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Michael Brady, left, with Vance Travis.

A Knoxville-based architectural firm has acquired TWH Architects in Chattanooga to create one of East Tennessee's biggest architect and design companies, with nearly 100 employees, including personnel registered in all 50 states, to provide architecture, engineering, interiors and building information modeling services.

Michael Brady Inc., which began in Knoxville in 1990 and expanded to Orlando more than a decade ago, opened a Chattanooga office a couple of years ago and agreed this summer to expand its Chattanooga operations by buying TWH.

The combined company will keep its TWH name in Chattanooga, at least for now, and expand the 10-person TWH office in the University Tower building near UTC to include 15 employees.

"We've had our eye on the Chattanooga market for a number of years because of its growth potential and, in a lot instances, you need to be present to win," said Eddie Jett, the chief executive for MBI. "This will expand our service capabilities in the greater Chattanooga area and help to better service our clients while keeping the TWH name. I think the two firms really complement one another."

MBI's founder and namesake, Michael Brady, retired last fall and has moved to Chattanooga. Brady pushed the firm to expand into Southeast Tennessee, first with an office in Bradley County and then with one near Hamilton Place Mall.

Vance Travis, the president of TWH who founded the company in 1986 with Phil Whitfield and the late John Hancock, said the sale will allow for an orderly transition for the 30-year-old company.

"Phil and I are both getting up there in tenure and we don't have any children involved in the firm, so we were looking for an opportunity to give the firm a new and fresh life going forward," Travis said. "We were approached by MBI with an attractive offer so they can expand their presence here, so it seems to make a lot of sense."

TWH has helped design more than $500 million of building projects in the Chattanooga area over the past three decades, ranging from the award-winning Ocoee Whitewater Center and Battle Academy to UTC's College of Business Administration, Chattanooga State's Health Sciences building and the Chattanooga City Hall.

MBI has designed more than $6 billion in construction projects over the last 26 years, including its recent work in the local area as the designer of the Sale Creek Fire Department.

Major MBI clients include the U.S. Department of Energy, UT/Battelle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pilot Oil, HGTV/Scripps Network, Kimberly Clark, University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents, ProNova Solutions and the University of Tennessee Medical Center, as well as dozens of city and county governmental entities.

TWH, which also has been licensed and done projects from the Carolinas to Texas, was the major architectural firm that worked with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., early in Corker's career when he was building commercial projects across the country for Bencor Construction Co. TWH later helped Corker when he was mayor restore and upgrade the historic Chattanooga City Hall.

Travis said he is working with Ronny Rahn, an MBI principal and Chattanooga office leader, as the two offices combine in the University Tower.

TWH helped develop University Towers building on East Fourth Street, where the architectural firm has been located on the fifth floor of the 10-story structure through its history. Travis joined with accountant Dan Johnson and engineer John Germ in the 1980s to build the 44,477-square-foot office, which the owners are now trying to sell. The building is listed for $5.95 million.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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