Greg Cockmon is the CEO of Cromwell Architects-Engineers, one of the oldest architecture or engineering firms in the state, with a history dating back to Benjamin J. Bartlett in 1885. Over his 33 years with the company, serving as president since 2009 and CEO since 2021, he has assisted with or directed countless projects across the state, country, and overseas. In addition to helping manage day-to-day operations, marketing and business development, he is deeply involved with design work and client management, especially with the federal government and Department of Defense.
AMP: Tell us a little about yourself.
Cockmon: I was born and raised in Central Arkansas. I grew up in Little Rock, one of a six-kid family, all of whom are either in Arkansas or Oklahoma, so all of us have stayed close. My father was an engineer, so I did not fall too far from the tree when it came to choosing a profession. I had the opportunity to take some art and drafting classes in high school, which was instrumental in starting me down this path that I have been following during my career. After high school, I attended Southern Arkansas University Technical College and then the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where I studied Architecture. I began my professional career at Cromwell in 1989 as an intern architect. I never imagined at the time that it would turn out to be my first job and that I would still be here today, working with an amazing group of talented individuals, working side by side with the clients that I have the opportunity to serve and in the leadership position that I am in.
At the same time I was starting my career in architecture, my wife and I got married. We have two incredible children, one a nurse currently traveling the country, while the other followed the same path as me and graduated architecture school and is currently practicing in Florida. I am an avid sports fan and love doing anything outdoors.
AMP: You’ve said that your childhood dream was to be a long-haul truck driver. What made you choose architecture instead?
Cockmon: I tell a story about when I was young; I always thought I wanted to drive a long-haul truck someday. I am not really sure why that was. But I think it might have been because of the times we spent driving around the state on camping trip. Seeing those big trucks running up and down the road. It gave me the idea that it would be a good way to see other places that I had never been and experience them for a short time. I have always been an Arkansas boy, and driving a truck was a way that I could see other places and still come back home. My dream changed as I got older, so I am glad that architecture and a career at Cromwell was in my future. I was still able to travel to those places and see those things I didn’t experience while growing up and still can come back home. The opportunity to travel for work has been extremely rewarding and beneficial. It has allowed me the opportunity to experience places and people and to see some wonderful architecture. I am able to use those experiences and the things I see in our practice here in Arkansas. Maybe more travel in a long-haul truck is in the future for a second career, although it may not be what my wife has in mind. Travel yes, truck no.
AMP: Are there any unique challenges you face as the CEO of an architecture and engineering firm?
Cockmon: What I love about working in the Architectural Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry and having the opportunities that we have had as a company, working for a variety of clients all over the country and worldwide, is how you are always learning something new. That is why it is such a wonderful and inspiring profession; every day is a new challenge that lends itself to new ways to learn and see things. Some of the challenges we face today in our firm are hiring to keep up with the growth of our organization and support the great opportunities we have; the cost of construction continually increasing; materials and equipment shortages and delivery times that have continued to extend out along with the pace at which clients need to complete a job and open for business.
There are also challenges in keeping a business running. You not only have to get the work done, but you must keep up with changing technology and ways of doing things along with pursuing new project opportunities. Something that is always front and center for me is, how can we make Cromwell the best it can be, not only for the services we do for our clients, but for each member of our company? Do we have a place that allows them to be the best they can be, have the tools they need to do their job to the best of their abilities, and do that in an environment that is supportive, safe, and stimulating so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential? You must always be looking to the future for opportunities and to be aware of our ever-changing industry and the competitive nature of our business. I have always felt like we have some of the best design and construction companies in the country right here in Arkansas, and it excites me to see what the future brings us.
AMP: What work have you done in your career that you are most proud of?
Cockmon: Working at Cromwell has been the absolute best experience that I could ever imagine. Being with a firm that has been in business since 1885 is kind of intimidating when you are chosen to lead that company. You certainly want to do everything that you can to leave it in better shape than when you first started. I have had the opportunity to work on so many diverse types of projects and with so many wonderful clients throughout my career. There have been opportunities to work in corporate, financial, health care, education, industrial and many others. But if I had to choose — which I don’t like to do — would say the area of our practice that I am most proud to be involved in is our federal market. Doing projects for the Department of Defense and serving the members of the armed forces is very rewarding. All the individuals and families that are impacted by those projects are more than you can imagine. That has had a significant impact on my life, and I am proud to say that our firm has been doing work for the Department of Defense for over 50 years.
AMP: How has architecture changed since you came into the field?
Cockmon: This really dates me, which is not really exciting, but when I began my professional career, we produced all our documents by hand. Drawings were done with pen and ink. The pace of a project was much slower, and changes were not as common. You really had to commit before you put something down on paper, because change was not as easy as it might be considered today. Today everything is developed on a computer, an iPad, or a phone. Communication is much better and faster, changes are easier, but change is more prevalent. The pace and speed at which you produce a design and documents is much faster. Technology has changed the way we design, how we design in some cases and what we design. Systems are much more complicated; materials are more abundant; and new systems and processes will continue to change what and how we do things. That is what makes this such an exciting profession. Every day is a day you learn something new and face a new challenge.