TAMPA, Fla. - A Bay Area architect who designs sustainable, functional spaces, is looking back on his journey from the mountains of Tennessee to becoming the owner of a successful firm in the city of Tampa.
As a child, being an architect was all Jerel McCants could think about.
"I was kind of born with it, like my parents would say, because as soon as I was able to crawl, I was creating patterns and designs, and I always loved drawing, so even at an early age, I was drawing houses and buildings and floor plans and just kept doing it," McCants said.
Growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he graduated from Tennessee State University in 1996 and then came to Florida to attend the FAMU School of Architecture, which is now part of the University of South Florida. Then McCants went to work for a firm in Atlanta.
"That was the biggest metropolis, the biggest city in the south, so I always wanted to work there," McCants said.
But Florida wasn't done with him, yet. He returned to Tampa to work with a developer of condominiums until 2010, when the economy forced firms to downsize or close.
"So me and a consortium of other architects and colleagues got together and pooled our resources so we could work to kind of sustain our own livelihood at that time," McCants recalled.
He decided to open up his own architecture firm, Jerel McCants Architecture Inc.
"You know, like my dad, he ran his own business for years, and so he always told me, once I get my architectural license, I can have my own business," he said.
Now he designs schools and businesses across the Bay Area.
"You got to make sure that the building or the project that you're working on is going to be a viable project. You know, you just can't do anything completely artistic, you know, but then you have to bring a technical side to make sure it's structurally safe and sound," he said.
He said designing buildings can be like building a career, as well. He has a message for young people with big dreams:
"You want to be able to achieve great things. And if you have that mindset, then you got to push forward and eventually you create that track record, then you go back and say, ‘Hey, I did all this,’" he said.