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No. 2 (large): KCI Technologies

Lynnea Tapp, a geotechnical engineer at KCI Technologies, demonstrates an AM Gradiometer, which reads radio waves below the ground surface, as Charbel Khoury, center, a KCI practice leader, and Ron Dove, a senior project manager, look on.
Lynnea Tapp, a geotechnical engineer at KCI Technologies, demonstrates an AM Gradiometer, which reads radio waves below the ground surface, as Charbel Khoury, center, a KCI practice leader, and Ron Dove, a senior project manager, look on. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

When Charbel Khoury learned about a new technology to detect underground utility lines and sinkholes, the practice leader overseeing KCI Technologies’ geotechnical engineering knew just where to take it: KCI’s Innovation Incubator.

KCI, a Sparks-based engineering, consulting and construction firm, launched the incubator in 2017 to encourage creative thinking among its 1,625 employees.

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The technology, known as AM Gradiometer, or AMG, was developed originally for the military to detect roadside bombs and tunnels. Khoury saw the potential to use it commercially and presented it to incubator leaders. They saw the potential, too, and provided funding to use AMG for pilot projects, including searching for underground voids in the road after a sinkhole emerged last summer at the corner of Howard and Pratt streets in Baltimore City.

KCI struck an exclusive agreement to use the technology in the United States. The company’s willingness to try new ideas is one of the many reasons Khoury loves his job.

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“You will be heard if you have ideas, creativity and innovation,” he says. “If you think out of the box and bring the idea to the table, people will listen to you and help you.”

Founded in 1955 and 100% employee-owned since 1998, KCI has 50 offices in 19 states and Washington, D.C. About a third of KCI’s employees work in the Baltimore area. Projects center on transportation, telecommunication, utilities and the environment. For example, KCI designed a leak detection and repair program for Baltimore City’s water mains.

“We’re not typical or traditional,” says Nate Beil, KCI’s president and CEO. “Yes, we’re engineers. That’s what the company was founded on. But we behave and deliver our services differently. We strongly believe in innovation.”

Along with access to the incubator, KCI offers employees 40 hours a year for training and professional development classes, flexible schedules, a wellness program that includes walking challenges and yoga classes, tuition reimbursement and a college scholarship program for employees’ children and stepchildren.

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Employees donate every year to the United Way campaign and an employee-selected charity. In 2018, they raised more than $36,000 for Meals on Wheels.

“The people who work here are incredible,” says Amy Lambert, director of corporate communications. “It’s awesome.”

Rank Company Founded Ownership Sector Locations Employees
1RK&K LLP1923PartnershipEngineering & planning1512
2KCI Technologies Inc.1955PrivateEngineering4511
3Charlestown Retirement Community Inc.1983NonprofitRetirement Community11247
4FutureCare1986PrivateNursing care163000
5Sandy Spring Bank1868PublicBanking41771
6CACI1962PublicInformation technology11441
7Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP1915PartnershipEngineering & consulting2438
8WPM Real Estate Management2005PrivateProperty management2452
9ClearOne Advantage LLC2008PartnershipDebt collections1599
10Lockheed Martin - Baltimore1929PublicDefense & aerospace1449
11Anne Arundel Health System1902NonprofitHealth care73545
12University of Maryland, Baltimore County1966GovernmentHigher education11918
13Aerotek1983PrivateStaffing4664
14Kennedy Krieger Institute1937NonprofitPediatric Rehabilitation232557
15Patient First1981PrivateHealth care15596
16University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center1965NonprofileHealth care112564

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