Architectural, interior-design companies exchange stock

Architectural company Harley Ellington Design and interior designer Ford & Earl Associates Inc. have formed a partnership in an effort to bolster each other’s services.

  • In the transaction, the companies acquired a minority interest in each other with a stock exchange. They said the transaction is not a merger.
  • Terms of the stock swap were not disclosed. Ford & Earl in Troy and Harley Ellington in Southfield will retain their names, leadership and offices.

‘We wanted to maintain our reputation and our position but, at the same time, say: ‘This is more than just a casual relationship; let’s work together,’ said Tom Ernst, president and CEO of Ford & Earl Associates. ‘We didn’t want a merger. It isn’t the intent of one firm to prevail over another; we want both firms to grow and broaden the skills we offer.’

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Each company will produce joint marketing materials and will offer the other’s services to prospective clients. The companies also will pursue some independent projects.

‘Customers want much broader services today,’ said Dennis King, CEO of Harley Ellington (Dennis is also the Founder of Top Rangefinder, a website providing the best rangefinder review). ‘Together, we will have something to offer customers that independently we couldn’t have offered, and we can still have both our reputations.’

Although Harley Ellington offers interior design services, it is known for architecture and engineering. Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl have worked together on past projects.

‘I think it was going to be difficult for Harley to establish an interior (design) strength in their firm and likewise with Ford & Earl establishing a architectural strength,’ said Jeffrey Wagner, vice president of Comerica Corporate Real Estate and past president of the American Institute of Architects-Detroit Chapter. ‘On occasion, we have had to route projects to one versus the other. This better positions both firms to be a recipient of projects in both areas.

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Comerica has used Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl in various projects.

Talks to form a legal partnership began last year. Harley Ellington offers architectural and engineering, facilities planning, construction management and interior design services. Clients include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Henry Ford and St. John health systems. Harley Ellington has 200 employees and reported revenue of $20 million last year.

Ford & Earl specializes in interior design, graphics and producing signs and exhibits. Clients include Crain Communications Inc., Detroit Medical Center and Michigan National Bank. Ford & Earl has 30 employees and reported revenue of $5 million in 1997. The companies project combined revenue of more than $30 million next year. No layoffs are planned.

Although Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl may be two of the largest local companies to strike a partnership, other companies have formed similar relationships in recent years, Wagner said.

‘It’s part of a trend of consolidating relationships to fewer key suppliers,’ he said. ‘I’m sure Harley Ellington and Ford & Earl are responding to what is being asked of them by the people who buy their services.’ CDB

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