Earl Shimp
Earl Shimp
UNF Degree: BT '81
Employment: Senior Vice President of Operations, Gate Construction Materials

Building is Shimp's legacy

  Earl Shimp’s family has been in construction for generations with some projects being used by thousands of Jacksonville residents daily. When residents travel across the Buckman Bridge or walk into the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, they are experiencing part of Shrimp’s legacy.


            It’s a legacy made possible, in part, by the University of North Florida, which gave Shimp the tools he needed to succeed in an industry where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had succeeded before him. Perhaps construction is in his genes, but Shimp knew when he was a youngster he wanted to build things. “I came from a family of bricklayers. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I remember going to job sites after school or on Saturdays to do cleanup work.”


            With the change in generations, Shimp jumped into a change in technology — from bricks to concrete ­— and combined his construction experience with a UNF degree to run his own business. Unlike many graduates who get a degree first and then experience, Shimp entered the workforce in 1972 but didn’t get his bachelor’s degree in technology until 1981. Before he walked onto the recently opened UNF campus, Shimp was an estimator, a purchasing agent and a project manager for a large general contractor. The UNF education provided the skills needed for Shimp to take his experience to the next level.


            Joining with a family member, Shimp started his own business and managed a concrete manufacturing facility. He did a little of everything from managing projects, bidding work, running the office and even pouring the concrete panels in the plant. “This is where UNF gave me a great advantage.  It gave me the ability to read a financial statement to make sure I knew how my business was doing and to run it effectively.” The experience also increased his profile in the construction community, resulting eventually in a job offer with Gate ConcreteProducts.

In this position, he worked on the Buckman Bridge, later constructing some of the longest clear-span bridges in the country. While thousands of motorists drive on these bridges every day, perhaps the most visible project benefiting from Shimp’s expertise was the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in 1997, the center was built on the former location of the Civic Auditorium, parts of which were maintained [by his company?]. Much of the ambiance of the reconstructed center with its soaring ornate white columns was the result of Shimp’s management of the precast portion of the project.  Other exciting portions of his career include being the project manager for construction of buildings in which F14 Fighters and center sections for the Boeing 757 and 767 jets were assembled.


Today, Shimp is senior vice president of operations for Gate Construction Materials Group and oversees the operation of six architectural and pre-stressed plants throughout the southeastern United States.


Shimp is active in a number of professional organizations and is proud of his key role representing Gate in its relationship with UNF. He has helped with UNF’s entry into the Big Beam Contest, a competition sponsored by the Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Student Education Committee. UNF was the first college in Florida to enter the competition which features student teams fabricating and testing a precast, prestressed concrete beam. Prizes are awarded for such things as the most efficient design and ability to predict beam reactions. His newest UNF challenge will be participating in the establishment of a concrete design studio at UNF. This is one of the first such facilities in the country and represents an investment of $125,000 over five years through a PCI Foundation grant.


Shimp is also playing a role in the next generation of materials to be used in construction. He is working with organizations exploring the new technology of using carbon fibers to reinforce concrete, replacing steel reinforcing rods.


When not building things, Shimp loves to unwind in the outdoors, especially hunting wild turkeys.  He and his wife Cathie are members of the Church of the Messiah, where Shimp has been on the rector’s council for 17 years.


Even when relaxing, the concrete business isn’t far from Shimp’s focus. Regardless of what innovations are on the horizon for the industry and for the students of today who will work in it tomorrow, he says he is proud to play a continuing role. “UNF laid the foundation for me.”