Kimley-Horn began as the partnership of two transportation engineers, Bob Kimley and Bill Horn. Kimley came out of the North Carolina State Highway Commission and had previously worked for the City of Greensboro. Eventually, he would return to government work.
Horn was a highly intuitive, creative engineer—the kind of guy who could sketch the transportation plan for a thousand-acre project in pencil on scrap paper and get it right the first time. He loved to teach and did double duty on the faculty at North Carolina State University while nurturing younger professionals at his firm.
After a year, Bill and Bob invited one of Bill's former grad students to join them. Ed Vick was a creative, energetic problem solver whose technical excellence and genial ways built a very loyal clientele. Over the years, he developed friendships across the nation. The three incorporated in February 1967.
Steady growth marked the firm's development through the 1970s and 1980s, with new disciplines being added as new specialists joined the firm. Those specialists—practice builders, we still call them—are given tremendous freedom and corporate support for building their own enterprise within the enterprise. Once a practice builder is on board, he or she can draw on the full resources of the firm to make their practice work.
The number of shareholders also steadily grew, as Bob, Bill, and Ed made ownership available to other members of the firm. It was just plain good business, Ed would say in later years. "If I'd held on to my one-third share, it wouldn't have been worth nearly as much" as his shares became worth after several splits, thanks to the firm's growth.
Starting in the 1990s, ambitious annual and five-year goals fueled the always competitive staff to new achievements. The firm leaped from an ENR ranking of 105 in 1990 to 36 in 2009. It became the nation's leading engineering firm for multi-family residential and retail properties. The firm doubled in size twice in a decade.
The impending retirement of the last founder in 2001 sparked healthy introspection about what should never change. Five core values and a core purpose were identified. Our business exists, above all, to provide an environment for our people to flourish. But inextricably interwoven are the values of honesty, integrity, and ethics; exceptional client service; high expectations; sharing and caring; and sustained profitability.
Those values and purpose aren't new. In fact, they go all the way back to Bob Kimley and Bill Horn. Our circumstances change, but our character remains the same. And as we move through a new millennium, that just seems right.