After just a few years in the works, the concrete industry management (CIM) program at Chico State University is gaining momentum, sending its first graduates off to the work force and continuing to build the number of students interested in the solid field.

Concrete isn't necessarily something people talk about or think about every day. However, it's pretty much all around us — from our homes, to our streets and much of the structures that support modern life.

The program began offering classes in 2007, then with just a handful of students.

Now, 60 students have chosen CIM as their major.

The plan is for the program to continue to grow, creating a Western hub for students in the field.

Wednesday a gathering was held with concrete industry leaders, marking a million-dollar milestone in industry donations to the local educational program. Chico State President Paul Zingg credited the industry patrons for getting the program up and running so quickly and for the guidance they provide.

The industry partnership is "something that works, something that has great promise and something to celebrate," Zingg said.

Doug Guerrero is the chairman of the patron board of the concrete industry management program. He pointed out some of the other business leaders in attendance, who are heads of some of the largest concrete companies in the country.

He praised the program at Chico State for emphasizing problem solving, quality assurance and customer satisfaction.

Guerrero presented a check for $135,000, as well as $24,500 for scholarships for 30 of the students currently in the program.

The total donations for the program is $1.137 million from local and national contributions.

Andrew Billingsley began the CIM program as a freshman. As a student he really appreciates the personal time industry leaders dedicate to the program, he said. In some classes, industry leaders are guests at class about once a week, he said.

Professor Tanya Komas said having close contact with industry leaders, through visits and field trips as well as a summer internship (which is required), may give Chico students a fast-track in their careers.

Billingsley said his education also benefited from special projects with which students get a chance to work. He was one of five students who traveled to battle sites in Normandy, France, for work testing bunkers of concrete used during World War II.

Larry Olson, president of Olson Engineering in Colorado, also attended the get-together Wednesday. Olson's contribution was critical to the Normandy field work, including lending equipment that evaluated the concrete structures.

Komas said she is hoping students will again be able to do work on the project in France.

Guerrero said that the program at Chico State gives students a five-year or more advantage over others joining the industry.

Chico State also has a sustainability course in the concrete major, and other schools offering similar programs have asked to use it as a model for their schools, Komas said.

Chico State is one of four universities to offer concrete industry management. The others include Middle Tennessee State University, Arizona State and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

A new CIM program at Texas State University will begin next fall.