GREAT FALLS — Spark Architecture in Great Falls is joining a host of businesses across the state dedicated to balancing profit and purpose, and recently announced their reorganization to a Public Benefit Corporation.
“One of the rules is that the purpose of our existence is not just to make a profit but to bring a public benefit into the world,” said founder Sophia Sparklin.
Sparklin says the change will help the firm grow and continue to take on projects that focus on helping others build opportunities for themselves. "We did some work for Neighborworks here in Great Falls to develop a pocket neighborhood,” she said. “Being able to design something so they can build community but still give them all the privacy they need, that is so fascinating to me."
She believes architecture is more than what meets the eye and blueprints aren't just for buildings; the profession provides valuable insight into what makes or breaks local communities.
For her company, backing institutions like the Great Falls Public Library ensures people have access to community resources. “You take a big global problem that can feel unbearable really,” she said. “But then you can look at what’s within reach, where can you personally support and make change.”
Another thing Sparklin wants to see improve in Great Falls and across Montana is more opportunities for meaningful work.
And while it hasn't been easy, they’ve developed unique pay and efficiency models with the goal of retaining workers that may otherwise leave the industry: “Right now we have more than 50% of girls in college for architecture,” she said. “But we lose them and it breaks my heart but I know why. I have little kids- and it’s not that easy.”
Spark Architecture also aims to advance diversity and equality in the workplace as they continue to grow: “A mix of people and views and experiences just creates better work,” she said.
Montana State Law defines a specific Public Benefit as (a) providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services; (b) promoting economic opportunity for individuals or communities beyond the creation of jobs in the ordinary course of business; (c) preserving the environment; (d) improving human health; (e) promoting the arts, sciences, or advancement of knowledge; (f) increasing the flow of capital to entities with a public benefit purpose; or (g) the accomplishment of any other particular benefit for society or the environment.