A near-record crowd of 1,716 people visited San Diego Feb. 20-24 for the 111th Annual Convention of the Mechanical Contractors of America. With many member firms consumed by utility companies and roll-up consolidators, MCAA leaders unveiled an eight-point strategic plan aimed at helping the association adapt to changing times.

We will recognize and adapt to ever-changing industry and membership trends, characteristics and needs, reads one of the statements in the "Vision 2000" document. It elaborates: We will open a dialogue with É national consolidators and affiliates of utility companies É

We will continue to identify and encourage the maximum participation in association affairs of volunteer leaders.

Said outgoing president William McClure Jr., whose own company operates as a utility subsidiary, "We want to use these trends as an opportunity to gain membership (his emphasis), not lose membership."

Association leaders have had to grapple with concern that consolidated companies will either drop out of MCAA or, almost as bad, declare themselves as a single entity for dues purposes and drastically reduce the funds available for association operations. So far that has not happened on a widespread basis. To stave it off, MCAA leaders are trying to build so much value into their association that consolidators will offer wholehearted support. Toward that end, here are some other highlights from their Vision 2000 document:

  • We will undertake a national education initiative, the first phase of which will involve the delivery of project management and advanced supervisory education at the local level.

  • We will explore opportunities such as the military to recruit qualified individuals, including minorities and women, into our industry.

  • We will establish a technology committee (to evaluate technologies for the office and the field).

  • We will catalogue the programs and services being offered by our affiliated associations and develop an electronic clearinghouse of best practices.

  • We will continuously reexamine our programs and services to ensure they are relevant and appropriately funded.

People & The Internet

Educational programming and speeches were targeted at three daily themes labeled: Leadership, Information Technology and the Human Factor. Highlights included:

  • An opening session with the best keynote address ever witnessed by this jaded journalist who has yawned his way through scores of them. Not this time. One had to be dead not to be inspired by Dr. Jerry Linenger, the American astronaut who lived on the Russian space station Mir for five months in 1997 and who almost lost his life to an out-of-control fire on board. His harrowing tale of that experience kept MCAA attendees on the edge of their seats.

  • "The Future of Technology & The Mechanical Contractor" featured Dean Allen of McKinstry Co., along with Microsoft executive Gary Cooke and Wenn-Soft software executive Tom Devroy detailing modern project management and documentation techniques via the Internet.

  • Equally mesmerizing was another presentation by consultant Jonathon Antevy on "Project Management via the Internet, Intranets & Extranets." Antevy and a colleague in Florida demonstrated how a CAD drawing could be revised online in real time.

  • Business and community leader Peter Ueberroth, former baseball commissioner and head of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, gave a dazzling talk on leadership to an awards breakfast meeting.

  • UA General President Martin Maddaloni announced a new index mutual fund with a twist. The UA SMP 500 index mutual fund, available to union members, contractors and the general public as of March 1, allows for proxy voting by fund shareholders. Companies whose stocks are held by the fund will be encouraged to "see the wisdom in using skilled union tradesmen," Maddaloni explained.

The UA chief also told the assembled union contractors the UA would be using the Internet and teleconferencing to a greater extent in training apprentices in the years ahead.

Special Awards

Two retired MCA association executives received MCAA's coveted Distinguished Service Award -Edward Teskeformerly executive director of MCA Chicago, andWilliam Bulman, who held the same post for many years with MCA of New Jersey.

Winner of the 1999 E. Robert Kent Award for Management Innovation went to McCarl's Inc. of Beaver Falls, Pa. Their recognition came from creation of "The McCarl WayR University," an in-house program offering educational classes relevant to the day-to-day operation of McCarl's.

"Best Practices Awards" were presented to four affiliate associations for the following categories: Association or Industry Enhancement, MCA of Greater Kansas City; Education & Training, Twin Cities Piping Industry Association; Labor Relations, MCA of Eastern Missouri; Government Relations, MCA of New York.

First-place Safety Excellence Awards went to (smallest to largest size categories): Thompson Plumbing Co., Omaha, Neb.; All State Mechanical, Grandview, Mo.; Lescure Co., Lafayette, La.; Tweet-Garot Mechanical, Green Bay, Wis.; and Murphy Co., St. Louis, Mo.

Next year's MCAA convention is slated for Feb. 11-15, 2001 at the Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii.