vice Presidents, Adriana Carson and Ron Felkel are now Senior Project Directors, Richard Lacey is the Director of Surveying and Frann Carlton is the Administrative Manager.

The company’s core values of Integrity, Family Atmosphere, Knowledgeable, Dependable, Community Focused and Quality have served as the blueprint for success during its 30 years in business and created a solid base for the next 30 years.

“We don’t want to cover the earth,” Whalen said. “Some think bigger is better, but what we offer in the way of specific skills and knowledge about the local community is unique. Our expertise in land planning and wetland consulting, integrated in house with our master engineering, consistently saves money in the long run with fewer revisions, permitting issues and change orders as a project progresses.”

“Our combination of skills and background experience have led us to a point where we realized that we are ‘Site Experts,’” Whalen said. “Sites are much more complicated now because of wetland interpretations, drainage, traffic congestion and land-use opposition. Regulations have changed and are more complex. We have extensive experience in dealing with all of the challenges that come with land planning and site-improvement development in the Lowcountry.” 

This HLA site expertise applies to a wide variety of projects for public and private clients, such as residential and multifamily housing, industrial sites, office/commercial buildings and parks.

“There are bigger firms out there,” Whalen added. “But when we say we are community-focused, that means we have particular skills and expertise based on many years of project experience unique to our area. After preparing the 1995 Economic Development study for Charleston County, we promptly created the master plan and wetland permitting which created the design blue print for the Palmetto Commerce Park. While HLA continued to create individual site designs for community job producers like Boeing IRC & Propulsion, we also have a dual focus to assist with creating community sustainability needs such as inclusive housing. These improvements are helping to create an economically successful and sustainable community for the next generation.”

As a locally owned and operated small business, HLA’s focus has been and continues to be on the South Carolina Lowcountry because of its deep roots here. Employees give back to the community through many philanthropic and volunteer efforts, including Keep Charleston Beautiful, Adopt-A-Stop with CARTA and service on community advancement committees with the City of Charleston, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Infrastructure Task Force and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

HLA continues to focus on its core values as the guiding principles to expand its presence and positive impact in the community. “We want to create new jobs and new purpose in the community,” Whalen said.

As “The Site Experts,” the firm will maintain its mission to provide resourceful insight and design knowledge to assist the site improvement needs of the community by providing sustainable solutions through quality design.

“Our goal is to  add an extra element of consideration for how it will look and function in the future,” Whalen said. “This community is our home, and we strive to create a legacy design that future generations can appreciate.”

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