John Tess started Heritage in 1982 when the historic preservation field was still in its infancy. Mr. Tess was working at the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, responsible for reviewing HTC applications. He saw that developers and architects were submitting applications where they clearly did not understand the program rules, and also did not put their projects in a favorable light.
Mr. Tess believed that, with proper guidance, applicants could secure NPS approvals quicker, achieve an overall better project and, by being efficient, be more profitable. These were the guiding principles he used to form Heritage. With the firm based in Portland, Mr. Tess quickly established a reputation as a tenacious advocate for his clients.
By the 1990s, Heritage dominated historic preservation work in Oregon and Mr. Tess actively pursued HTC work across the country. Heritage secured projects in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami Beach and other major metropolitan areas. Many of the projects were historic boutique hotels, only then becoming popular.
As with Portland clients, national clients appreciated Mr. Tess's tenacity, creativity and advocacy. One of the few tax credit consultants whose roots go back to the beginning, Mr. Tess is well regarded as a voice for the private developer in the continuing public debate on how to create better HTC program. It was for this perspective that he was asked by Presidential First Lady, Laura Bush, to participate in Preserve America, a national summit to review historic preservation in the United States, and to offer strategic direction moving forward in the 21st century.
In addition to frequently speaking at conferences for both public and private sectors, he also has a regular column in Novogradac's Journal of Tax Credits. Mr. Tess is a board member of Preservation Action, the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association and an active participant in the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, sitting on their Historic Preservation Committee.
Over the years, he has sat on many Governor-appointed boards, appointed by Governor Theodore Kulongoski to Oregon's Task Force on Historic Property, and was elected its Chair. He currently serves as a Governor-appointed board member of the Oregon Cultural Trust.