What makes a great project partnership?

January 23, 2024

What makes a great project partnership?

The Bonton Associates culture thrives on collaboration. From day one, we’ve made it a priority to value different perspectives, respect unique life experiences, and encourage teamwork to accomplish shared goals. It’s not only how we work internally, but also how we approach project partnerships, whether we’re a prime engineering contractor across numerous MoveBR projects or supporting global firms like Burns & McDonnell on our way to being named a B&M 2022 Partner of the Year.

With this four-part series, we’ll share insights from the eight principals who lead Bonton’s efforts from our Baton Rouge and Shreveport offices — a diverse group of professionals deeply committed to client success when working with partner firms, consultants and other stakeholders. First up: our firm founder, plus the newest member of our leadership team.

Darius Bonton, PE, MBA started Bonton Associates in 2012, driven by his belief that the market will always demand quality professional engineering services for public infrastructure projects. From the beginning, he recognized that an ability to relate to and work seamlessly with buyers, colleagues and other industry stakeholders would provide a unique competitive advantage and position the firm for growth.

“Well-aligned partnerships not only generate mutual business value, but also bridge resource and knowledge gaps,” he says. “That’s a direct benefit to the communities we serve, and it demonstrates that they can rely on us and our partners to achieve the outcome we’ve promised.”

Under Darius’s leadership, the firm provides stormwater, water and wastewater project planning and delivery that align system demands with required levels of service and financial capabilities. Bonton views projects from a today-and-tomorrow perspective, providing clear guidance on immediate priorities such as operations and asset management, as well as future commitments like capital improvement programs.

“In our experience, great partnerships make great things possible,” Darius says. And when the opportunity arose to bring an eighth firm principal on board — and offer even more depth of expertise to client engagements — he was thrilled to welcome Michael Ellis, PE to Bonton Associates.

Michael joined the firm in September with more than 25 years of professional experience in environmental and water resources work. “He brings much more than just engineering and administrative acumen to Bonton,” explains Darius. “It’s his unique ability to drive large, complex capital initiatives to completion that truly makes him invaluable to our clients.”

Most notably, Michael spent three critical years as Executive Director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority (CPRA), appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to lead the organization from 2016-2018 and launch the state’s 50-year Coastal Master Plan. In his role, he managed 171 team members and numerous consultants and contractors across the implementation of coastal protection and restoration projects.

“I learned very quickly that a plan of this scope and scale requires buy-in and support from many diverse stakeholders, including the coastal communities, politicians, state and federal partners, industry, and the environmental groups,” Michael explains. “Not only is planning important, but there must also be an alignment in the vision and goals of the plan to be successful.”

With much of his childhood spent fishing, hiking and camping, Michael’s passion for water and the environment started early. “Preserving our natural resources has shaped my life and career,” he continues. “Some people believe human progress and protecting the environment cannot coexist. I believe just the opposite. They go hand-in-hand.”

Here at Bonton, Michael joins a colleague he has known and admired for years. “I recognized a long time ago that Darius was not only an outstanding engineer, but also knew how to build a successful business,” he says. “He combines excellent client work with the mentorship and training his staff needs to become better engineers and grow their own careers. By adding my expertise to what Darius has built, I believe we’re even better-positioned to be the go-to firm for clients and project partners.”

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