One of my goals this year is to meet with several firms across the state to discuss with them their involvement with AIA, the value of AIA to their firms, and to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. This month I met with Stephen Schoch AIA, Managing Principal of Kitchen & Associates Services, Inc. in Collingswood. Kitchen & Associates currently has 80 architects, engineers, planners and interior designers, and was founded in 1971 by Benjamin Kitchen AIA. Stephen and I had not met one another before and we had no problem with diving into many issues. As we discussed things, Stephen mentioned that he grew up in Hackensack and I said so did my wife. Well Stephen and my wife grew up three houses from one another and it was one of those, “what are the chances of that” moments! That just made the conversation even easier.
With my involvement at AIANJ, I know several K&A employees who are involved in local AIANJ Sections and the AIANJ Board of Directors, and have been for years. This involvement comes with the all to important employer support and I wanted to take the time to applaud Stephen for his dedication to AIANJ and the profession. We all need to take a page from the K&A playbook when it comes to this dedication, as K&A just supported 14 of its employees joining AIA by paying for their membership so that they could take advantage of going to the AIA Convention in Philadelphia for free with the new membership offer from AIA! This effort goes hand in hand with the recent challenge from Russell Davidson FAIA, AIA President, where he announced that his firm is closing down the office for two days so that their employees can attend the Convention and take advantage of all that it has to offer. These are great examples for all employers to consider.
Another topic that we discussed is the AIA Large Firm Roundtable. The LFRT is comprised of chief executives from more than 60 large firms, the mission is to further the special and unique interests, both national and international, of large firms by working with and through the AIA. Don’t worry small firms, there is also an AIA Small Firm Roundtable, which has recently been renamed to the Small Firm Exchange (SFX) and has a similar mission for small firms. AIANJ is represented on the SFX but is not represented on the LFRT. It is important that AIANJ is represented at both levels, as our membership is represented by both small and large firms. In order for AIANJ to be a leader at the LFRT, it is paramount that we first start here on our home turf by resurrecting the AIANJ LFRT. If you are an executive of a NJ large firm and are interested in joining this committee, please contact me. I will be reaching out too many of you to join this committee and will host a meeting to get the ball rolling.
Sometime over the next month, take the time to meet with one of your peers, enjoy a meal to discuss the profession and how to get connected with AIA, and you never know, your worlds may be closer than you think. Hope to see you in Philadelphia!
Justin A. Mihalik, AIA