Chattanooga accounting firm HHM CPAs growing its office footprint in $10 million project

Contributed rendering by River Street Architecture / Chattanooga accounting firm HHM CPAs is expanding and constructing a four-story building downtown.

One of Chattanooga's biggest accounting firms is growing its office footprint in the largest expansion in its 41-year history with plans for a new four-story building downtown.

HHM CPAs has outgrown existing space at the historic Freight Depot on Market Street and is adding the 30,000-square-foot structure on an adjacent King Street parking lot the firm owns, said Beverly Edge, chief operating officer and general counsel for HHM.

Edge said in an interview that the firm will continue to occupy the Freight Depot and move some of the existing staff to the new building. An affiliate, HHM Wealth Advisors, also will shift to the new tower, which will provide space for future growth for the firm, she said.

Plans are to start construction within a month or two and open in late 2023, Edge said.

"We need this space," she said, noting the firm's staff in Chattanooga has increased to about 150 people. "We've grown a lot."

Donnie Hutcherson, managing partner at HHM's Chattanooga office, said the new building is about a $10 million project.

"It's just a space issue. It's crowded here," he said in an interview about the Freight Depot site the firm has occupied for a decade and a half.

The expansion is the second for HHM in a year in Southeast Tennessee. In 2021, the firm announced it was expanding into Bradley County.

In Cleveland, HHM purchased an abandoned car dealership and office next to the Museum Center at 5ive Points where it converted the two-story structure.

The firm, which started in 1981, also has an office in Memphis.

HHM recently was named a 2022 top 100 largest accounting firm by Inside Public Accounting, ranking at 94 in the nation.

Trip Farmer, a partner at HHM, said that when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the initial thought was that the firm's business moving forward would be even or less.

photo Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Travis Hutchinson, managing partner at HHM Wealth; Trip Farmer, an HHM partner; and Beverly Edge, chief operating officer at HHM, talk in front of the site of a planned new building on July 29, 2022. HHM is expanding its office footprint with the four-story building off of King Street.

But HHM stayed busy and revenue was up by double-digits in 2020, he said in an interview.

"We continued to hire," Farmer said.

He said the firm discovered that its clients needed more help due to changes in the tax laws.

"People needed help with PPP (Paycheck Protection Program)," Farmer added, citing the massive business loan program set up by the federal government in 2020 to help companies through the pandemic.

Also, he said, the firm brought back its staff in the summer 2020 when it was safe to do so, with 95% of them on site by the end of that year.

Farmer said people "want to be in the office and need to be in the office. Young people need it the most."

Travis Hutchinson, managing partner at HHM Wealth, said clients also want to visit their financial advisers.

"The wealth dynamic is constant," he said in an interview, adding that more employees were brought on board as well on that side of the house. Growth drivers are boomers transitioning into retirement and tax complexity, Hutchinson said.

Hutcherson said that even with the new offices, the business will continue to have parking for employees and clients.

"Clients can pull up to the front door and walk in," he said.

The expansion shows that HHM is committed to downtown, Hutcherson said.

"Chattanooga has been good to us," he said, adding there was "no way" the firm was moving out of the central city.

HHM is a fullservice accounting and consulting firm offering services to a variety of industry groups including health care, manufacturing and distribution, automobile dealerships, real estate and construction.

The firm provides traditional tax services, in addition to offering specialized services such as advice and counseling on mergers and acquisitions, business valuations, succession planning and tax planning for high net-worth clients.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.