MCAA’s spring meeting and conference schedule screeched to a halt this year, much like many other contractor organizations in the industry, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, it was decided that 2019 MCAA President Brian Helm, president of Freeport, Illinois-based Mechanical Inc., part of the Helm Group of companies, would keep his role in 2020. PM Chief Editor Nicole Krawcke had a chance to interview Helm about the differences in this presidential term following the cancellation of MCAA’s annual conference in March.
PM: What are the circumstances that led you to remain MCAA president for another term?
BH: The role of the MCAA president is largely that of an ambassador for the local MCA affiliates and the national events that we hold. COVID-19 has put many of these events on hold until at least the summer, so the Executive Committee thought it would be best if we extended our current officer positions for another year. We hope that the disruption from COVID-19 will be short lived, but it’s impossible to tell.
PM: Is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting MCAA and its contractor members?
BH: Most definitely. Some states are currently under a Shelter-in-Place order that may or may not include mechanical construction, service and plumbing work. We’re fortunate that our activities are often deemed essential and allowed to continue even during a lockdown, but other projects are on hold or have been cancelled. Most of all, MCAA contractors are working to protect the health of our employees, and today that often means creating work-at-home policies or changing the way we staff our projects and offices to be mindful of the social distancing guidelines set forth by the CDC and others.
PM: How is MCAA handling the pandemic internally?
BH: MCAA has cancelled or postponed all meetings and events through the end of May. We are working to reschedule these events, while at the same time monitoring the guidelines for any possible impact on future meetings and events.
More information on these meetings and events can be found at www.mcaa.org/events/.
PM: What will be the focus of your second term as MCAA president?
BH: In my first term, the economy was booming from coast to coast. Our challenges were labor availability in the office and field, implementing innovative technology, keeping our expanding workforce safe, and growing our companies.
This year is largely the opposite, at least for now. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world and in each of our markets. My focus will be dealing with the short-term issues of COVID-19 including educating our members about the MCAA resources available to help them navigate the evolving landscape.
Longer term, the focus will be on figuring out how the new economy will impact each of our companies. MCAA will still need our current offerings and resources but will also need a completely new set of tools to help our member companies navigate the new economy.
PM: What are MCAA’s top initiatives for 2020?
BH: MCAA’s first priority is providing resources and guidance to our members to help them during this difficult time. The entire MCAA staff remains available and our phones are still being answered.
PM: What legislative/regulatory issues should contractors be concerned with in 2020?
BH: The biggest concern, I think, is the legislation that will come out of the COVID-19 crisis. MCAA will be working to make sure legislation supports businesses as well as employees. In addition, any stimulus package will need to help MCAA members. There are also some proposals to loosen regulations and codes in the plumbing and pipefitting industry. We need to make sure that any changes in regulations don’t adversely impact the quality of work that our customers expect.
PM: In these uncertain times, what advice would you give to fellow contractors?
BH: My advice is that you should appreciate the fact that you are a contractor. Of all the industries disrupted by COVID-19, the construction and service industry is probably one of the least impacted. We will definitely all feel the effects, but compared to other sectors, I think we are in a much better position to come out of this strong. You should also take this opportunity to be a leader for your employees. Honest conversations will help your employees make sense of their own realities. You don’t need all the answers, but meaningful conversations are as important as ever.