JLG Architects, one of the 50 Most Admired Companies in the U.S. and ENR-Mountain States 2019 Design Firm of the Year, is celebrating 30 years of business. The firm was founded in 1989 by architects Gary Johnson and Lonnie Laffen. In the three decades since, JLG has grown from a budding partnership in Grand Forks, North Dakota, into a national architecture practice, with over 120 employees in twelve offices. In 2014, JLG became 100% employee-owned. In the five years since, the firm has been consistently ranked among the best places to work in the United States by Inc. magazine, Prairie Business magazine, and MSN Money.
“Our company was built on the belief that if you hire great people, they will do great things,” said JLG CEO Michelle Mongeon Allen. “We focused on being the place that the very best talent wants to work, including unwavering commitments to raising the bar for design, to making a difference for the people and communities we serve, and to having a lot of fun.”
Today, JLG’s employees have helped more than 3,000 clients grow their organizations, businesses, and communities. The firm’s work has been honored with over 130 design awards, starting with the its first project: a pavilion for the Grand Forks Historical Society, which was built to commemorate the state’s centennial and remains a local landmark.
JLG credits its success to a focus on hiring and retaining top talent from around the country.
“From Day One, our definition of success has been simple: doing amazing work for, and with, amazing people,” said Allen. “And in order to realize this success, we have remained dedicated to creating limitless opportunity for our talent to grow and thrive – most significantly, by extending ownership of the company to every employee, and by planning for growth, which opens up an ever-increasing diversity of roles that align to our unique and individual talents, skills, passions, and interests.”
Three of the firm’s principals have been elevated to the national College of Fellows, the highest professional distinction given by the American Institute of Architects. The creativity and diversity of the staff has been bolstered through mergers with several local firms, including Schoen & Associates, Studio Five Architects, DLA Architects, and AcV2 Architects.
JLG also prides itself on nurturing future generations of design leaders through JLGdna, a nationally-recognized employee development program that helps recent college graduates on an expedited path to professional development, including achieving architectural licensure in less than half the time of the national average – while continually offering new incentives and benefits for a more comfortable work-life balance.
“We need to make sure that this profession is an accessible and viable career option to the best and brightest talent, wherever they’re from — the suburbs, the hearts of our cities, and 19 miles from the middle of nowhere — and that it remains accessible and viable throughout their careers. Our own futures depend on it,” said Allen.
The company further supports its communities with JLG Gives Back, a firmwide philanthropic program that donates time and financial resources to assisting those in need. Many of those resources are in support of the national 1+ Program, a pledge to donate 1% of the firm’s billable hours to non-profit organizations. In addition, JLG has developed a unique in-school program to teach elementary and middle school students about the profession of architecture. The company also hosts a free concert, called JLG Rocks the Streets, every year. This year’s concert will be held in Fargo, N.D. on September 6, 2019.