Project Management Is Mike Kemp’s Specialty, the Perfect Skill for Chairing This Year’s Pacesetter Campaign

Mike Kemp, Chair of United Way of Central Alabama’s 2024 Pacesetter Campaign

Mike Kemp, founder of Kemp Management Solutions, currently leads a 13-year-old company that has built and manages projects totaling more than $7 billion in value.

Kemp, who spent the first 14 years of his life in rural Franklin, Alabama, said being an example for others is an overarching goal in his life.

As the leader of a successful company, Kemp, who is Black, said he wants to be an example of what can be accomplished by people who look like him. And as a father and grandfather, he strives to show his family how to be a good person.

Kemp is currently serving as this year’s Chair of United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) Pacesetter Campaign and said that he would like to “set the tone” for other leaders in Central Alabama.

“As Birmingham has been my home, I’ve seen a lot of different things,” Kemp said. “I’ve had family members that had issues in the past who were able to get support from United Way. It means a lot to me to see the impact that this organization has had in the community where I grew up and currently live.”

Giving to United Way, Kemp said, is the best way that companies can positively impact their communities.

“As a business owner, I want to put our business dollars in the most effective place,” Kemp said. “United Way represents that because there are so many organizations that are supported — that are partnered with — through United Way.”

Getting His Start

Kemp has personally contributed to UWCA for about 30 years, going back to his first job at Brasfield & Gorrie (B&G). He got that first job after being inspired by his stepfather James Watters, a veteran of the construction industry.

While Kemp was unsure of what career he wanted when he began pursuing a mathematics degree at Alabama State University in Montgomery, he developed an interest in construction around the time that his stepfather was working with B&G to help build the structure of the former Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

After a visit to their office, Kemp joined the company’s co-operative program while still in college before being hired as a project manager. Through his work with B&G, Kemp began his relationship with United Way and, perhaps more importantly, Ursula, who would become his wife.

At the time, Ursula was a regional manager for Jack’s Family Restaurants and frequently worked at a location near Legion Field, where Kemp was working with B&G on the construction of the stadium press box and other additions.

At the nudging of Billy, a crane operator on the project, Kemp agreed to be introduced to Ursula. The pair shared their first date on New Year’s Eve 1991. They have now been married for more than 30 years.

Kemp started his first business, Kemp Enterprises, in 1993. His company served as a pipe and valve distributor for American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO). Having grown up around multiple business owners, Kemp said he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. His father, aunt and uncles all had their own businesses and that was inspiring to him.

After running his business for almost eight years, Kemp said he struggled and decided he still needed to garner more experience by working for another company in the construction industry. So, in 2001, Kemp took a job with Hoar Program Management, a division of Hoar Construction, working his way up over the course of a decade with the company to become Vice President of Operations.

Turning 40, Kemp said, was a turning point in his career.

“If I’m going to do it, I got to do it now,” Kemp said. “I had a concept of a business I wanted to create.”

In 2011, Kemp and Ursula founded Kemp Management Solutions (KMS). Today, Kemp serves as President and CEO, while his son James is Vice President of the company.

Additionally, Kemp serves as Chairman of the Board of Frameworq and CEO of Streemline, as well as a board member of First Horizon Bank and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

In 2022, Kemp also served as Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama.

From his years of experience in project management, Kemp said he is coming into his role as Chair of the Pacesetter Campaign with a strong focus on organization.

“We have started out with a great plan,” he said. The team is trained and engaged. The timeline has been established and there’s good communication. As a result, companies are already responding to calls, which bodes well for a successful campaign under Mike Kemp’s leadership.