RTKL Associates Inc., Baltimore's largest architectural firm, began this week laying off an undisclosed number of employees at its Baltimore office, a sign that the economic downturn is reducing the need for local architects and engineers.
RTKL spokeswoman Ann Carper and human resources director Susan Smith declined to say how many employees will be laid off.
Sources contacting The Sun yesterday, who declined to be identified, put the number at 18, which would be less than 5 percent of RTKL's work force in Baltimore.
RTKL had 388 employees in Baltimore as of mid-December, Ms. Carper said. One of the largest architectural firms in the nation with more than 700 employees at its peak, the company had 676 employees in seven offices as of Dec. 19, she said.
"We are experiencing layoffs, but we haven't been hit as hard as some because of our multidisciplinary operation," Ms. Carper said. In addition, some employees have been offered a chance to shift to RTKL offices in Dallas and Los Angeles if they are qualified for positions available there, Ms. Smith said.
The local terminations are not the first for RTKL, which had a round of layoffs in its Baltimore office last year.
All but one of RTKL's seven offices have laid off some employees as a result of the economic downturn, Ms. Smith said. Typically most affected, she said, are the architects and engineers working on commercial real estate developments that are financed by banks and savings and loans.
Ms. Smith said the layoffs are difficult for RTKL because "these are good, talented, qualified people, and it really hurts to let them go."
In addition to layoffs, she said, RTKL has responded to the economic downturn by launching an aggressive business-development campaign to identify new markets and new industries where it could provide services.
"This firm is healthy and wants to stay healthy," she said. "We want to be one of the survivors of this difficult business environment, and to be a survivor you have to make some difficult decisions."