Quietly Leading The Way

Jenna Kimberley inducted as the 2022 President of the
Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

Iowa may not be a trend-setting state in a lot of ways, but the construction industry here and the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Greater Des Moines are quietly leading the way for the rest of the nation. Incoming president Jenna Kimberley is part of the reason.

Three years ago, the HBA of Greater Des Moines became the first association in the country to elect an all-female leadership team. Since then, the Professional Women in Building Council has won back-to-back National Council of the Year awards, the 2020 HomeShowExpo won the national award for Best Parade or Tour of Homes, and the group received a national award for Best Membership Recruitment and Retention as well.

Kimberley says that energy is something she wants to continue as she steps into the lead role. “Rachel Flint and Kalen Ludwig, the previous two HBA presidents, both set incredible goals and continued building on the foundation they inherited. I want to make sure I honor continuing that momentum.”

Despite the tremendous challenges of leading during a worldwide pandemic, Flint and her HBA team were able to increase membership, organize virtual events to provide opportunities for member participation, and adapt the annual home show structure so that builders and attendees could feel safe and still enjoy the benefits the annual HomeShowExpo has always offered.

“We really had to regroup when everything got locked down and find a way to make the HomeShowExpo happen,” says Kimberley. “Despite everything, we had a successful tour, we met our budget, and we received the award for Best Parade or Tour of Homes.”

It wasn’t until the middle of this year that the group was able to consistently have typical in-person events. Kimberley says members have been eager to attend as those opportunities arose. “We’ve brought back our remodelers’ breakfasts and other regular events. And, of course, the President’s Night, which was held in November, is always a big night. Our industry has bounced back greater than most, but it matters that people show up and take part in those events in order to build that community and relationship with face-to-face opportunities.”

Ludwig’s ambition for her tenure during 2021 was to develop a culture of engagement, with more employees from member companies getting involved in the HBA of Greater Des Moines. Like Flint, she saw positive results.

“We’re 5% above the national average with member retention,” Kimberley says. “Even with COVID and the challenges over the past two years, we’re still at 89%, and that’s continuing to rise for our association.”

For 2022, Kimberley hopes to expand both Flint’s and Ludwig’s efforts, growing the membership and the level of engagement, too. “My goal is to reach 700 member companies, and we’re nearly there,” she says. “We added 40 new members with our membership drive this fall. And to continue Rachel’s and Kalen’s efforts, we want to encourage people not just to join but to show up, to be a part of what we’re doing. If you only come to an event once in a while, you don’t receive the full benefits of your membership.”

She says supporting one another through the HBA of Greater Des Moines events is only one aspect of that relationship. “I want to encourage members to do business with other members when possible. That adds another layer of connection, which not only helps everyone’s individual businesses succeed, it strengthens the impact of our organization as a whole when we understand the supply and regulatory burdens of other member partners. We can be more effective as an organization and in working through the issues that are impacting us,” she explains.

Much of her own understanding of the building and development business has come from following in her father’s footsteps. After a career in Washington, D.C., Kimberley was lured back to Iowa by the chance to work alongside dad, Bill Kimberley, at Kimberley Development in Ankeny. “I never expected to be back in Iowa, much less stepping into a role my dad held at the HBA when I was a baby. This has been really special, and having him there to speak at the President’s Night was even more special.”

As Bill says, when he served as the HBA of Greater Des Moines president 33 years ago, he was considered “the new guard,” and many of his ideas were met with skepticism. “I guess I’m part of the old guard now, seeing with my own eyes a new generation of leaders. With Jenna ready to lead the way with that same high energy and brave new ideas like we had back in the day, they’re going to take this association to even greater heights. I’ve always been proud of Jenna, and her passion to serve is evident in all the ways she gives back to this industry and to the community.”

Although things have changed significantly since Bill Kimberley served as president of the HBA of Greater Des Moines, Jenna Kimberley says he and the board on which he served did some groundbreaking work. “He was the first to hire a woman Executive Officer and to have women on the board. They set the precedent for leading the way and adapting to the changes in the industry.”

Kimberley says she hopes to carry on that legacy as well. “We’ve done a great job of diversifying the membership of the board. But as we’ve grown, it’s gotten harder to make sure everyone is heard. We want that diverse membership, and we want to hear the voices of every member. That’s a challenge I want to tackle.”

She also hopes to continue that diversity by encouraging more young people to enter the trades and more women to step into leadership positions in the organizations. Groups like the Skilled Trades Initiative and the Des Moines chapter of the Professional Women in Building Council (PWB) are part of that effort.

“We have an aging work force in the industry. Programs like Build My Future are key to changing that,” she says. “We need to continue supporting those programs so young people can see what a great life they can make for themselves in this industry.”

Des Moines’ PWB is evidence of that. “Our PWB has only been around for three years, and they’ve won Council of the Year twice,” Kimberley says. “They are doing great work. From 2019 to 2020, women in the industry grew from 10.3% to 10.9%. Continuing to bring more women into the construction labor force represents a tangible opportunity to solving the labor shortage.

But as the third female president of the HBA of Greater Des Moines in the past three years, Kimberley’s upcoming leadership team is all male. “You have to be a builder member and have served on the board in order to be eligible for the leadership ladder,” she explains. “We’ve got some very talented women in the HBA. I want to encourage their involvement at that level so we can have more women officers in the future.” Those women could include women like her, young people entering the skilled trades, or maybe the next generation of Kimberleys to join the family business.

Building on the legacy of the past and laying the groundwork for the future are both values from which Kimberley has benefited. They’re the same values with which she is quietly leading the way as HBA of Greater Des Moines President.