Cromwell Architects Engineers Inc.
Cromwell Architects Engineers Inc. (Cromwell) is a mid-sized architecture and engineering firm based in Little Rock, Ark. The business has been around since 1885, originally founded by B.J. Bartlett, an architect working independently in Little Rock.
For more than 120 years, Cromwell has continued to evolve. The company first combined engineering with architecture services in 1891. Since that early time, clients have come to know and trust Cromwell as a leading provider of construction management, design and planning work. The business took on its current identity in 1941 and is named for partner Edwin Cromwell.
Charley Penix now leads the operation as CEO with a team of 11 directors, while Dan Fowler, COO, simultaneously serves as director of finance and business development. “I came straight here out of school,” Fowler explains. “I majored in architecture. I started as an intern architect with the firm and ended up pursuing project management. That grew into my current role, managing the business end of things, mostly the front-end work.”
A Cool Combination
The company’s low turnover rate has helped construct a range of complex structures and relationships with clients that last for decades. The team reaches nearly all sectors, with clients in health care, government, commercial and education among others.
The team is comprised of approximately 100 professionals with little fluctuation. Cromwell has three offices, including the company’s headquarters in Little Rock, another location in Jonesboro, Ark., as well as a third in Fayetteville, N.C. While these locations are fairly tight-knit on a global scale, the team is leaving a broad geographic footprint. Cromwell has performed work for projects in 43 states, as well as 12 foreign countries. The team is currently involved in a major laboratory renovation in Germany that is part of a multi-phase development project.
The crew has been busy stateside, too. Cromwell recently completed an addition for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. This contract involved design and engineering for a major expansion to the hospital, a new 260,000-square-foot South Wing. Dan and his team have worked with the hospital a number of times over the years; the Children’s Hospital has been a repeat client since 1996. Other recent work for the company includes a 12-story project for the University of Arkansas. Cromwell designed and engineered the medical science school’s cancer research institute.
Thriving in a Changing Market
While the recent economic downturn brought new challenges to companies across the construction industry, Cromwell has managed to stay ahead, maintaining growth throughout the recession. “We picked up more state work when the economy dropped,” Fowler notes. “We also do quite a bit of work for the federal government, but we did have a bit of a shift.”
According to Fowler, one of the biggest challenges has been competition. “We are a mid-sized national firm, so over the last four or five years, we have been squeezed pretty hard by some of the larger firms,” he continues. “They are playing in smaller sandboxes than they are used to, so they are taking on projects and clients they might not have taken on otherwise. That has forced us to do the same, looking at smaller contracts we might not otherwise do, just to keep revenue up.”
Fowler and the rest of the company’s leadership have focused on tight internal management in order to control costs while maintaining quality. Fortunately, Cromwell is able to perform most work in-house, subbing out only select specialty services when the project calls for it. The company’s strategic partners include landscape design, geotechnical engineering and environmental services. Therefore, the team has maintained independence and utilizes reliable and cost-effective local contractors for each individual project.
The firm’s in-house capabilities stand well on their own. “We do a little of everything, which means we don’t have a target market,” Fowler explains. Cromwell’s can-do philosophy has attracted a strong following. More than 85 percent of the company’s contracts are for repeat customers. “We are a generalist firm so our markets are anything that comes our way,” he adds. “We serve our clients instead of just chasing projects.”
Serving clients is more than a corporate catch phrase for Cromwell. Fowler and the rest of the company’s leadership team credit a capable and loyal staff for much of the firm’s success. “Our people are what gets us up every day to go to work,” he elaborates. “We have a great group of employees. We’re not big and with 100 people, you get to know everyone. We don’t take ourselves too seriously; we have a lot of fun doing what we do.”
Backed by a strong and steady team, Cromwell is prepared for continued growth in the coming years. “We are expanding organically,” Fowler says. “In the next year or two, we are looking to add more regional offices. With that, we are looking at more service lines outside of the traditional architecture and engineering landscape. We have some strategies for growth within our regional locations, but really, it all depends on where our work takes us.”
Cromwell continues to build upon a rock solid reputation for quality work and innovative practices. Whether in the medical field, commercial sector or with government contracts, the company has broad experience in all things design. Cromwell Architects Engineers Inc. will continue to provide leading services in design engineering to familiar clients, as well as new partners.
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