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COAA Wisconsin | A Chapter in Formation

Posted By: Carli Cole

by: Carli Cole. HGA Architects & Engineers

How COAA brought people together during a pandemic to form a new chapter in America’s dairyland

In November of 2019, several Owners, architects, and engineers met during COAA’s national fall conference in Atlanta and discussed how beneficial a local chapter in Wisconsin would be.  It was during the last day off-site visit to the Braves Stadium that the dream of the WI Chapter went from a hypothetical to a reality.  “That discussion on the bus is probably the place where the Chapter officially gained the momentum it needed to push it from a hypothetical to a reality. Having the Fall conference as a venue for us Wisconsin folks to finally meet in person and have the time to talk in detail (thanks to that miserable traffic—the Beltline in Madison is bad, but nothing like that) was what we needed. It allowed us all to share our hopes and dreams of what the WI Chapter could do and fueled the drive to make it happen.” – Jared Zurbuchen, WI Chapter President

In early 2020, just before the world as we knew it changed (possibly forever), those and other “cheeseheads” (foam hats included) got together and decided that forging a network of construction Owners, designers, and builders would help make the built environment – and the process to create that environment – a better experience for all.  

This small group worked with COAA staff to begin forming the chapter in the spring of 2020. While still heavily in the recruitment phase – especially as it relates to the Owner role – the group was eager to begin networking events despite the COVID-forced impossibility of in-person events.

Knowing that many in the industry relied heavily on virtual meetings and gatherings, the group was reluctant to host a virtual event, but they did – and it worked!  The in-formation COAA-WI chapter hosted their first ever virtual workshop on July 21, with a focus on the impacts of COVID.  This was followed by an informal “coffee talk” in October – an unstructured ‘bubbler chat’ on the struggles that each project stakeholder faces and potential solutions.  

These efforts and a strong and diverse core group of volunteers led the COAA Board of Directors to officially approved the chapter at is January 2021 meeting.  The leadership team includes:

  • President – Jared Zurbuchen, Exact Sciences
  • Vice-President – Jason Hanson, State of Wisconsin
  • Program Chair – Pat Rebholz, University of Wisconsin System
  • Recruitment Chair – Sally Shumaker, State of Wisconsin
  • Sponsorship Chair – Carli Cole, HGA

Regular planning meetings are underway, and the chapter continues to recruit additional Owners representing the breadth of market sectors, both public and private.  With current geographical representation in Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire, the chapter is working to spread their wings into Green Bay, Appleton and beyond. 

With social distancing and promising vaccine news, chapter leaders are looking forward to finally meeting face-to-face in 2021.  Rumor has it that the competition between Milwaukee and Madison for the right to host the first in-person COAA-WI event might be settled by arm wrestling or axe throwing!  

Chapter volunteers wish to thank those who have supported the formation of the COAA-WI chapter, including the State of Wisconsin, Exact Sciences, American Family Insurance, HGA, FGM Architects, Findorff, and Mortenson.  Starting a chapter is no easy task, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, but this group was undaunted and looks forward with hope to continued growth and development in 2021.