Pro Forma Architecture, a 17-year-old Dallas-based firm, has merged with PGAL, an international architectural and engineering firm based in Houston and operating nine other offices in the U.S. and one in Mexico City.
Founded in 1946, PGAL employs more than 200 architects, planners, engineers, and designers. It has a wide-ranging portfolio in office, transportation, hospitality, education, healthcare, recreation, and government. (PGAL just got the okay from the city council at College Station, Texas, for a $1.96 million contract to design a new police station that will sit on 12 acres of city-owned property.)
Pro Forma specializes in designing municipal projects like libraries, senior centers, and fire and police stations. Through this merger, PGAL will expand Pro Forma’s expertise for its growing client list in Texas’s north and central regions.
“Now, there’s no projects we can’t pursue.”
– Jeff Bulla, Co-founder of Pro Forma
Jeff Bulla, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Pro Forma’s co-founder, is staying on as Principal at PGAL’s Dallas office. He and his company’s four employees moved into PGAL’s office in January.
The 54-year-old Bulla tells BD+C that he began to question Pro Forma’s ability to compete as an independent firm in North Texas when the last recession was raging in 2008-2009. “The big firms started fishing in my pond and going after everything in sight,” he recalls. That made it harder for Pro Forma to get projects and offer competitive packages.
Bulla says he’d been approached by a number of firms about merger opportunities over the past 18 months, but nothing came of those conversations until PGAL came calling last October. At the time PGAL was going through a leadership transition in its Dallas office, which has been around since the early 1990s.
Pro Forma was on PGAL’s radar, says Bulla, because the two firms had competed for projects in several Texas markets, including PGAL’s home base in Houston. “They decided to look for a firm that already had an established reputation,” says Bulla.
He says he was attracted to PGAL’s culture and values, particularly its requirement that all of its principals be actively involved in projects. “I was impressed when I heard that the CEO had an office on the production floor.”
Bulla notes that PGAL’s operations are cloud-based, making collaboration among its offices around the country much easier and more likely. He also singles out PGAL’s generous employee-benefits package, and the company’s commitment to maintaining a stable workforce by shifting jobs among its offices depending on workload, as contributing factors to his decision to sell Pro Forma.
“Now, there’s no projects we can’t pursue,” says Bulla, who is especially eager to take advantage of corporate relocations to Texas. To bolster the Dallas office, he says “we’re looking for talent,” specifically “creative interns proficient in Revit.” He intends to add project architects and managers, and is looking longer term toward possibly adding an engineering principal to the office.