Small Business of the Year: Partners in Design Architects

2016 Ovation Awards

Learn more about:

Partners in Design Architects
Industry: Architectural services
Address: 600 52nd St., Suite 220, Kenosha
Employees: 21

Thomas O’Connell, Werner Brisske and Mark Molinaro.
Thomas O’Connell, Werner Brisske and Mark Molinaro.

For 25 years, Kenosha-based Partners in Design Architects has, quite literally, shaped growth throughout the Kenosha County region.

The firm, which started with three partners, has experienced steady growth since its foundation. It now employs 21 people between two offices in Kenosha and Chicago, and has been named a top-performing firm nationwide by PSMJ Resources Inc. and a Kenosha County Best Place to Work in 2016.

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the PIDA staff enjoys a day of winter fun at Wilmot Mountain.
the PIDA staff enjoys a day of winter fun at Wilmot Mountain.

“We started our firm in Kenosha at a time when a lot of people were predicting a lot of doom and gloom for the region,” said Thomas O’Connell, partner.

American Motors had recently been sold to Chrysler, which would eventually close everything but the engine plant in the region, O’Connell said.

In 1991, a Kenosha businessman convinced O’Connell and his business partner, Werner Brisske, to start their business in Kenosha, despite the perceived downturn in the region.

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“He told us that with the pullout of Chrysler, the federal, state and county, even city governments would be highly proactive in promoting and attracting business to the region,” O’Connell said. “There was a strong focus on diversification that would necessitate quite a bit of building, and it turned out we’d be well-positioned to react to that.”

Partners in Design Architects has designed office, industrial, retail, health care and educational buildings throughout the Kenosha area.

The firm recently completed the Gifford School in Racine, the football stadium at Bradford High School in Kenosha, commercial properties in the Lakeview Corporate Park in Pleasant Prairie and buildings at Gateway Technical College in Racine and Carthage College in Kenosha.

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Partners in Design Architects designed the Gateway Technical College Biosciences Building.
Partners in Design Architects designed the Gateway Technical College Biosciences Building.

The experience the principals brought to the table initially was perhaps happenstance, but the diversification of talent and experience has propelled the company’s growth, said Mark Molinaro, principal.

“In any community we work, we remain committed to diversification. It helped us weather the recession, and continues to help us grow steadily,” he said.

Molinaro, a native of Kenosha, left the region in 1989 but the growth initiatives in the region brought him back, and he joined PIDA as the third principal six months after its foundation.

According to O’Connell, 75 to 80 percent of the firm’s business is from repeat clients, a testament to the relationships they’ve formed.

“We’d be remiss if we didn’t recognize the decisions that our city officials made (25 years ago) that set this track in motion for the Kenosha community,” Molinaro said. “If they didn’t take the visionary approach they did, all the naysayers in the region predicting doom and gloom may very well have been right. We’re grateful to have been here to witness those changes, and look forward to continued success in the region.”

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