Here at HFA, our people are our top priority. With that in mind, we believe that growing and promoting talent from within is vital to our purpose, vision, and values.

Recently, CEO Dave Wilgus announced that three Directors, Bo Ebbrecht, Greg Schluterman, and James Owens, would be promoted to Vice President, effective October 14, 2020.

Part of the reason this support structure change was so important is that these three leaders will use their new positions to strengthen their bond with HFA employees, both in their home office and beyond. But how much do you know about them? We took a few moments to get to know each Vice President a little better so they can explain what this promotion means for them and the studio as a whole. Read on to learn more about James Owens, AIA, NCARB!

Q: Tell me a little more about your background and how long you’ve been with HFA.

James: I have 19 years of experience in the architecture industry. I was part of the Allevato Architects merger, so I’ve been with HFA for about nine years. My origin story begins in my hometown of North Easton, Massachusetts, home to five H.H. Richardson buildings. Richardson was considered one of the founders of American architecture. He developed his own unique architectural style (Richardsonian Romanesque) and his buildings in my hometown made a significant impact on me growing up. So, I'd say from about the age 12; I knew I had a passion for architecture because I thought it was so cool to have a hand in building something that was still standing years later and to be still talking about the person who designed it. It's exciting to see how someone [an architect] could leave their mark on this world.

Q: How will your industry and client experience assist you in your new role as Vice President?

James: I've always played the true architect role, which means I enjoy being involved in all phases of a project—from schematic design to construction administration. Having that broad range of experience is something I am very passionate about and is something I've been able to pass along to other designers, architects, and engineers. I feel strongly about transferring my knowledge and experience to others and showing them how the design process works while positively impacting our staff and clients.  For the past seven years, I've been involved with our convenience store clients, and I've gained a strong understanding of that market. It is important to note that I am more than just the "c-store guy." While I've been able to work with some great staff and clients, I've learned how to move a client’s program forward and created experiences that I plan to apply to other clients and different market sectors.

Q: How will your role further strengthen your bond with the studio?

James: In light of COVID-19 and the fact that everyone has been working remotely, it has forced me to step outside my comfort zone and connect with people in non-traditional ways. If anything positive has come out of the last six months, it has been the opportunity and ability to engage with people on both a professional and a personal level not only within the Franklin studio but also throughout the other offices. I'm looking forward to continuing and building upon this level of engagement in the future in my new role.  I am a firm believer that you need to be able to positively connect at some level with both clients and staff to create a successful project.

Q: How do you think this support structure change [adding three new Vice Presidents] will benefit the client and HFA employees?

James: I think the main benefit will be the resources. I think in the past, we have been very team focused. We certainly know that a person has a specific knowledge when working on a dedicated program; however, if there are opportunities to share that knowledge amongst the teams, it will significantly benefit both HFA employees and clients. Creating a "studio culture" where we openly share resources and expertise can help us deliver against one of our 2020 goals, Project Delivery. Many teams are doing similar things but in different ways. We can learn a lot of great information and resources across teams and studios, so sharing that knowledge freely is vital to our success as a company.

Q: What are some of the goals you are looking to implement for Q4 and looking forward to 2021?

James: When the Leadership Team mentioned accelerating this transition, there was no downside for any of us. We used the last six months as a great mentorship opportunity to learn more from senior leadership before taking on these new roles. To be focused on FY 2021 and to have more ownership and responsibility for it, we knew we needed to be involved in the decisions happening now.

For me, the first and most significant priority is looking forward to FY 2021. Growth is key, but this is growth on many levels. For example, professional growth for the staff and studios, growth in terms of the resources available [Project Delivery, BIM Standards], growth regarding new opportunities for staff to take on, and, of course, growth with new clients. I'm excited to be making "grow" part of the discussion in 2021.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style? What are the things you feel are most important to emphasize when it comes to leading the studio?

James: I hope this new position gives me a greater opportunity and impact within more of the studios to pass on my excitement for the industry while mentoring employees that I may not have been exposed to in the past.

I prefer to lead by example. For me, specifically, quality is important. But for me to talk about quality within the studio, I need to execute on quality. So, when I talk about delivering projects on time to clients, I've got to be able to do that too. I've been told that my passion is infectious. I get excited about the little things, so I always strive to inspire everyone around me, as well. If you're not excited about what you're doing, then why are you doing it?

To learn more about James or to connect with him, reach out to James.Owens@hfa-ae.com

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Founded in 1990, HFA is a full-service Architecture and Engineering firm with locations in Bentonville, AR; Franklin, MA; Fort Worth, TX; and Mexico City, MX. Focused on designing for the customer experience, HFA works coast to coast with retail, real estate development, office, industrial, fueling, restaurant/food service, lifestyle, and education clients.