Biggest Education Show in Years

The 2017 MCAA Convention addressed the economy, technology and the development of a new generation of skilled workers.

Held in San Diego in the first week of March, the Mechanical Contractors of America Association (MCAA) annual convention was the largest attended show in years. More than 2,100 attendees convened for the education convention that delivered an energized opening address, informative breakout sessions, fun networking opportunities, the latest products and services, and so much more.

“Take a moment to reflect on our success,” said former President Tom Stone as he addressed the convention Monday morning. 

Stone attributed MCAA’s success to continuous learning, the best union workforce in America and a continued effort to invest in the future by working together to advocate for the industry in Washington.

Stone’s opening remarks lead to recognition of one man’s service to the industry. MCAA past President Mark Rogers, president of the Mechanical Contracting Education & Research Foundation (MCERF), was awarded with the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) — MCAA’s highest award. The statue for the DSA embodies the infinity symbol, a never-ending loop of learning, succeeding and giving back to others, which are MCAA’s core values. 

Rogers began his journey as an apprentice before starting his own mechanical contracting business, Westchester Mechanical, in the basement of his home with only two card tables, a fax machine and $2,000. Within 15 years, Rogers went from apprentice, to successful contractor, to industry leader, giving back to the industry every step of the way. Rogers accepted the award with his family on stage and thanked MCAA for support through the years. 

The opening session ended with an address from John Boehner, the 53rd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Boehner said, “Small businesses are the heart and soul of America.” 

He noted that the top three challenges facing America today include economic growth and job mobility, the threat of terrorism from overseas and educational disparity. 

Education was also a key theme of the convention, but by no means a challenge. Attendees had much to look forward to with a variety of different educational sessions throughout the convention designed to advance their knowledge about new industry trends, technologies and practices. 

Here’s a recap of the educational sessions: 

Matt Abeles’ session on Disruptors for the Built Environment previewed the newest emerging technologies designed for mechanical construction projects, followed by a discussion on augmented reality, virtual reality, project management technology, and laser scanning, and how those technologies will help the industry advance today and for years to come.

In Service Sales Leadership and Training — Your Key to Growth, Jim Bartolotta of Atomatic Mechanical Services, the immediate past chairman of the MSCA Board of Managers, discussed the vital role of constant coaching and mentoring in developing great sales teams. He encouraged contractors to set specific sales goals and plans, and to meet weekly to ensure that teams are communicating and goals are met.

In his 2017 Economic Forecast, Brian Beaulieu predicted that another recession is unlikely until 2030, and that America will remain a leader for at least the next 100 years thanks to a combination of a growing population, abundant natural resources and a system of rights unlike that of any other country.

During Leveraging Technology for Improved Profitability, James Benham discussed how cutting-edge mobile apps, sensors and web-based solutions are being integrated for use in the office and on the job site. He explored the latest trends, solutions and devices in building technologies and talked about how they will rewrite the rules for construction projects.

Josh Bone and James Benham reviewed a brief history of virtual reality, augmented reality and wearable devices during their session on The Rise of Virtual Design and Construction. They also analyzed case studies of how industry leaders are using innovative technology to inspire collaboration and design.

Mark Breslin presented The Cutting Edge: Finding and Developing Your Next Generation of Leaders. He encouraged attendees to reinvent their workforces for the future based on changing demographic trends and discussed creating an elevator speech contractors can use when talking with potential hires. 

During Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley discussed behavioral changes that can help attendees become healthier, more energetic, optimistic, decisive and effective at any age.

Sgt. Matt Eversmann shared leadership lessons from the front lines, when lives are on the line, during the Leadership Lessons from Black Hawk Down.

In Extreme Leadership, Steve Farber encouraged contractors to, “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” He showed attendees how to use the LEAP framework — Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof — to radically improve their organizations and their lives.

During a different session, Greater than Yourself, Steve Farber shared leadership and mentoring tips. He encouraged attendees to mentor candidates whose values align closely with their own.

In her presentation, Is the Light On In Your Eyes?, Sam Horn encouraged attendees to reflect on what happiness means to them. Through a series of interactive exercises, she helped them define action plans for updating beliefs and behaviors that may be holding them back, saying every day is an invitation to evolve. 

In Mechanical Contracting 2017 — It’s Still about People and Pipe, John Koontz explained that while technology has evolved, getting it built is more important than the tech you build it with. He encouraged attendees to embrace “Management by Walking Around,” saying that “Getting out of the office and visiting your job sites has never been more important.”

Through a series of roundtable discussions, Britton Langdon’s Tales from the Road — an Exploration into Efficiency and Productivity asked attendees to reflect on the things that could improve their companies, the results of those changes — best case, worst case and predicted outcome.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Management Methods, moderated by Dennis Shuman of Speer Mechanical, chairman of the Management Methods Committee, with help from committee members Robert Lindbloom of Apollo Mechanical Contractors, Terry James of Murray Co. and Richard Perosa of H.T. Lyons Inc., explored one of MCAA’s most valuable resources, its Management Methods Bulletins. These unique resources have helped many MCAA contractors grow their businesses and become even more successful.

During The ConAppGuru Reviews Tables and Apps for the Field, Rob McKinney reviewed the evolution of mobile technology used throughout construction projects. Among the topics discussed were: app selection, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and hardware selection.

During Power Entertaining with Food and Wine, Eddie Osterland showed attendees how to wow friends, families and business colleagues by entertaining in different ways. Among the tips he offered, he suggested educating guests about new foods and wines to give them a unique experience that will leave them wanting more.

In Delivering Lean IPD, Victor Sanvido explained how this methodology can bring projects to completion more quickly, efficiently, productively, and profitably, by eliminating waste, duplication, delays, excess costs, and misunderstandings between owners and contractors.

In Exit Planning — Dancing in the End Zone, Patrick Ungashick led attendees through a series of interactive exercises designed to help them determine whether the decisions they are making today are helping or hurting the potential for a successful exit. He explained the difference between growth and value and showcased the Seven Elements of Transferable Value, providing attendees with the tools they need to assess their business’ strengths and weaknesses in each area.

More than just education 

Attendees had full days with the plethora of educational sessions. But there were plenty of opportunities for networking and socializing, too. There were a few different roundtable discussions and exhibits that provided attendees with key takeaways and food for thought.  

Bright and early on the second day of the convention, attendees were treated to new products and services at the Manufacturer/Supplier Exhibit. Representatives from 135 member companies were on hand to share information and answer questions about how these exciting innovations can help their companies achieve greater efficiency, enhanced productivity and increased profitability.

At the same time, contractors were able to connect with students from top schools of construction management, mechanical engineering and other disciplines related to the industry during the Student Chapter Exhibit.

Recognizing excellence 

After a full two days of learning and networking, it was time for recognition. 

MCAA’s Awards of Excellence Breakfast honored and celebrated MCAA members’ and future professionals’ excellence throughout the year. Stone kicked off the event by announcing the winners of the NIBCO Tennis Round-Robin, the Anvil International Fun Run/Walk and the Victaulic/Carrier Golf Tournament. 

Mark Wilke of CNA joined Stone to present the Safety Excellence Awards. To be eligible to win the award, a company has to submit a written application with detailed information on: the contents of its safety and health program; the reasons why it believes it deserves to win a safety excellence award; and an innovative initiative that helped it achieve such a high degree of safety excellence.

Companies are divided into five categories by the number of hours worked last year, and a winner is chosen in each. The 2017 winners were:

  • Ceroni Piping Co. of Belvidere, Illinois, in the 100,000 work hours and under category. 
  • Quality Plumbing & Heating of Bunker Hill Inc. of Bunker Hill, Indiana, for the 100,001 — 250,000 work hours category. 
  • Armistead Mechanical Inc. of Waldwick, New Jersey, in the 250,001 – 400,000 work hours group. 
  • Baker Group of Des Moines, Iowa, for the 400,001 — 1,000,000 work hours category. 
  • ACCO Engineered Systems Inc. of Commerce, California, in the over 1,000,000 work hours category. 

Mark Rogers, who received the DSA during the opening session, joined Stone onstage to present four scholarships created to honor the industry leaders they are named after. The students receiving these scholarships were selected by MCAA’s Career Development Committee for their exceptional academic performance, leadership skills, interest in developing a career in the mechanical industry, work ethic and technical abilities. The 2017 recipients were: 

Sarah Drummey, a junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, took home the Foster J. McCarl, Jr. Memorial Scholarship for $2,500. 

Robert Ryan Schneider, a junior at Colorado State University took home The William A. Bianco, Jr. Memorial Scholarship for $5,000. 

Sarabeth Haworth, a junior at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, received The Reilly Family Memorial Scholarship for $5,000. 

Francesco Pisano, a junior at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, took home The Alan O’Shea Memorial Scholarship for $2,500. 

Troy Aichele, the chairman of MCAA’s Career Development Committee, joined Stone for the presentation of MCAA’s Career Development Awards.

The Educator of the Year award was split between two superb educators — Dr. Mostafa Khattab and Dennis Pettitt of Colorado State University. The award, which included a check for $5,000, honored the educators’ mentoring abilities, industry knowledge and involvement, and active participation in MCAA’s Student Chapter program activities.

The University of Missouri – Columbia Student Chapter of MCAA received the Student Chapter of the Year award. The chapter was selected based on how well it promotes an understanding of the mechanical industry and the career opportunities MCAA offers. In addition to a trophy, Student Chapter President Nick Kniesche and all of the students from the University accepted a $3,000 check. 

The University of Missouri – Columbia Student Chapter of MCAA received first prize and $10,000 for their work in this year’s Student Chapter Competition.

Second place honors and a $5,000 prize went to the MCA Student Chapter at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The other two finalist teams, from the Student Chapter for Mechanical/Electrical Specialty Contracting at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of MCAA at Colorado State University, took home checks for $2,500.

Teams from six additional universities received Certificates of Merit and checks for $1,000. They were:

  • The University of Washington
  • McMaster University
  • The University of Wisconsin – Stout
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Passing the torch 

In concluding the program, past President Stone offered a final word of thanks to all those who contribute to MCAA’s success before passing the gavel to MCAA’s 2017 President, Greg L. Fuller. 

“I promise you that I will work hard to build on and continue the fine work of those who came before me,” Fuller said. “It is an incredible honor to stand before you as the president of MCAA.” 

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