Westmont Magazine An Engineer Makes His Mark on His Hometown
Matt Ainley ’01 and Chris Kampsen ’01 followed their fathers to Westmont, sharing a room and playing Warrior baseball together just like Tim Ainley ’77 and Steve Kampsen ’78. “I grew up going to alumni baseball games on campus,” Matt says. He kept busy with the team, challenging labs and courses for his engineering physics major, and a variety of jobs.
At the time, Matt’s girlfriend, Janelle (now his wife), lived in Las Vegas and often drove by Dwyer Engineering. Knowing that Matt was looking for an internship, she stopped by one day and asked if the firm offered any. The owner had visited Westmont with his son, a prospective student, and promised Matt an internship if he showed up. A summer with this civil engineering and land surveying company helped Matt get his first full-time job.
Quad Knopf, a civil engineering firm in Visalia, Matt’s hometown, hired him despite some concerns about his lack of technical training. So Matt began preparing for the two-part exam certifying civil engineers. “The first one on the fundamentals of engineering covered material straight from my engineering physics curriculum,” Matt said. In 2004, he also passed the professional engineering exam. “I was one of the youngest engineers ever in the company,” he says. He worked for Quad Knopf for seven years until the 2008 recession ate into their business.
Matt and several friends then started their own civil engineering firm, 4 Creeks. “My liberal arts background and business classes helped us set up the enterprise,” he says. “We fought through the downturn and eventually started growing. Today we employ about 50 people with offices in Visalia, Bakersfield, Fresno and San Luis Obispo.” One of the founding partners, Matt serves as chairman of the board. While 4 Creeks focuses on civil engineering, they also work on structural, agricultural and environmental engineering jobs. “We design new ways to irrigate land and protect groundwater,” he says. “We develop systems that capture cow waste and convert it into compressed natural gas instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The state of California promotes this process as they receive carbon- credit funding for it.”
In 2010, 4 Creeks established a separate construction company, 4 CG Construction. Initially, they took on projects in Afghanistan until the economy rebounded. “We only build what we design,” he says. Their work ranges from bio-gas projects to office buildings (including their own) and mixed-use developments.
In a private venture, Matt and three partners purchased the historic Tulare County Courthouse in downtown Visalia. They’re transforming the lovely old four-story building into the Darling Hotel, preserving its art deco style. “I wanted to return to my hometown and make an impact,” Matt says. “I want to help restore areas that are underserved and underappreciated. It’s an investment in Visalia as well as a commercial enterprise. We want to see such buildings reborn in old parts of town.”
Contractors and developers often avoid such projects, which can entail unforeseen challenges and become expensive, time-consuming and frustrating. “But we love curve- balls,” Matt says. “We’re engineers, and we like solving problems.” The hotel will open in 2020. The partners will retain ownership of the building, and they’ve contracted with a company to run the hotel business.
Matt enjoys living in the city where he grew up with Janelle and their three children (two girls, 14 and 11, and a boy, 8). They attend Radiant Church in Visalia, and Matt over- sees its financial team. To manage stress, he practices Brazilian jujitsu. Mostly he works, designing and building a tangible legacy on city streets and country fields.