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About Us

The Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of the International Facility Management Association (SEW IFMA) was founded in 1987.

In alliance with IFMA Headquarters, the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter is dedicated to promoting excellence in Facility Management with service to its members; enabling them to ensure the functionality of the built environment.


To provide resources and be advocates for the management of facilities.


To be the leading organization in our community and our profession in Facilities Management.


The IFMA, founded in 1980, is the only international professional association dedicated to serving the facility management professional. IFMA was formed as a support organization to help meet the changing informational and educational needs of in-house corporate, government, and health care facility management executives and their staff. These individuals are responsible for planning, construction, and ongoing management of millions of square feet of facilities throughout the United States, Canada, and other industrialized nations.

Our History - The Beginning

By Ralph T. Kuehn, SEW IFMA Founder

I believe it was in 1986 that I went to San Diego to attend a seminar put on by the National Office Products Association for furniture dealers.  During one of the meetings, a gentleman got up and talked about this organization called IFMA and how it works.  I was impressed with his description, and after the presentation, he happened to sit down next to me and I asked if there was an IFMA chapter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He turned and looked at me and said, “Milwaukee?  No.”

It was the way he said it that bothered me…like nothing existed in Milwaukee or Wisconsin.  The typical mentality of an east or west coast person…there’s nothing between the coasts except cows!  That offended me a little so when I returned to Milwaukee, I met with Dorothy Hanson, Roundy’s Inc., who happened to be in charge of facilities at that time, in early 1987, and I explained the story to her. She told me that the man was wrong, and that she was a member of IFMA.  I asked her where the chapter was, and she said there was no chapter, but that she was a member-at-large.  I asked if there were enough members-at-large to start a chapter.  She gave me the list, and I had my secretary, Judy Vandervest, call and invite them to join us at the Boulevard Inn for lunch.  We made reservations for 13 people, however no one showed up except Dorothy Hanson and me.  Dorothy suggested we forget the whole idea.  I suggested a breakfast meeting instead, at Building Service Inc.

We sent out letters asking that all those interested meet at BSI for breakfast.  We had about twenty people show up.  It was at that meeting that we decided there were enough people interested in starting a chapter.  We notified Houston (IFMA Headquarters) that we wanted to start a chapter.  They sent the Vice Chairman for our district from Minneapolis to talk to us about how to begin.  I received a binder with information on how to set up the chapter with by-laws and procedures. We asked Ed McMilin (Milwaukee Public Schools) if he would be kind enough to be our first President.  We asked Jim Plowman (JohnsonWax) if he would be Vice President.  We had our officers for the first year and began to have meetings.

Because there wasn’t any money available, BSI absorbed all of the meeting and mailing costs. We grew slowly and received more and more income.  Judy Vandervest kept track of all information for the organization.  By our second year, we decided that we should have a strategic plan.  We had our first strategic plan meeting at Johnson Wax on a Saturday.  Jim Plowman was the host.  We laid out the direction we felt the chapter should go.  The officers and chair members were there.  The following year, we did this again, and it has now become a normal, yearly procedure.

At our first meeting, it was decided that some people be appointed officers, and I would be appointed chairperson for membership since I was the person trying to get everyone together.  We had volunteers for other committees.  Over the years, our committee chairs have changed; we have become more organized and attended regional meetings.  In our third year oforganization, we started to have two new member luncheons each year (spring andfall) at Blue Mound Country Club so that all new members would get to know each other.  This practice has continued ever since.

Today we have over 200 chapter members.  We have won national IFMA Awards of Excellence in the Allied & Affiliate category, Education & Scholarship, and Chapter of the Year…all as a result of the hard work and dedication of our chapter members.  Our chapter is unique in that we have a good turnout for our monthly membership meetings…more than 30% of our members attend each monthly meeting.  We also have a very high member retention.  I am sure that now IFMA Headquarters and all IFMA chapters have heard of the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter.  We decided on “Southeast” rather than the Milwaukee Chapter because our members represent companies from counties all over Southeast Wisconsin.

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