James Murphy was born and raised in the expanses of the West and Southwest. If it’s happening in the great outdoors, chances are that’s where you will find Willmeng’s President and CEO when he is not working.
James was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and grew up in the West. Besides Texas, he also lived in Idaho. James is very quick to point out that he is proud to call Arizona, “home.”
He earned a bachelor of science degree in Construction Management from the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University and a master’s degree from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at ASU.
It was at ASU that the spark to get into construction was ignited. As an engineering student, James took a construction class as an elective and the rest is history. “The balance of highly technical field that requires great interaction with people was a dead ringer for me,” he says. The construction industry was truly meant to be for him.
In college, James was an intern for Martin K. Eby and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Danville, Calif. Mardian Contractors, Inc., was his first full-time home, working as a project manager while going to school as an undergraduate. Projects completed while at Mardian range from a 400′ tower on top of South Mountain to several new facilities at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Wittmann, Arizona.
James joined Willmeng in 1999 as a project manager, hired by then owner and founder Jack Willmeng. The concept of an eventual buyout and the opportunity to work with and for Jack is what brought James to the firm. Jack Willmeng, who had a very long and successful career as a building contractor was looking for someone who might eventually assume the reins if all went well. Everyone knows that an ownership transition in any business is risky, but even more so in the general contracting world. James had a very clear vision of who he wanted to learn from, “I wanted to learn from an owner/operator that had a clearly successful track record in the industry. That was very clear in Jack. He had positioned himself to retire in his early 50s; his reputation proceeded him, and I wanted the chance to see if I had what it took to continue on with the company in due time.”
He was promoted to Vice President in 2001, and in January of 2006, he purchased the company and became President and CEO. It’s in this leadership role that he adheres to three fundamental aspects: supporting prelease transactions, maintaining an ability to competitively bid projects large and small, and fostering the altruistic service corporate culture.
James has spent time in every position in the firm. From the top down, the entire team is committed to do what it takes and, “Make it Happen” for their clients. As a project manager, notable projects for James include the McClintock Professional Plaza and Portola Packaging. As a Principal in Charge, highlights include Hamilton Sundstrand and the Arrowhead Business Park. Although his role is now CEO, it is not uncommon to see him involved in particularly challenging projects. Recent projects include work for the VW Proving Grounds, Centrica, and the new Enterprise facility in Phoenix.
Recently, James was honored by being named to the Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. The award specifically recognized the altruistic quality of James as a true leader. He shares that belief with the employees of Willmeng, who give back to the community through organizations such as Andre House, NAIOP Arizona’s feeding the homeless, the Arizona Humane Society and many more.
Away from the office, James is an accomplished outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing. He can also be found on a baseball diamond or football field coaching his son James; and spending time with his daughter Audrey. Family and faith are his guiding principles, he says proudly.
“Family and faith are what life is all about. For me, family extends well beyond those with my last name. My faith is what defines the priorities and makes the work meaningful. The fact is, our time here is short. The time that we spend with those around us and how we treat them is what matters.”
His best advice: “Do the right thing for the right reason. You have a choice. Contribute to the community, and do more than your share..”
That’s the true meaning of altruism.