Kane and Johnson Architects, a small firm with a 63-year history in Rochester and Austin, is joining forces with a larger Minnesota company.
The five-person office merged Oct. 1 with Crookston-based Widseth Smith Nolting, an engineering and planning company. The Kane and Johnson team has joined WSN's Rochester office at 6301 Bandel Road N.W.
"I selected the firm I most respect and feel will best serve my clients," said David Kane about the "evolution" of the business that his father Warren Kane founded in 1951 in Austin. "They have a very similar culture, which makes this a comfortable change."
WSN has been in discussions with Kane and Johnson about merging, since March.
The two firms have competed for as well as worked together on many Minnesota and Iowa projects over the years. Recently, they've been working on what they describe as "their signature collaboration," the seven-story Bridge Plaza in Mankato. Work is expected to start on that mixed-use complex in 2015.
WSN has seven offices and 195 employees in Minnesota and North Dakota. It has always specialized in working in the smaller, non-metro communities since it was founded in 1975, said Joe Breiter, WSN's director of business development. It has long working relationships with companies like Brainerd-based Mills Fleet Farm and Bremer Bank.
“WSN recognizes Rochester as a market that continues to experience significant growth. Bringing in KJA adds dimension to our experience and deepens our capacity to serve both firms’ existing and prospective clients,” stated WSN president Kevin Donnay in the announcement of the merger.
The Crookston firm has been interested in Rochester for some time. It merged with QED Engineering, a 20-year-old Rochester firm, in 2009. Since then, its Med City office has grown steadily to a staff of about 20 with the addition of Kane and Johnson.
"Rochester is the largest community where we have an office. We're seeing a lot growth here," said Brian Carlson, who joined WSN's local office earlier this year. He added that WSN has many "significant" projects in the pipeline for the area.
Kane, who will remain on with WSN, said this deal made excellent sense as the next step for his evolving business that has adapted many times over the years.
He has led the firm since he was 24. Kane started working there in 1974 and then was forced to lead the business a year later when his father suddenly died. He expanded the practice into Rochester in 1988 by acquiring Pieper Richmond Architects. In 1993, Kane sold the Austin practice in 1993 to his partner.
Over the years, Kane's small firm has lead the way in many areas. It was one of the first firms to begin offering asbestos removal in Minnesota and handled many large abatement projects throughout the Midwest. It was also an early innovator in the area of handicapped accessibility dating back to 1976, well before the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The firm has worked on such high profile projects, such as Olmsted National Banks' headquarters at 975 34th Ave. N.W., Timothy Chapel at Rochester's Autumn Ridge Church, the Steele County History Center and renovation of the Winona County Courthouse.
"Now with the additional resources of WSN, we'll be able to do even more," said Kane. "The financial reality is that it's tough to compete as a small, private practice."