NELSON Achieves Bay Area Presence with Strategic AAI Merger

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By Jacob Bourne

On November 1, AAI, an architecture and design firm based in San Jose merged with NELSON, a global architecture, design and consulting services organization, marking the beginning of a strategic partnership giving NELSON a stronger foothold on the West Coast and endowing AAI with access to more services for clients.

“We want to be in most U.S. cities and we’re just about there,” said Ozzie Nelson, chairman & CEO, NELSON. “We’ve looked at the Bay Area for a long time — five or six years — AAI has a great profile and culturally is very similar to us. They have high talent and low ego, which isn’t very easy to find. There’s a lot of longevity with their people and they’re making clients happy. AAI has demonstrated a stable way to grow a business, so it’s a really wonderful foundation for us.”

AAI’s 35 employees, whose projects have extended across Northern California, are now a part of the Nelson brand’s team totaling 650 team members at 25 locations around the world and are expected to gain $100 million in revenue. NELSON, which has 40 years experience doing work for technology, advertising, media and information companies has launched a TAMI practice geared towards catering to the specialized needs of these sectors. Given the Bay Area’s longstanding position as the nation’s leading tech hub, the merger gives NELSON an opportunity to be closer to companies it already has relationships with like Google, Verizon and Cisco.

“Clients want broader expertise,” explained Nelson. “They want to work with fewer providers serving a broader geographic network. Our firm is a real believer in consolidation as there’s more risk in the world today. We want to be diversified in terms of our client base and be more diverse geographically.”

For NELSON, which has offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, the merger with AAI is its largest West Coast acquisition. A major aspect of AAI’s appeal to NELSON is that both entities have far reaching expertise and work on diverse projects. Nelson described an immediate synergy that has resulted from the deal, not only in terms of servicing clients, but also in terms of the nuts and bolts of the merger.

“Almost immediately we have this combined compatibility,” he said. “We have a client out of Atlanta that’s in the Bay Area now — AAI is working with them. There’s infrastructure conversion on the account, finance and marketing sides as well as on a tech platform for sharing docs. Financially it’s a lot of conversion but fortunately they have a lot of the same systems. It’s one of the easiest mergers from a tech standpoint.”

“The Bay Area is very important to us,” added Nelson. “We will continue to look for all kinds of ways to be leaders in this region and our joining with AAI is a great way to start.”

AAI’s annual revenue is estimated at $6.4 million and was ranked no.33 in Interior Design Magazine this year as a Rising Giant.

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