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Katz & Associates Joins Southwest Strategies

PUBLIC RELATIONS: Combined Firm will Serve More Than 100 Companies

Sarah Katz and Chris Wahl have been friends, competitors, and even colleagues from time to time, for more than 20 years, heading rival public relations firms.

Building on that relationship, the two former rivals have become colleagues with the recent acquisition of Katz & Associates by Southwest Strategies, where Wahl has been president for the past 23 years and was vice president and partner for eight years before then.

Sarah Katz
CEO & Founder
Katz & Associates

“Our bodies of work kind of aligned quite a bit, so we bumped up against one another or we would tag-team things together, or he would refer opportunities to me, I would refer opportunities to him,” said Katz, who formed Katz & Associates in 1986. “It’s always been a friendly collaboration and formidable competition.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Wahl said that the combined firm will have an annual revenue of about $18 million.

Katz said that her firm and Southwest Strategies have more than 100 companies as clients.

“We believe that we’re the largest communications firm in California that focuses on water, energy, and transportation infrastructure,” Wahl said.

The two have already worked together on projects for the regional planning agency SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments), and the San Diego County Water Authority.

“We really felt that we were better together than we were apart,” Katz said.

Succession Plan

Wahl will be CEO of the combined firms and Katz will be Principal-in-Charge of the firm’s water practice and a business development advisor, operating as Katz & Associates, a Southwest Strategies Company.

Chris Wahl
CEO & Co-founder
Southwest Strategies

Katz & Associates has been big on water projects, including San Diego’s Pure Water San Diego program that has a goal of providing nearly half of San Diego’s water supply locally by the end of 2035.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost $1.5 billion.

Among the clients of Southwest Strategies are the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the Orange County Transportation Authority, and the San Diego International Airport in its Terminal 1 development.

“We’ve neglected our infrastructure for so long, and between the two of us, we have a very impressive track record in working on big regional planning efforts, environmental efforts, land us-bringing it across the finish line,” Katz said.

“Both of our firms work extensively in transportation,” Wahl said.

Southwest Strategies in December 2022 partnered with Palladium Equity Partners and its affiliates, Palladium Heritage, a private equity fund, with an eye toward further expansion.

At the time, Palladium Heritage Principal David MacDonald said that Palladium’s investment in Southwest Strategies “positions Southwest Strategies for further growth, particularly in light of infrastructure investments in the United States projected for the coming years.”

The deal with Katz & Associates is the first acquisition since Palladium and Southwest Strategies joined forces, Wahl said, “with the idea that we can build replicable models that can be applied in multiple cities around the country.”

“We’re in the process now of looking at additional acquisitions,” Wahl said, adding that the staff could grow from about 90 to 150 to 200 “serving all of the West Coast.”

“That’s our goal,” he added.

With the acquisition combination of Katz & Associates and Southwest Strategies Wahl said that he and Katz were creating a succession plan so their firms would continue.

“Many times, firms like ours, when the founders retire, just go away and dissolve. We didn’t want to do that,” Wahl said.

Katz & Associates

Founded: 1986
Headquarters: Mission Valley
CEO and Founder: Sarah Katz
Business: communications
Employees: 40
Annual revenue: $7 million
Website: www.katzandassociates.com
Contact: 858-452-0031
Notable: Katz & Associates’ clients include water and transportation agencies, local governments, energy companies, and the military.

Southwest Strategies

Founded: 2000
Headquarters: downtown San Diego
CEO: Chris Wahl
Business: public relations and outreach
Employees: 50
Annual revenue: $11 million
Website: www.swspr.com
Contact: 858-541-7800
Notable: Southwest Strategies has helped secure and build more than $20 billion in infrastructure projects in California

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