The Times West Virginian

Business

April 27, 2014

Thrasher purchases Blackwood Associates

FAIRMONT — In a mutually beneficial business move, architectural and engineering firm The Thrasher Group of Bridgeport has purchased Blackwood Associates of Fairmont.

“We had been competing with Thrasher for many years on work ... and they’re very forward-thinking,” said Kenton Blackwood, vice president of Blackwood Associates Inc., an architectural and planning firm, and senior designer and project manager.

“They have just been very successful at getting work in areas where we struggled to get work, and then there were areas where Blackwood Associates was very successful but Thrasher had been trying to get into.”

Craig Baker, principal-in-charge of architecture at The Thrasher Group Inc., said this acquisition will take their operations to the next level in the architectural world. The combination of the resources and experiences of Blackwood and Thrasher will lead to expanded services for clients.

“We had a goal of having the broadest and best portfolio of successful projects in the industry,” he said. “(Blackwood was) kind of a perfect fit for us, particularly in the educational design industry. We share a common business approach. They’re a respected name in the industry. We wanted to make them a part of our team.”

The office of Blackwood has always been in Fairmont. With the business transaction, the final three employees of Blackwood are relocating from the Friendly City to Thrasher’s headquarters at White Oaks in Bridgeport, said Kenton, who has been working full-time for Blackwood Associates for about 32 years.

In addition to Kenton, his father James Blackwood, whom most people know as Jim, and his sister Kitty Blackwood-McShane will also join the team at Thrasher.

Blackwood Associates’ history goes back to 1959, when the firm was incorporated as L.D. Schmidt and Son. Jim became the president and bought the company in the 1970s, and then changed its name in 1981.

“He is a very well respected architect in the state of West Virginia and has just had a very long and very successful career,” Kenton said of his father.

In the summer of 2012, Jim retired from the day-to-day operations of Blackwood Associates, and he is now serving as a consultant to Thrasher during the transition. Kitty was the CFO, webmaster and director of marketing for Blackwood, and she will focus primarily on marketing and developing proposals at Thrasher.

Baker, who has been working with Thrasher since 2005, explained that the company was formed in 1983 and has about 400 employees. In addition to Bridgeport, the firm has offices in Charleston, Beckley, Princeton, Oakland, Md., Canton, Ohio, and Fredericksburg, Va.

In addition to architecture, Thrasher’s services include civil engineering, surveying, utility engineering, oil and gas work, environmental engineering, and everything in between, he said. The company does projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and recently finished Antero Resources’ headquarters on the East Coast.

Locally, Thrasher is currently working on Dominion’s new corporate office building at White Oaks in Bridgeport. The firm just completed a significant renovation to the auditorium at Fairmont State University and is in the process of redesigning the interior of the Joe Retton Arena at the university. The Thrasher Group also renovated the Marion County Health Department a couple years ago, Baker said.

“Blackwood’s seasoned management team has done a fantastic job of building and maintaining successful relationships for over 50 years,” Woody Thrasher, president of The Thrasher Group, said in a press release. “Both Thrasher and Blackwood share a dedication to doing whatever it takes to guarantee successful projects, and we plan on continuing this for many years.”

At one time, Blackwood Associates had as many as 35 employees, Kenton said.

In the early 1990s, the company was a pioneer in the use of virtual reality design, which has become standard practice for most architectural firms today, he said. Also, many years ago, Blackwood created the website www.wvarchitects.com, which has been a valuable resource for the entire architectural design process.

Kenton explained that Blackwood’s primary focus has been on educational work, but it has also done medical, recreational, commercial, historical and municipal projects.

He said the company was involved in the recent renovations to Fairmont Senior High School, and is finishing up the new East Fairmont Middle School, which is about 95 percent complete. In terms of past projects in Fairmont, Blackwood was responsible for the historical rehabilitation to create the Veterans’ Square plaza and building, and also renovated the Hutchinson House and the Hennen Building.

In addition, the firm worked on the Veterans Nursing Facility and the Harrison County 4-H Recreation Center in Clarksburg, the Stonewall Resort and Conference Center in Roanoke, the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital Transitional Facility in Weston, and many other projects.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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