NATIONAL CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT CRISIS PROMPTS
$10.4 MILLION EFFORT AT WESTERN LED BY COMPANY GIFT
Cynthia and Joe Kimmel unveil a sign announcing the Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University while Chancellor John Bardo watches.
|An animated Joe Kimmel gets a laugh from Chancellor John Bardo as he describes waking up in the middle of the night and realizing he has given a gift to Western that will mean a $10.4 million investment, including $6.92 million from Kimmel & Associates of Asheville.|
CULLOWHEE - As industry experts warn of a worsening international shortage of construction professionals, Western and one of the nation's largest personnel recruiting firms are teaming up to boost the number of college graduates prepared for management positions in the construction industry.
Officials from Western announced Thursday, Dec. 1, a $10.4 million net investment in its construction management and related programs. At the core of the investment is a pledge of $6.92 million from Kimmel & Associates, a leading construction industry executive search company, which will leverage $3.495 million in state matching money and other support.
In twin celebrations – one held on the Cullowhee campus and one held in Asheville, home base for Kimmel & Associates – university officials announced the naming of the Joe W. Kimmel School of Construction Management, Engineering and Technology in recognition of the gift.
“The incredible gift from Joe Kimmel, his family and his associates will provide much-needed support to an academic program that is near and dear to Joe's heart,” Chancellor John W. Bardo said in announcing the contribution. “We view this gift as among the most important events in this university's long and storied history. We expect this pledge, combined with additional private and public support, will result in a school that will place Western on par with the nation's finest institutions of higher education in preparing students for careers in construction management and related fields that are critical to the emerging economy of the state and the nation.”
The Kimmel contributions will create $9 million in permanent endowments, including $3 million in faculty support that qualifies the university for another $3 million in matching money from the North Carolina Distinguished Professorship Endowment Fund. The gifts also provide $2 million to supplement programmatic operations and activities; and $1 million in scholarship support.
Industry experts say Kimmel's gift couldn't come at a better time. The Associated General Contractors of America estimates that the United States is facing $3.3 trillion in infrastructure construction and repair over the next 10 years, and the U.S. Department of Labor reports that construction is the only goods-producing sector in which employment is projected to grow. Industry representatives say that the growing number of projects, combined with a continuing shortfall of construction management graduates each year and the aging-out of current professionals, is creating a shortfall in the number of educated and trained construction managers nationally.
“It's an amazingly generous gift, but also an investment in the future,” said Christine Beaudoin of Gilbert Southern, a construction company based in Atlanta that has an active recruiting relationship with Western. “Thanks to the significant commitment that Kimmel & Associates has made, an already good construction management program has the opportunity to become one of the nation's finest.”
Ken Bullock, a partner in the Charlotte-based design consulting firm Woolpert Inc., also applauded the contribution. “I can tell you this gift is going to present a wonderful opportunity for the university to enhance its programs in construction management, engineering and technology,” Bullock said. “It will help Western develop its buildings and facilities, improve the quality of instruction, and create an endowment for scholarship assistance for students. We, the professionals in the construction industry, depend on the universities to produce the high-quality graduates we need, and this contribution will help Western do just that.”
Students studying construction management at Western say they are excited about the future of their program. “I am proud to be part of a program that caught Mr. Kimmel's attention,” said Kevin Kirk, a senior from Durham, who also is studying business administration and law. “The name Kimmel & Associates is nationally renowned as one of the best in the field. When they've got their eye on Western Carolina, that says a lot. There's great opportunity at Western. I've got a job with one of the top five contractors in the world, and I haven't even graduated yet.”
Julia Tew, a junior from Zebulon, said a childhood fascination with Lego building blocks followed by an architecture class in high school guided her academic and career choices. “When it came time for college, I was interested in construction management and visited several schools before deciding on Western. Everyone at Western is so friendly and enthusiastic. They are committed to quality. It has lived up to my expectations, and this gift will be an opportunity for the program to progress.”
Kimmel said he is pleased to be able to make the gift to Western on behalf of the company he founded in 1981. “Everyone at Kimmel & Associates is fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to the industry that has treated us so well for decades and to do it through Western Carolina University,” he said. “What better blessing could there be?”
Kimmel is no stranger to philanthropy, as he and his company have made contributions to numerous organizations in Western North Carolina, including the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville Art Museum, Buncombe County Medical Society's Project Access, Humane Society, Center for Diversity Education, Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries, Meals on Wheels and the Fine Arts League of Asheville. He also established in 2004 a fund providing $1,000 scholarships for students in construction fields. Thirty-six students from 20 different colleges and universities representing 15 states received scholarships this fall.
Kimmel & Associates is a national executive search firm specializing in the construction, solid waste, freight forwarding and supply chain industries. The company is one of the largest recruiting firms in the country specializing in construction.