Chianis + Anderson Architects: Twenty Years of Building Relationships

By Becca Taurisano

Greg A. Chianis and Todd J. Anderson founded the Binghamton-based architectural firm of Chianis + Anderson, on a simple premise: do what you say you will do. The two colleagues had worked together previously and after a brief hiatus, they reconnected at a local fundraising event. In 2001, they opened Chianis + Anderson Architects and in 2006, Jeffery T. Smith became their partner. Now twenty years later, the firm has 19 employees and is housed in the historic Davidge Mansion located at 31 Front Street on Binghamton’s West Side.


Chianis, Anderson, and Smith are actively involved in every project the firm takes on, giving clients confidence that there is continuity in direction from the top down. That hands-on model was important to the partners in determining what the firm culture should look like, as well as wanting to maintain a good reputation with both clients and contractors alike. “It’s important to have a partner involved in every project so the client sees that the project means something to us and it’s being looked after by a comprehensive team,” says Smith.

Having an implicit understanding of construction is important to the partners as well. “You don’t really know how to design something unless you first know how to build it. We are very practical with what and how we design. This has gotten us a long way in our relationships with contractors. Each project should be practically designed and then constructed,” says Chianis.

“Our team understands construction,” says Anderson. “It is always a challenge to communicate from a desk to the guy on site standing knee-deep in mud, but our people are very good at that. If there are questions from the contractors, we are very responsive. We will go onsite and stand in the mud with them. Not every firm subscribes to that idea.”


Chianis + Anderson has an assortment of residential, hospitality, commercial, and senior housing/nursing home clients, but about 80% of their projects are in the healthcare industry. “It means a lot to design a healthcare space that is welcoming and healing, that makes people less afraid and more comfortable. Any time we work on a healthcare facility, we try to make a difference in someone’s experience,” says Chianis.

In 2007, Chianis was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and at the same time was finishing the expansion of the cancer care center for United Health Services in Johnson City. “One day I was the project architect in charge of this renovation and expansion, and the next day I’m sitting in a treatment chair getting chemo in a space that I designed. I saw things from a very different point of view, as a patient. That experience has made me into a stronger person and a better designer,” he says.

From considering how a patient would feel walking in to get a mammogram for the first time, to what sort of items are stored in the cabinets of the nurses’ station, the team at Chianis + Anderson strives to consider every aspect of the experience, down to the artwork on the walls. “Artwork is known to be a healing element in a healthcare setting,” says Chianis. He worked with local artists to commission works for the United Health Services Vestal Primary Care project and even has a few of his own photographs on the walls.


Regardless of if it is a multi-million dollar project or a $200,000 addition on a private residence, delivering quality and providing excellent customer service is the goal. Many of the firm’s clients have been with them since the beginning. “We try to provide the best service possible to every customer no matter the size or scope of the project. Everybody deserves our best,” says Chianis.

Anderson likes to work on the more challenging projects and is well-versed in building codes. “Many of our clients are very code and regulation driven. I can provide better service to them if I am the person they call with a regulatory question or problem. It is not about billing every hour, it’s about building that relationship,” he says.

Balancing the client’s needs and the contractor’s needs is key. “Everyone these days is tight on budget and tight on schedule. We need to be able to respond quickly so we can keep the project moving. The contractors appreciate our responsiveness. We find the solution that will work for everyone,” says Anderson.


Chianis + Anderson is locally owned and locally operated. As a mid-size architectural and interior design firm, they take on projects of all sizes within a three-hour radius, as far away as Philadelphia. With an average of 120 projects per year over the last 20 years, Chianis + Anderson has left its mark on the skyline of Binghamton and surrounding areas. “The impact we’ve left in our immediate community with the number of buildings we’ve designed – healthcare, residential, businesses, restaurants – it’s pretty vast,” says Chianis.

Smith’s passion is historical preservation, and he is currently working with Temple Concord on the Kilmer Mansion including re-building three stone chimneys, four stories in the air. Smith says he enjoys being able to walk to the project site, climb up the scaffolding, meet with the masons, and take pictures of the project. “The local projects are fun. It’s our backyard and we need to take care of our own area,” says Smith.

Chianis + Anderson also gives back to the community through helping non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, whom they have worked with at no cost for over a decade. “For us,” says Smith, “it’s not just the work you do in the office, it’s how you conduct yourself in the community. We work with local non-profit organizations, and sit on a number of local boards, commissions, and steering committees. You want to put your absolute best foot forward where you live.”


Not every project is a piece of cake, but the firm prides itself on solving their clients’ problems. Anderson says the most challenging projects are some of their rural healthcare clients, because of their budget limitations. “It is a challenge to meet the needs of the community and the regulatory requirements, all while staying within budget.”

Every person at the firm is expected to do what it takes to get the project completed, including the partners themselves. “One of the things we do as partners, is we step up and do what we have to do. We are all in it together and we have to deliver for the client. That’s key to any successful firm,” says Smith.

For Smith, he says it can be uncomfortable talking to clients about issues with a project, but that honesty is essential. “They might not like to hear our advice, but that’s what we are hired for. There can be some bumps along the way and it’s our job to communicate that.”

In the Northeast, architects face challenges with the age of the buildings, environmental issues such as asbestos, and buildings being completely occupied while work is being done, Chianis explains. “It doesn’t get more complex than an invasive hospital renovation project. Part of it is the enjoyment of the challenge.”


Jeffery Smith was looking for a career and not a job when he joined Chianis + Anderson in 2004. The partners want their staff to look at the firm the same way. “Our office has not expanded and contracted based on the economy. If you’re with us, you’re with us. In today’s world, stability is very hard to come by. I want it for myself, and I want it for our staff,” says Smith.

Chianis + Anderson boasts a 65% female workforce and a welcoming, family-like culture. Chianis says he is extremely proud of his employees and the work ethic they bring to every project.  “We are very selective about who we hire because this is a family. We want them to have the right attitude and skillset, but we want them to fit in with the existing employees. We want this to be a career, not just a job,” says Chianis.

The partners create that family atmosphere by hosting team outings like miniature golf, kayaking, and cooking classes. “At our company events we try to change the focus from work to who we are as people. It is important to talk to our employees about things other than business,” says Smith. From picking up bagels in the morning to putting a ping pong table in the back room, the partners try to make the environment fun for employees. Educational development is emphasized as well by providing lunch and learn sessions, encouraging employees to attend professional conferences, and promoting continuing education opportunities.


The future looks bright for Chianis + Anderson, with an eye on creating a legacy the partners can be proud of. While they strive for growth, they hope the small office feel and partner involvement in projects continues. Part of building that legacy will be to nurture some of their younger leadership and mentor them into future owners and partners. “We have a lot of people who have the ability to lead,” Chianis says, “the idea is to take [the firm], build on it, and continue doing what we’re doing.”

Anderson says he is excited to see what the future holds for the architectural industry as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a new world out there and it will be interesting to see where we go from here. What will the result be from these supply chain issues? In the past we have relied on basic building materials from other countries, so hopefully we will look within our own borders moving forward so we can avoid these interruptions in the future. As we have seen, the world can change in an instant.”

Smith hopes that the work they are doing makes a lasting impression. “There are a lot of historic buildings in the area,” Smith says, “I just hope that in the future people understand that just like every picture has a photographer, every building has an architect. There were design professionals who made that building a possibility and hopefully for that building to be around for a long time to come.”


Chianis + Anderson had planned to move offices when the historic Davidge Mansion at 31 Front Street suddenly became available. A developer was planning to turn the 1903 landmark into student housing, but the City of Binghamton put a stop to those plans. Chianis + Anderson made an offer and was able to purchase the building. “It’s a total gem,” says Chianis, “we could not have designed anything better for ourselves.”

The firm had not moved out of their old office building when COVID 19 happened, so they were unsure about whether to push forward with renovating the Davidge Mansion or pause the work. Ultimately, they decided to continue the renovation and preservation of the building and as soon as it was safe to do so, they brought staff to the new offices. The entire team moved themselves in over a two-day period, including over 300 file boxes, furniture, books, computers, equipment and belongings. Now staff from similar departments are grouped together, changing the flow of the office and allowing employees to interact more easily. “It’s changed the culture for the better and allowed us to share knowledge and information faster,” says Smith.

While they have done considerable work to the mansion, there is more to be done. “It’s not just a storefront,” Anderson says, “we are saving a historic building. The community is thankful for that.” Chianis hopes that the Davidge Mansion is part of the legacy of the firm down the road. Smith says that if Chianis + Anderson had not purchased the building, the Davidge Mansion would have been destroyed. “We are really part of the community now,” Smith says, “the building is not going anywhere, and neither are we.”

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Time to Leverage this Moment and Invest in the Future

By: James A. D’Agostino, CEO, MEP Center Director

I was hopeful that by this time in 2021 that we would have put a majority of the supply chain disruptions and COVID issues behind us, but here we are once again. Groundhog Day anyone? Manufacturers are still combatting supply chain issues and raw material sourcing obstacles. Even when they are able to find what they need for their operations, price increases are eroding margins and making life much more difficult. On top of that, significantly increased demand from all of the delayed plans and purchases from last year are now happening as manufacturers are trying to adopt new technologies into their production processes. Lastly, employee recruiting and retention continues to be a major challenge for manufacturers. Companies are trying to figure out how to manage all of these challenges at the same time while warding off a global pandemic.

As we talked about earlier this year, these major challenges also represent massive opportunities. What the leadership of every manufacturer needs to understand immediately is how their organizations can take advantage of these trends in order to grow their business as much as possible while also planning for the future. With the increased interest in reshoring and nearshoring, manufacturers should be looking at ways to invest in future competitiveness and scale to take advantage of the enormous trade shift that is occurring. They should also be looking to create a stronger supplier ecosystem closer to home. This will enable stronger ties and allow them to work more closely with customers and suppliers. The end result of all of this will be a stronger, more agile, and more controllable supply chain. Overall, the supply chain will be much less susceptible to the types of disruptions that we continue to see from the global pandemic.

Manufacturing skills have also been altered dramatically during the ongoing pandemic. There is a much greater need for manufacturers to take a more proactive approach that focuses more heavily on workforce development and future skill needs. This means that manufacturers should be looking to provide increased training opportunities for new workers along with helping existing workers upskill their knowledge and capabilities. Increased automation requires a rethinking of manufacturing roles, especially for employees whose jobs are most affected. Manufacturers should also come to grips with the fact that this will likely not be a temporary condition, but a fundamental shift in overall workforce development needs.

Our country has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reposition itself on the world’s manufacturing stage. Manufacturers should be leveraging this moment to invest in the future and really look at their technology and workforce needs to take that next incremental step forward. In a world that is divided in several ways, there is one thing that most everyone can agree upon: manufacturing will never be the same, and it is clear that the old way of operating is no longer an acceptable strategy. TDO’s skilled team has the perfect blend of industry and technical experience, along with a vast partner network and access to lucrative funding, to assist those manufacturers that are interested in taking that next transformational step. Reach out today for a free consultation.

Return to Work Takes on a New Meaning?

By: Pierre Morrisseau

I thought I would share our recent attempts to bring our employees back together face to face, a topic I think is a priority with most business leaders. I also want to share why we think returning to the office and to some level of “normal” is so important.

First, a look backward: Mere days after the pandemic was announced, we celebrated our success at moving all of our more than 200 employees in 18 locations to work-from-home status. Because of our work over the past decade perfecting remote work and video meetings to better serve our clients anywhere at any time, we were able to have everyone up and running in just days.

Now, as the pandemic drags on—heading towards two years—bringing our employees back into the office continues to present enormous frustration and challenges including:

  • Childcare challenges for parents
  • Caregivers in proximity to vulnerable loved ones
  • Schooling and scheduling through continual change in status
  • Fear of contracting the virus from others in the office
  • Increasing infection rates even amongst the vaccinated
  • Changing employee attitudes towards the flexibility of working at home
  • And not least of which, COVID fatigue

Add to this multiple-variant-related surges in infections, and companies everywhere are facing the very real possibility of a permanently altered workplace.

In a recent Korn Ferry survey, 20% of employers said they did not expect to return employees to work until well into 2022 and 32% said that they would never return to an office. This is highly disturbing for companies like ours that believe strongly that collaborating faced to face is essential to solving clients’ most pressing challenges. It is this belief that is guiding us to try new ways to bring our teams back together safely and in a way that employees will feel good about.

Like many firms, we have experimented with rotating small groups into our offices for one to three days each week. In our largest office in Syracuse, this means about thirty people on any given day. All of the usual sanitary precautions and procedures are in place including mask wearing when not at your desk or when you cannot maintain at least six feet of distance from another. Over time, we have had nearly 100% of our employees back into their offices at least one day per week.

As employees became more comfortable with the idea of coming to work, we began instituting a few events including a carnival-like outdoor event with food trucks, dunk tank, games and more. These events were designed to help ease employees’ fear while helping them to relearn connectedness.

Most recently, we held our first large-scale meeting, inviting employees from all our offices to meet at a large offsite venue for a full day we called
Better Together. Our greater objective was to pull people out of their remote work areas with plenty of good food, fun and safe camaraderie. We also wanted to take the time to reinforce how important working face to face is to achieving our mission of solving problems for our clients, helping people, and supporting our communities.

We invited in organizational excellence and leadership development experts, Daneli Partners, to administer a Gallup®  assessment with all attendees. The assessments outlined each person’s strengths and weaknesses and became the basis of the day’s meeting. With data, we were able to graphically see how diverse our workforce is and begin to imagine teams where those strengths may be paired perfectly to create super teams. We then paired teams to work together to solve puzzles.

At the end of the day, everyone had a great time seeing and being with each other again. They learned new things about themselves and their peers and renewed bonds. More importantly, it was just one more step in what will likely be a long process of returning our employees to the workplace.

I would love to hear what others are doing to bring their employees back, and always willing to share what we are doing at OneGroup.

Building a Workplace That Cares

By Scott Jessie, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer, Upstate University Hospital

Scott Jessie, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, is the Chief Nursing Officer at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the health care field, including 14 years of progressive leadership roles in the ICU, Emergency Services and the COVID-19 response team. He has earned many awards during his career, holds a master’s degree in nursing and is currently pursuing an MBA. 

The healthcare business is not the only one looking to attract and retain the best staff, but it is one of the most publicized — and among the most complicated. At Upstate, like all hospitals, nursing is the largest occupation, so we also have the greatest numbers to attract and retain.

The healthcare workforce shortage is a long-haul situation, not a six-month event. Recovery from this industry-disrupting event will take years to address. Over time, we will bounce back and will have to develop new ways of doing things. The more talent we can retain to begin with, the less we will have to rebuild.

Wellness must be incorporated into the new healthcare workforce paradigm. Nurses are the largest group of employees, but all roles need support and a work environment that cares for them as much as they care for the patients. Improving wellness support and activities will have a fundamental ripple effect for all.

Respect what they have been through, and respect them

Nurses and healthcare staff were the heroes last year. The glow has faded but their core work is the same. Two years into the pandemic no other job has seen the collective death toll of COVID, except perhaps funeral homes. We all know in nursing that you’re going to take care of people who are going to die. I worked in an ICU for almost 20 years and took care of a lot of patients who died, but this outpaces any normal expectations. And it’s across all age spectrums, which is devastating. People have been so emotionally impacted by that. This extreme situation has to be acknowledged. This has caused a never-before-seen amount of distress among all staff and we must find ways to support and help those affected.

Make Wellness more than a buzzword

Nurses and others at the front lines of care are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. The emotional toll is overwhelming for many. We need to provide ways to decompress from work while at work and at home. None of us have lived through a pandemic before, but the experience for healthcare workers has been even more unique. Things aren’t normal at home, and things at work have remained exceptionally challenging as we have now gone through four waves at this point. Nurses and others have had to change so much of their routine: how they function, working very short staffed, and continually face COVID-19 up close.

We have never experienced a crisis of this magnitude, and we need to create new ways to support the frontlines and help them cope. Not every person will need this support, but for the ones that do, it is crucial that we support them and help them recover. Ideally, I would like to be able to build an environment where people could talk to counselors on the spot — having these teams out and about on floors, so if someone has 15 minutes in the break room they might sit down and talk. Very informal. Not stressful. Not “oh my gosh, I need to see a therapist” although that might follow. More of a chance to decompress and be asked, “Hey, how are you doing? Genuinely, how are you doing?” That could be the first layer, so to speak. If they need more, we should make it easier for them to connect with additional services, with no stigma for that option.

Know the true cost of retention

It costs money to keep people. That’s the truth. But it’s not just in salaries. You have to make hard business decisions to make the work environment better, even when the pandemic deck is stacked against you. One way we’re able to make the job better is to aim to keep a tight grip on the ratios — that is the number of patients a nurse has to oversee. Reducing staffed beds and limiting surgeries are effective but extremely costly tools to manage nurse-to-patient ratios. Some may argue that we still have to protect the bottom line, and there is validity in that. At the same time, preserving our workforce — even at a cost today — will better position us for the healthcare challenges of tomorrow. People will always be our most important resource. Lower ratios are a quiet way to show staff that we really do appreciate and value them, and we are trying to do our best to keep them.

We want to do these things for the current workforce and for the next. The impact of the pandemic is staggering but nurses never stopped caring. Nurses — and everyone at the front lines —need care in return as well.

The Critical Role of Apprenticeship and CTE Programs in the Construction Industry

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director; Syracuse Builders Exchange

Labor shortages continue to plague the construction industry both regionally and nationally, with such issues happening long before the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although the pandemic has increased the shortage of workers, the long-term solutions to solving the labor shortage in construction remain complex.  Two such solutions which have proven to be effective are the apprenticeship programs offered via the many local building trade unions and the Career and Technical Education programs offered by local school districts.

There is a renewed focus on apprenticeship and training programs by the trades across upstate New York.  Apprenticeship programs combine classroom and industry-related instruction provided by the union, with on-the-job learning provided by employers.  All apprenticeship programs are registered with the New York State Department of Labor and governed by a Board of Trustees which include both employer and union representation.

Capital investments into new or existing apprenticeship and training centers can be seen right here in central New York.  The North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Local 277 built a state-of-the-art training center in 2018 in Syracuse.  During 2021, the union recruited 250 apprentices and new journeymen/women into the union.  As a result, the union is planning to expand the training center to not only accommodate the new apprentices, but to provide the delivery of additional training and education.

Apprenticeship programs remain attractive to young men and women as they provide a career pathway without having to incur debt to pay for the training and education.  The “learn while you earn” concept is a delicate balance of providing apprentices with required training and on the job work.  As a trustee on many of these Funds, I see firsthand the immediate benefit of this model for both the career-minded apprentices and those employers who hire them.

Pre-apprenticeship programs attract candidates who may explore the construction industry at a very elementary level while deciding if it is a career for them, and if so, what trade is of most interest.  In central New York the Syracuse Builders Exchange has partnered with Syracuse Build’s Executive Director Christopher Montgomery to place those students who graduate from their pre-apprenticeship program.  Graduating students may be placed directly into the workforce with a construction industry employer or may be placed into one of the many union apprenticeship and training programs to further develop their careers.

Career and Technical Education (“CTE”) programs have increased in high schools throughout upstate New York.  As a member of the Syracuse City School District’s CTE advisory board, I witness the impact such programs have on impressionable, young students who see themselves entering their chosen career upon graduation from high school.  Although the Syracuse City School District’s CTE program was the first of its kind in upstate New York, the model developed by the Syracuse City School District is now being reviewed and considered by other school districts. 

While construction, welding and electrical are just a few of the career pathways offered by the CTE program, new offerings such as Construction Management will be delivered to students in September 2023 when the new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) school opens in downtown Syracuse.  The Construction Management curriculum is being developed by a committee of executives of construction management companies from throughout central New York.

While no one solution will solve the labor shortage issues plaguing the construction industry, initiatives such as apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and CTE programs in high schools provide employers with optimism that the next generation of construction worker is actively being recruited.  The question is, will there be enough workers to fill all the positions anticipated over the next few years?  Most likely not.