Black, Crow & Eidsness (BC&E) grew out of the work of Dr. A. P. Black, head of the University of Florida Department of Chemistry in Gainesville. Dr. Black has been described as the “Fred Merryfield of the University of Florida.” He had a great rapport with his students and looked far afield from the university to provide practical knowledge for his students and practical applications for chemistry. He did consulting work and provided laboratory services, activities that grew into Black Laboratories, which he formed in 1947.
The founders of Black Laboratories were A. P. Black, his son Charles, and Bill Crow. Both Charles Black and Bill Crow had served in the European theater of operations during WWII, and returned to Gainesville to finish their engineering studies that had been interrupted by their Army service. Both worked for the City of Gainesville while completing their studies; Bill Crow in the power generating facilities, and Charles Black as chief chemist for domestic and industrial water supply.
Fred Eidsness came from work in industry in the water and wastewater fields. He held a reserve commission in the U. S. Public Health Service, and during the war years was Sanitary Emgineer for the Florida State Board of Health. He joined Black Laboratories in 1951 to found Black, Crow & Eidsness (BC&E) and also entered a doctoral program at the University of Florida. The goal of BC&E was to expand their economic base by providing a full range of engineering services to municipalities and industries. At the time of its acquisition by CH2M HILL in 1977, BC&E had grown to a 200 person water and wastewater firm with seven offices in the Southeast and regional offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York.
During the mid-seventies, BC&E found itself in financial difficulties and was seeking for a way to survive intact and to preserve its excellent reputation for quality work and innovative methods. It had already been acquired by the Hercules Corporation, a well known chemical and explosives manufacturing firm that had little experience in the type of engineering that BC&E was involved in. As a result, it found itself floundering to complete several major projects while suffering from severe staffing and financial problems.
Partially through the efforts of Ignacio Garcia-Bengochea and Manuel Vilaret, CH2M HILL was sought out as a possible savior of a fine establishment that was teetering on the brink of disaster. After many days of negotiations, trying to sort out potential losses from a number of major projects then under contract, an amicable agreement was reached with the Hercules organization and BC&E began its new life under the CH2M HILL banner. It took many years and a huge financial commitment on the part of CH2M HILL to restart the engine of this proud and very capable firm, but the rewards were well worth it. Staff quality at BC&E was extremely high, adding many notable figures to the combined firm. Over the years the lines that had separated the two firms gradually dimmed and the synergistic results contributed greatly to CH2M HILL’s future growth.