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Five Questions: Jeffery Smith

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The former head of the Springfield chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Jeffery Smith now awaits a second term as president in 2012. He worked for 10 years at Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc., where he was the company’s business-to-business studio leader, and in October, Smith went back to work for JPS & Associates, the company his father helped start in 1993.

Q: JPS & Associates is a full-service architectural firm, but with a twist. How does JPS differ from traditional architectural firms?
A: There has always been two sides of JPS: There was the standard architectural practice that did sticks-and-bricks projects, and then there was a facility-analysis or project-review service we provided. That grew out of a relationship that Phil Smith, my father, had with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Whether HUD is involved in a project as a reviewer or underwriting a loan, or whether there are certain requirements that a developer has to meet to get money, there has always been a need for a third-party reviewer to meet certain HUD guidelines. Inspection reports also have to be done where someone goes out and analyzes a facility and then gives a report that would be used by HUD, a developer or lender to process a new loan or refinance.

Q: How much of JPS’ business comes from facility-analysis services?
A: Around 90 percent. We actually did the third-party review for the Heer’s building. Kevin McGowan went after a HUD-insured loan, and we were the group that was recommended for the third-party inspection. Essentially, it was a plan and cost analysis that goes back to the lender and is reviewed by HUD.

Q: Why did you leave Butler, Rosenbury & Partners?
A: It was something that was beneficial to Butler, Rosenbury and myself. I was already doing work that Phil was sending to us. … At the time that I left, I’d say 60 to 70 percent of my workload was as a consultant for JPS. BRP went from 90-plus people in 2007 to just under 30 now. So, there were huge reductions in staff there, and I was part of the management team. Due to a reduction in workload, there wasn’t a need for the number of managers we had. … That’s when I decided to go back (to JPS). We still have a very good working relationship with BRP.

Q: What are JPS’ 2011 goals, and do you see things improving for architects and developers?
A: I see 2011 picking up a little bit. Things appeared to be turning around at the end of 2010. I see a desire for people to do more architecture projects again. The chatter is up. The question is who will have the ability to secure financing.

Our goals are to do more traditional sticks-and-bricks projects. On the facility-analysis side, I’d say we’ve been doing between 150 and 250 jobs of varied sizes per year. Our reach has been from Washington to Texas.

Q: You have served on a number of local boards. Why is community service something you’ve committed to?  
A: With the AIA, much of what I’ve done is to work as a liaison between the Springfield Contractors Association, and on the government side with planning and zoning. It’s important to keep those communication lines open.

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