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Rochester Chamber Top 100: School projects key driver for firm's growth

Rochester Business Journal
November 4, 2016

Working hard and creating a reputation for excellence has helped drive growth at SEI Design Group Architects Inc., its leaders said.

“We’ve been successful in increasing our primary markets and market share since our inception,” said Victor Tomaselli, a senior principal.

SEI is a Rochester-based firm that provides architecture, planning and consulting services to kindergarten through 12th grade school districts, higher education, health care, hospitality and commercial clients.

The firm ranked sixth on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of area architectural firms.

The business is based on Mill Street, has an office in Albany and is in the process of opening a satellite office in Binghamton.

SEI was formed in 2006 by Brian Cieslinski, Michael Ebertz, Stephen Klempa, Bari Lee, Matthew Monaghan and Tomaselli. Klempa and Lee have since retired, and the remaining founders serve as senior principals.

The goal of the original six was to provide clients with quality architectural projects focused on design, value, client satisfaction and creativity.

The business found early success working on capital projects for school districts, and that continues to be a main driver of growth, Tomaselli said. Higher education and health care are also primary markets.

In addition to local school districts, including Churchville-Chili and Penfield, other SEI projects include offsite medical properties for the University of Rochester and SUNY College at Geneseo.

The firm has grown steadily over the past decade and now has roughly 38 employees. Company leaders expect employment to hit 40 by the end of this year.

Sales grew in 2015 to $8.7 million from $6.1 million in 2014. Sales in 2016 are projected to be  $8.1 million.

Success in the industry is largely tied to the economy, Tomaselli said, noting a strong and stable economy is paramount for clients—whether in the public or private sector—to pursue capital improvements or start new construction projects.

The upcoming elections, interest rates, fuel prices and general stability of the economy are key to continued growth in the construction industry and related design professions, he said.

Despite the challenges, the outlook is bright for SEI, particularly with growth in and around the Southern Tier helping to drive business, Tomaselli said.

The firm’s primary market, school districts, is active and growing, with several current clients planning renovation or expansion projects. Higher education and health care are growing as well, he noted.

Kimberle Ward, superintendent of the Gates Chili Central School District, has worked with SEI for several years on various projects.

She first worked with Tomaselli in 2009 when she was superintendent of Naples Central School District in Ontario County. He helped the district with a capital project that exceeded $22 million.

SEI now represents Gates Chili in a planning process that has the potential to be a $96 million project.

Ward said SEI’s work on school capital projects cannot be beat.

“SEI has a deep understanding of capital project work in public education, and they bring creativity to the table each step of the way,” Ward said.

Even with occasional project challenges, the employees at SEI put clients first, she added.

“They believe in their work, they believe in their team and they believe in the partnerships,” Ward said.

SEI Design Group Architects Inc.

Architecture, planning and consulting services
Year founded: 2006
Top executive: Brian Cieslinski, Michael Ebertz, Matthew Monaghan, Victor Tomaselli, senior principals
Current employment: 38
2016 ranking: 45
Headquarters: Rochester

The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to

11/4/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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