In June 1930, during the height of the Great Depression, architect Harold T. Spitznagel started his design firm in his hometown of Sioux Falls with $20 capital and a $15-a-month office lease.

In shaping spaces where people lived, learned, worshiped, worked, played, and healed, “Spitz” was dedicated to understanding his clients and their needs.

His strong skill set helped the company establish its reputation as a firm that offered innovation, efficiency, flexibility, and high-quality design while adhering to budget guidelines.

From the beginning, and even as his designs evolved, Spitznagel recommended that whenever desirable from a design standpoint, 1 percent of a project’s budget be set aside for interior or exterior art.

His first commissioned work in 1932 gave Spitznagel a high-profile opportunity to show that belief as Sioux Falls’ City Hall was designed with three frescos in the main meeting room, granite carvings over entrances, and limestone plaques over the windows.

Recognizing the need to integrate form and function, he brought full-time engineers and interior designers into his practice in the early 1950s.

More than nine decades later, the practice Spitznagel founded has grown to become one of the Midwest’s premier architecture, engineering, planning, and interior design companies.

The Spitznagel Partners — TSP, Inc. — attributes much of the firm’s success to a founding principle: “Design it like you own it.” It’s a collaborative approach intended to develop a comprehensive understanding of each client’s needs.

Today, that statement lives on as one of the firm’s core values, with the others being “We before me” and “Committed to our craft.”

The value of a cohesive team, making a positive community impact, artistic appreciation, and having fun are among other enduring principles that go back to the start of the organization.

Now celebrating 94 years in business, TSP team members are highlighting long-held Spitznagel values that serve as sources of learning and inspiration. 

Ron Mielke, principal (joined TSP in January 1969; is the longest-tenured employee in company history; and has held roles of professional engineer, project manager, department head, principal, CEO, construction services leader, and board president).

Harold enjoyed getting to know people and cultivating relationships. He had a passion for projects, but he also had a passion for people, and he believed in providing outstanding customer service.

Rex Hambrock, architect

“We before me” resonates with me because it emphasizes listening and shared responsibility. It is important to learn how the client operates to provide the best outcome for their success.

I also appreciate our multidisciplinary design environment. In my prior office experience, right out of college, I was the fifth employee and left when there were about 35 employees. In that time, the firm added in-house interior designers, electrical and mechanical engineers. Having worked in both environments, I much prefer the collaboration with these disciplines in-house.

Doug Schone, design technology manager   

As a military veteran and devoted family man, the core value of “We before me” has always resonated with me. Whether it’s at work or at home, I try to keep my focus on others and how I can make a positive impact. I really enjoy my time with other team members; we have fun, check up on each other, and we are always looking out for one another. I feel I have a personal stake in TSP, and I want our team to be successful and happy and enjoy themselves as much as I do.

Tim Jensen, principal and office leader

Spitz believed strongly in building close personal relationships with his clients. When you personally invest in getting to know a client and building a friendship, you learn things about that friend and their business that make it easier to serve them if and when they need the service you provide. In addition, when doing business with friends, you are more likely to become personally invested in their project success.

Carla Stein, design technician   

“Design it like we own it” has always been the value that stuck out to me the most. In some ways, it is like “of course, we should,” but at TSP, I have seen it in action. Through collaboration and listening, we take that extra step to ensure the customer is getting the best design.

Maria Laursen, office manager

Clients place a great deal of trust in our team because of their expertise, responsiveness, and willingness to exceed expectations. Creating a welcoming environment where people feel heard and safe is a foundational part of the TSP legacy.

Darrell Bren, electrical engineer 

Many of our clients are friends or become friends while we are collaborating in the design process. When you make that connection with a client and feel that they genuinely care about you, and you care about them equally, you take the design personally.

Jared Nesje, principal and CEO   

Harold and his partners were known for combining their design expertise with a sense of humor, which sometimes involved legendary pranks and practical jokes. We don’t see that as much today, but it’s important for us to honor the firm’s legacy by continuing to pursue a strong design focus and having fun at work too. A fun environment helps balance stress, and it boosts morale and productivity.

Harold Spitznagel and Jared Nesje