It would be an interesting contest to determine which trade organization in the PHC field puts on the second best conventions. In combined style and substance, though, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America laps everyone else.

Its last convention of the 20th century, held Feb. 21-25 at Florida’s Walt Disney World, featured a record-setting attendance of more than 2,300 registrants, including 400-500 kids who tagged along with parents or grandparents to a place designed with kids in mind. Plenty of studious adults benefited as well from 10-1/2 hours of MCAA educational programming by trainers from The Disney Institute, who shared some of the business methodology behind this world-renowned organization.

Beneath the surreal setting at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort, the real world intruded with MCAA members buzzing about the consolidation craze that has swept MCAA’s membership along with the rest of the industry. In the last year, dozens of prominent MCAA member firms had been bought out by utility subsidiaries or other public companies. Rumors — and that’s all they were, at least for the time being — abounded throughout the convention of other big ones about to tumble.

A highlight of this year’s MCAA convention was the presence of E. Robert Kent, one of the namesakes of the Poole & Kent Co., and one of the century’s giants of mechanical contracting. Kent was on hand to receive a special Lifetime Achievement Award at the closing ceremony. Incoming president William McClure Jr. paid tribute to Kent as follows:

“For over six decades E. Robert Kent has made it his life’s work to enhance the image of the mechanical contracting industry, and to improve the professionalism of the mechanical contractor. Recognized by all within our industry as a visionary, an intellect, an innovator, a humanitarian, an environmentalist and a gentleman, Bob Kent gave back far more to his industry and his trade association than he ever asked for.”

McClure’s citation related how Kent first wrote, then presented seminars around the country on MCAA’s Managerial Accounting & Cost Control Systems Manual. Kent also established and for 15 years managed the association’s reserve fund. He had served as president of MCAA in 1972 and was given its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, in 1977. Another prestigious award for management innovation was established in 1990 and named after Kent.

High Honors: This year’s E. Robert Kent Award went to The Metropolitan Detroit Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association for its creation Disney Bash ... continued from p.10 of a “Pipe Trades Affirmative Action Initiative.” The Detroit association developed this program through their industry fund and in conjunction with UA Plumbers Local 98 and Pipefitters Local 636. The program’s goal is to change, over a five-year period, the demographic characteristics of Locals 98 and 636 to match the percentage of females and minorities in the six counties covered by the unions’ jurisdiction, without lowering standards.

Distinguished Service Award winner for 1999 was Richard E. Wenninger of Milwaukee-based Wenninger Co. He has held at various times the chairs of MCAA’s Education Committee, Management Methods Committee and Project Managers Education Committee, as well as memberships on numerous other MCAA committees and the Board of Directors.

Also singled out were the following Safety Award winners:

Category 1 (over 1 million manhours worked)

1st — Nooter Construction Co., Bensalem, Pa.

2nd — Murphy Co., St. Louis, Mo.

3rd — Phillips Getschow Co., Joliet, Ill.

Category 2 (300,000 to 1 million manhours)

1st — Cherne Contracting Corp., Minneapolis, Minn.

2nd — Craft Mech. Contrs. & Engrs., Lafayette, Ind.

3rd — Ryan & Associates, Davenport, Ia.

Category 3 (100,000 to 300,000 manhours)

1st — University Mechanical Contractors, Seattle, Wash.

2nd — Agmen, Inc., Plainfield, N.J.

3rd — Fitzgerald Contractors,Shreveport, La.

Category 4 (50,000 to 100,000 manhours)

1st — Lawton & Burns, Pequannock, N.J.

2nd — Luppen & Hawley, Sacramento, Calif.

3rd — Industrial Refrigeration Service, Baltimore, Md.

Category 5 (less than 50,000 manhours)

1st — B & S Plumbing-Heating, Terre Haute, Ind.

2nd — Peyronnin Construction Co., Evansville, Ind.

3rd — R.A. Finnegan, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa. Next year’s MCAA convention is slated for San Diego, Calif. Feb. 20-24.