Founded more than 25 years ago, Alliance Water Resources consistently ranks as a leading water and wastewater services provider in Missouri and surrounding areas. The Columbia, Missouri-based business offers contract management and contract operations to a variety of clients including municipalities, manufacturers, correctional centers, colleges and universities, resorts, and other commercial sectors.
Alliance’s underlying goal is to “help clients improve their technical, management and financial capabilities, ensure regulatory compliance, and improve customer service,” the company mission statement explains. Maintaining close, long-term relationships with both clients and employees is key to achieving this goal.
The company culture supports these employees by creating a work environment that is positive and balanced, but also challenging. Honesty, trust, respect, reliability, and family are always at the forefront. “I would not work for a company that put these values and missions out if they didn’t believe in it,” says Terry Merritt, Director of Marketing and Business Development. “I thoroughly enjoy working for a company that stands on its values and mission.”
The company encourages growth from within and provides significant opportunity for employees. “When I started with Alliance in 1995 with a shovel in my hand, I became a local manager of one of our contracts in 1998, and in 2012 I became a division manger that oversaw several of our local operations,” Mr. Merritt recalls. “And in 2017 I was promoted to one of the three directors.”
Mr. Merritt isn’t the only employee who has successfully moved up the ladder. In fact, Alliance has a program specifically designed to recognize and train internal talent to become leaders. “We have a ‘grow our own’ philosophy.” Every other year, the company selects 10 people from among the firm’s 300 employees for the Alliance Leadership program, which “gets them ready for bigger and better tasks.” These employees are recommended by their peers and managers and then interviewed by the HR department and the president of the company to narrow the list down to those chosen few. “We have hundreds of great employees, [so] it is an honor to be in this program and people covet to get in it,” Mr. Merritt says. “These people will be the future of our company.”
The company also has training programs that teach industry skills. From computers to biosolids, Alliance Academy teaches a wide variety of subjects at multiple Alliance locations. The program is open to any employee who wants to improve their knowledge in a specific area. “In our industry there has been a decline of qualified, skilled employees over the last ten years and that is only going to continue across the next [ten years]. And so, in order for our company to be so successful and to thrive, we have had to get out in front of this and develop our own employees. Our Alliance Academy and our Alliance Leadership program have been [able] to really help with that.”
Alliance works to educate the public as well as employees. “[We] try and explain to communities how important the water resource is,” Mr. Merritt says. “Everybody lives downstream.” This commitment to education plays out in a variety of ways. “The president of our company, she travels around the States trying to educate people on the need to enter the business, enter the field. She is constantly working on that. We have programs in place where we help support nonprofit organizations such as Missouri River Relief, [which] educates people on how to keep the waters of the state cleaner and better. Many of our local managers have programs where the students from their local schools will come and take tours of the local facilities. Many of the managers hold coloring contests for the little children in school to learn about the process of water and where it comes from and when it comes back to us.”
Alliance sees every customer as a unique case. “Our company will tailor fit a scope of services to fit the community’s need,” Mr. Merritt says. “We do not have a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. We do not do that. Each one of our scopes of services is unique for our customers’ needs.”
Whatever the method, the team always brings a customer’s water or wastewater treatment facility into compliance. “Sometimes it is just bringing in the right skilled labor, the right team.” Other times, the situation may require technology upgrades or an improvement project. But Alliance prides itself on avoiding costly renovations whenever possible. “We help them use their assets as long as possible.”
To ensure the best solution, the team analyzes each situation and identifies the problem that must be solved in order to bring a system into compliance. “We put a team of people on that [to consider] whether it is inadequate operations of the treatment facility, or maybe it was a treatment facility that was designed inadequately, or maybe it was a treatment facility that the system has outgrown. We have to look at each one of those aspects and, with the operations teams that we have in place, we have been really successful in helping communities not do capital improvement projects [by providing] better operations of their treatment facilities.” Of course, there are occasions when a more costly solution is unavoidable. “With rules and regulations changing, with environmental issues changing, sometimes it does take a capital improvement project.”
Alliance boasts extensive resources that make it possible for the company to offer comprehensive management services. “We have a finance department, we have an HR department, we have a safety department, we have our operations department. So if we are managing a water district, we are going to take care of their billing, their financials, their investments, all the way down to installing their water meters for their customers,” Mr. Merritt explains. “Once they partner with Alliance they get the full, shared resources of the entire company. [It is] unique for them to be able to have trained, qualified staff working for them locally with the resources of our corporate office at their fingertips for a steady fee.”
Alliance also offers contract services for customers that do not require a comprehensive solution. This is often the case with municipalities that already have systems in place for billing and other administrative details. “They just need a team of people to go out and do the work or operate a treatment facility.”
Whether the company is providing a comprehensive management solution or contract work, the team always puts the customer first. “We treat each community as if they are our number one client,” Mr. Merritt says. “When we partner with a community, our employees get very rooted in the community and we try and invest in the community.”
After a quarter century of growth and success, the team plans to remain on the path that has brought it this far. “Our vision is to continue to be the leading provider of water and wastewater operations in Missouri and surrounding states,” Mr. Merritt summarizes. “We are going to continue to reinforce our core values. We are going to continue to be honest. We are going to continue to support our employees and their families. We are going to continue to be reliable. We are going to continue to [earn] the respect and the trust of our clients.”