Greenwood — In 1977, Ed Johnson, an Ole Miss engineering grad, came to Greenwood from Memphis looking for opportunity. He found it and stayed.
At first it was just him, but he acquired McAdams Architectural Associates, and today, the Johnson McAdams firm has 42 employees made up of three architects, nine engineers and three planners.
“I worked for another firm and had contacts and knowledge of this area,” he said. “I felt like there was potential here and I’ve been very fortunate to find it.”
He describes the firm as a multi-discipline architectural/engineering firm, and says that it can do just about anything.
“We work all over the country and do everything from buildings to dams, water systems, civil works and do a lot for the military and their facilities,” he said.
Locally, the firm is relocating a four-mile portion of the Columbus-Greenville Railroad track, routing it from the main part of town into the industrial area and tying it back outside of town. Other local civil projects currently underway are the construction of Sgt. John A. Pittman Drive, a new roadway, and a wastewater treatment plant renovation for the City of Greenwood.
Design and building projects under construction include a $3-million expansion for the North Greenwood Baptist Church and the $4-million Kosciusko Boys and Girls Club facility that Oprah Winfrey is financing in her hometown. Johnson said the television star is definitely involved and his firm sends many documents to her office for approval.
“Right now she’s looking at colors for the interior. She wants it light, open and kid-friendly,” he said. “The whole community is behind this project and appreciative of it. We’re hoping she’ll come for the grand opening. Her dad came to the groundbreaking and there was a large crowd.”
Johnson said the building has been delayed by rain and is just getting out of the ground. He expects it to be complete a year from now.
Working with the government
“About 80% of our work is with the federal government,” he said. “We’re proud of the master plan we did for the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala. It’s a big facility and was a three-year project. We had 10 employees working on it, and spent a lot of time up there conducting interviews.”
He said NASA is looking at a realignment of the space center, revising the mission for the facility located on 1,800 acres within the Army’s Red Stone Arsenal. The firm coordinated with the Army for the overall concept, types of buildings, floor space required, infrastructure required and image they want to project.
vJohnson McAdams stays on the lookout for government bids. The firm has done a lot of services work for the 8th Coast Guard District out of New Orleans through the district’s contracting agent in Miami during the past three years. It’s also worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of Maryland, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out of Atlanta and the U.S. Navy out of Charleston.
“It’s mostly been civil, sewer and roadway projects, but we’ve also designed dining halls, administration buildings, training facilities, vehicle maintenance buildings and runways and hangars for airports,” Ed Johnson said. “Whatever they need.”
He says there isn’t much residential architectural or private engineering and commercial development work in Greenwood, but the firm’s location there is not a drawback for responding to government bids.
“I’ve seen this business change by becoming more complicated and by the amount of paperwork required,” Johnson said. “The permits and environmental issues have become more complex. The government approvals increase every year. We spend as much time on that as we do actual design work.”
In spite of that, he encourages young people to enter the fields of architecture, engineering and planning. He believes those careers still provide promising futures.
The firm is vitally interested in the downtown revitalization that’s taking place in Greenwood. “There’s an effort to make Howard Street into a tourist attraction and enhancing the whole downtown to give it a historical feel,” Johnson said. “We’re working to get things going with ideas and planning.”
Johnson said the firm is also trying to help other businesses find grant money for these projects. It is also doing a lighting study for Greenwood Utilities for decorative downtown lighting along with improved lighting for the Highway 82 Bypass. He says there’s also a lot of interest in preserving the landmark Keesler Bridge over the Yazoo River and in the Blues Heritage Museum and Staple Cotton’s renovation.
“These renovations provide the anchor for further development that hopefully will be community wide and continue to grow,” he said.
Practicing what it preaches, Johnson McAdams is located in two old cotton factory buildings at 108 West Market Street downtown.
“We are slowly renovating them. We like these sturdy old buildings and want to preserve them,” Johnson said.
In addition to Johnson, principals in the firm are Tom Tollison, an engineering graduate of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Mississippi State University engineering graduate David Leard and architectural graduates Jerry Martin and Robin Henry.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.