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2014 Small Business Person of the Year: Billings, MT Architecture Firm Makes Sustainable Attainable
With a lifelong passion for architecture and a strong belief that it can change the world for the better, Randy Hafer always knew he wanted to do more than design buildings; he wanted to make his community a better place to live. After spending 11 years of his professional career in Chicago, Illinois, Randy returned to his hometown of Billings, MT in 1992. He rekindled his love for the High Plains, a unique landscape that requires an equally unique style of architecture, and opened the doors with wife Janna, with 3 employees, to High Plains Architects in 1999.
When Hafer started High Plains Architects, he set about renovating a 1918 downtown warehouse where he then relocated the office in 2001. The renovated warehouse is now listed in The National Register of Historic Places.
Since that first redevelopment, High Plains has developed over a dozen downtown projects in Billings, including eight certified historic tax credit projects. High Plains projects also include the Klos Building, an 1893 former saloon, which was the first building in Montana to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Since then it has achieved LEED Platinum certification on two additional urban revitalization projects and has three others nearing completion.
Hafer’s philosophy is that “Sustainability should not be an upgrade; it should be the bar!” High Plains sets the bar in all aspects of the business from the service that is provided to the delivery of excellence. They believe in rehabilitating and resorting a building; demolition is a last resort option.
Featured as a speaker in Billings’ first TEDx Talk in January 2014, Hafer was also featured in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Montana Magazine in an article entitled, “Saving Montana’s Cities.” Hafer also received the First Annual Montana BetterBricks Award in 2009 from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Hafer has emerged as a highly influential force in regional urban revitalization, preserving historic buildings and shepherding communities’ resources to create high performance architecture that is respectful to past and future generations.
High Plains first year in business generated $40,000 in gross sales in 1999. They have grown the business year after year and in 2012 ended the year at $650,000 in gross sales.
Throughout the business’s 14 years High Plains has taken advantage of four SBA 7(a) loans from operating lines to office improvement loans, all of which have been paid off, and received assistance via the Billings Small Business Development Center. The firm has also carefully expanded to 9 employees during years when Montana’s economy has experienced a roller-coaster effect of high employment and stagnant business growth.
Hafer is unequivocally an outstanding business man, philanthropist, and visionary exceeding every standard for enriching our community while developing, designing, and building the kind of architecture and urban environments that run deep with character. Hafer has undeniably developed an outstanding and growing business focused on innovated designs and an employee culture rich with vibrant ideas and seamless delivery.