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This profile was last updated on 11/10/15  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Lonnie J. Laffen

Wrong Lonnie J. Laffen?


Phone: (218) ***-****  
Email: d***@***.com
JLG Architects
124 North Third Street
Grand Forks , North Dakota 58203
United States

Company Description: JLG Architects, one of the ZweigWhite's Top 20 Architecture Firms to Work For in the country and the 1994 AIA IDP Firm of the Year, has a tremendous opportunity for...   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • bachelor's degrees
    North Dakota State University
89 Total References
Web References
Lonnie Laffen co-founded ..., 27 Mar 2015 [cached]
Lonnie Laffen co-founded JLG in 1989. image Lonnie Laffen co-founded JLG in 1989. He currently serves as the company's CEO. PHOTO: JLG ARCHITECTS
When Gary Johnson and Lonnie Laffen launched Johnson & Laffen Architects Ltd. in Grand Forks, N.D., in 1989 they intended to run a small firm focused on improving the quality of life in communities through great design.
Aside from its initial expansion to Minneapolis in 2002, all of the firm's new offices have been added in the past decade, due in large part to the Bakken oil boom, and a lot of it was simply opportunistic, according to CEO Lonnie Laffen.
Laffen admits the firm had never considered opening a location there until the company's chief operating officer, Michelle Mongeon Allen, relocated to Minneapolis.
"Finally the light bulb went on and we said, 'Well why don't we just start an office there?' That really opened the floodgates," Laffen says.
"Suddenly we had four offices and we hadn't planned on them," Laffen says, adding that the new locations quickly gained new business in each market for the firm.
Oil Boom Impacts
The firm continued on for several years with those four locations, building a reputation as a desirable employer and as a firm with expertise in multiple areas of design. But as the Bakken oil boom began to pick up speed, so did demand for the firm's services. "As North Dakota's oil boom started to take off, we really started to get very busy," Laffen says.
"We just couldn't get them to move to North Dakota, especially western North Dakota," Laffen says. So the firm targeted North Dakota State University's architecture school and began aggressively working to recruit the best students, courting potential employees as early as their third year of school by offering them internships. "That worked very well," he says. "We've been able to recruit from NDSU, and most of those kids come from small towns and have a great work ethic."
But before long, the firm's demand for staff had outgrown NDSU's supply line. So earlier this year it opened an office in Brookings, S.D., specifically to tap South Dakota State University's recently established architecture school for new talent. "We want to be there and have students involved in our offices and hopefully come to work for us as we get to know them," Laffen says.
The firm's rapid growth has allowed it to avoid placing specific demands on each location, which gives it the freedom to open offices near talent pools, rather than target markets. Laffen says this strategy would obviously not be possible without current technology. "[Technology has] allowed us to work on any project, anywhere," he says. "We never have an expectation that a new office has to do anything."
JLG's long-term growth plan is to continue using the model that inspired it to expand to Brookings, focusing on smaller communities that have architecture schools in order to recruit talent, and to establish offices where new employees are already located. It's a strategy with a big end goal. Laffen says the company's growth strategy "has no limit" but will focus on states in the center of the U.S. where he believes policies are most conducive to growth. The firm anticipates its reach could eventually stretch from Grand Forks to Texas.
Still Small City
While JLG has become a big fish in the region's architecture pool, and plans to grow even larger, Laffen says the core of the firm remains "small city architecture" in that it intends to maintain a broad portfolio of projects rather than become specialized in any certain type of building. He says the firm learned early on when it expanded to Minneapolis that it can be hard to compete with "big city" firms, which provide expertise in certain areas and can easily snap up those projects in urban areas. But in smaller communities, having an array of experience provides expertise that is otherwise unknown. "We have found much more work in Dickinson and Bismarck than we ever did in Minneapolis," he says.
Having a diversified portfolio has also provided the firm with efficiencies in drafting and other areas of design and helps to attract students, according to Laffen, so it will continue to be the status quo for the firm as it expands to mid-sized, underserved markets throughout the Midwest. "And we just like the way we have it set up," he says.
"If you look at the options, ..., 21 Sept 2008 [cached]
"If you look at the options, there's a fairly sensible solution in there," said Lonnie Laffen, a consultant hired by the city to help with the redesign of government buildings.
Floods pose an unusual challenge for designers and architects, Laffen said.
Designers must meet the city's need and comply with FEMA rules for buildings in a flood plain.Uncertainty about the future lingers.Decisions that rest with the federal government could shape which plan Cedar Rapids chooses.
Laffen, a partner at JLG Architects in Grand Forks, N.D., said building a flood wall too close to the riverbank downtown would hinder efforts to protect the buildings on May's Island - including City Hall and the Linn County Courthouse, both of which flooded in June.
The location of flood walls and levees - up close to the river, or set farther back - will determine their height and cost, said Laffen, the Grand Forks consultant.Grand Forks revamped its flood safeguards after a comparable flood devastated the town of 52,000 in 1997.
The removal of houses in Grand Forks was offset by a buzz of construction that Laffen said helped strengthen the economy.The town lost thousands of residents, but it improved its quality of life for residents who stayed.
"Economically, we thought there would be a huge financial impact, but there wasn't," Laffen said.
Cedar Rapids' Option 1 would set most of the levees and flood walls at the river's edge.Laffen said the proposal would preserve more existing neighborhoods, but it would cost more than others and would require taller walls to shield the public.
Planners also have floated the possibility of rerouting the river around the city, a plan that would cost at least $2.8 billion and take a decade to complete.The suggestion was not included in any of the three main strategies.
Laffen said the use of green space - which will require some property buyouts - would most likely win public support.
"People want to be protected from this happening again," he said."It's just too painful."
Board of Directors - Altru Health System - Grand Forks, ND, 8 Feb 2015 [cached]
Lonnie Laffen Vice Chair President JLG Architects
"I'm sure this one would have ..., 29 Sept 2015 [cached]
"I'm sure this one would have been torn down had the city and us not stepped in," said Lonnie Laffen, president of JLG Architects, a state senator and member of the Oriental Avenue group that purchased the Met around 2000. "There was no mechanical, there was no plumbing, there was no power, and the building shell was in really bad shape."
That group used $600,000 in Community Development Block Grant money in the form of a forgivable loan from the city and tax credits on top of around $3.5 million of its own money to build loft-style apartments in the upper floors and to restore the exterior to its original appearance, Laffen said. The forgivable loan, a part of significant federal support to rebuild Grand Forks and East Grand Forks after the flood, was transferred to the Rhombus Guys once they purchased the building.
But despite the influx of cash, the front portion of the first floor remained empty. News archives show a number of projects were floated as possibilities over the years, including a high-end restaurant and even a UND downtown branch. A St. Cloud, Minn., brewery planned to open there at one time, but the project never came to fruition, Laffen said.
"It's always been sort of conceived that a brewpub would be a good fit there," he said.
"We are very excited to be ..., 22 Jan 2015 [cached]
"We are very excited to be able to expand to South Dakota," said JLG President Lonnie Laffen.
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