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Rochester Top 100: A shift in focus builds the firm's strategy

Rochester Business Journal
July 18, 2014

During the worst of the Great Recession in 2008, HBT Architects LLP focused less on immediate needs and more on where the firm wanted to be when things improved.

“We decided that this was the chance to ask who we are as a firm and how to match that with our business goals,” said Trevor Harrison (pictured), managing partner.

From there, the company worked on long-term business development. HBT built relationships with new clients and parted ways with a few that did not match its goals.

It is a path that is paying off, Harrison said.

“It was a strategy of focusing on what made us feel the best about what we do,” he said. “We want to be part of a team that drives change for our clients and our community.”

The business, founded in December 2000 as Harrison Bridges & Associates, employs 19 people, including Harrison and his partner, James Tripp. Harrison started the business when the architectural firm he worked for merged with an engineering business. He thought that was the right time to branch out on his own.

The company’s employment is up from 16 in 2013, 15 in 2012, 13 in 2011. With its current workload, Harrison anticipates the staff growing to 20 employees over the next year or two.

Sales in 2013 reached $2.3 million. Revenues in 2012 were $2.5 million, up from $1.3 million in 2011 and $1.7 million in 2010.

Harrison expects the business to grow this year and is excited about the company’s future.

“We have built the firm deliberately and slowly, based on our reputation and then matching opportunities with our business goals,” he said. “We keep finding that our reputation grows at an exponential rate, not a linear rate, so exciting new projects are presented to us more and more often.”

HBT serves customers up and down the East Coast and east of the Mississippi River. The Pittsford-based firm has projects in Monroe and Ontario counties. Other large projects are in Albany.

Notable projects include the recent completion of the ambulatory surgery center for Rochester General Hospital; the Mendon Public Library; the Institute of Health, Science and Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology; and the Mother House for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Pittsford.

HBT is working on Buckingham Properties LLC’s Alexander Park Project and the Canandaigua Harbor Hotel being developed by David Genecco.

Donald DeFrees, vice president of operations at RGH, has worked with HBT Architects on some 30 projects over the years. They range from ambulatory and wellness centers to primary care expansions and back office support improvements.

HBT brings more than just architectural services to the table, DeFrees said. The firm also looks at factors such as planning and programming and does research on the operations side of the project that it is designing so clients do not overbuild.

In health care, resources are limited, DeFrees said, and it is important for his organization to get the best value as well as a top-quality product.

“Companies like HBT help us realize that,” he said.

Harrison sees growth in key markets such as health care, higher education and hospitality. In addition, HBT is seeing more opportunities to get involved in projects that help local communities, such as libraries or adaptive reuse of existing structures.

He believes architects in general face an ongoing need to demonstrate their value and services.

“We have the skill set to help change how companies and organizations perform, but as a profession, we are not communicating this well enough,” he said. “Architects have to keep working on overcoming this, or we risk having to price ourselves like a commodity rather than a valuable team member in our client’s success.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to

7/18/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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