Name: Willmann, Karl D.
Title: Owner/President of Willmann Companies
Texas A&M Class: 1974
Karl D. Willmann grew up on a family farming and ranching operation in Mason, a small town in the Texas Hill Country. His family raised cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, irrigated peanuts, haygrazer, and coastal bermuda crops – essentially whatever offered the prospect of a positive financial impact. An important takeaway from his early life was the understanding that to be successful at anything involved the willingness to work hard and to outwork others, where necessary. From his earliest memory, Karl knew he would be an Aggie, which landed him at Texas A&M University in 1970.
Karl graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1974 from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics. As an undergraduate, Karl worked for Dr. Ivan Schmedemann processing data on rural land sales in Texas. This part-time job sparked his interest in real estate, which would lead him to pursuing a Master’s in Land Economics and Real Estate at Texas A&M. Beginning in graduate school, Karl worked two years as a commercial real estate appraiser for a MAI appraiser in Bryan, Texas.
After receiving his Master’s and completing a brief stint as an appraiser, Karl began his career in real estate with Betz Companies as a broker in 1982. Karl stayed with Betz for the next 25 years. He served as President of several divisions of Betz Companies, including Raymond R. Betz Interests, Inc., Betz Commercial Brokerage, Inc., as well as U.S. Storage, which is where he began his real estate development career. As President, Karl successfully directed the development and operation of nine self-storage investment properties. Willmann was regularly one of the top producers for the Betz brokerage division and has been recognized multiple times as a “Heavy Hitter” in Commercial Real Estate by the Houston Business Journal.
Since 2006, Karl has served as President of Willmann Companies, a multifaceted commercial real estate development, investment, and brokerage company located in Houston, Texas. This entity’s activities have included the development of five additional self-storage facilities, the development (along with various partners) of multiple business parks, industrial buildings, a suburban office building, and several additional land investments. In addition to his development projects, Willmann’s current activities include his participation as managing principal or passive investor in more than 70 retail, land, office, industrial, and self-storage real estate partnerships and funds.
Willmann currently serves, or has served, on the Board of Directors of the Houston Region Business Coalition, the West Houston Association, Houston Association of Realtors, and the Texas Association of Realtors. Additionally, Willmann has been active in numerous other organizations including the Houston Real Estate Council, CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) Gulf Coast Chapter, International Council of Shopping Centers, Urban Land Institute, Association of Commercial Real Estate Professionals, the Aggie Real Estate Network, and The Houston Economics Club. Karl is a life member of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo where he also has served as a Committee Vice Chairman.
Karl has maintained his strong connection to Texas A&M by assisting in the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program with both his time and finances. His involvement in the program includes being a guest “Prof-for-the-Day” and mentor to students in the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship classes and helping to underwrite through the Texas A&M Foundation’s M. Edward Rister ’74 Chair of Agribusiness Entrepreneurship and the Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Staffing Fund. Willmann also is a perennial judge and provider of a scholarship award to an outstanding student who presents the results of his or her business plan at the AGEC 425 Entrepreneurial Dreams Symposium.
Karl is happily married to his wife Sandy and is the proud parent of Korey and Kristen (Krys), both class of ’05, and Bella, a junior at Memorial High School in Houston. He maintains that it is his family who made all the ups and downs of his 40-year real estate career worth all the hard work, and that it was God’s hidden hand that has directed his often times unplanned life journey.