It’s likely no coincidence, metaphorically, then that more than a quarter of Royal Construction’s employees — 11 of 40 — are UW-Stout graduates, most from the highly respected construction program at UW-Stout.
“What makes UW-Stout’s program so good? It’s the hands-on nature of the teaching, the practical side. If I could teach and train the kids at UW-Stout faster, I could get them all jobs,” said Jim Bunkelman, a 2000 UW-Stout graduate.
Earlier this year, Bunkelman was named president and CEO of Royal Construction, a commercial builder in the Eau Claire area. He is part owner of the company. In addition, he is teaching a class at UW-Stout, Light Construction Methods and Materials, and has come back to school as a student in the university’s construction management master’s program.
Royal’s UW-Stout foundation goes well beyond Bunkelman. Co-owners and vice presidents Brian Bessinger and Dennis Tischer graduated from UW-Stout in 1998 and 2004, respectively. Tim Pabich, vice president of business development and previous owner, is a UW-Stout alumnus and former Blue Devil football player.
Tim Pabich’s father founded Royal as a home-building company in 1967.
Most of the other UW-Stout construction alumni on Royal’s staff are project managers. “They come out of college with a job that has some management level function to it. They run two to three projects at a time,” Bunkelman said.
Royal enjoyed a big year in 2015 with a record amount of revenue. It worked on several high-profile projects in the Eau Claire area, such as the Staybridge Suites hotel that opened in June in Altoona.
In spring 2016 Royal was named Small Business of the Year by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.
Bunkelman, who has been at Royal since 2012, is expecting an even bigger year by the time 2016 comes to a close. “We’re having a great couple of years.”
A UW-Stout foundation has been a key to his success. “I wouldn’t be anywhere close to this position if I hadn’t gone to UW-Stout,” Bunkelman said.
Graduates of the construction program report 100 percent employment soon after earning their degree and an average starting salary of $56,000.
Four UW-Stout alumni are executives with Royal Construction, which built the new Staybridge Suites in Altoona. From left are Brian Bessinger, Dennis Pischer, Tim Pabich and Jim Bunkelman.