Last month, Plumbing & Mechanical interviewed Mark Rogers, who will be installed as president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America during its annual convention March 6-10 in Maui, Hawaii.
Rogers is chief operating officer of West Chester Mechanical Contractors, an HVAC, service and plumbing contractor that specializes in projects related to health-care and educational facilities in the Philadelphia area. The company employs 60 people with annual revenue of $20 million.
PM: How do you view the commercial-institutional-industrial construction market in 2011?
MR: Probably the same as in 2010. Some areas are seeing improvement. As I travel around the country, I hear that power, petroleum, health care, education and water infrastructure are expected to grow. Architects’ billing had gone up for four straight months through November, so someone is hiring them for conceptual work. I read a survey of construction executives who see growth coming. Construction confidence is increasing.
My company is doing a great deal of health-care work in Philadelphia. We’re in an area densely populated with health-care institutions, research facilities and higher education. A lot of renovation is going on, and we land our share of the upgrades. A couple of the hospitals where we work have more energy-efficient equipment going in, and they’re getting federal grants for some of the work. Federal stimulus money is not a significant chunk of our work but it is something.
We’ve been able to weather the storm, and 2010 was better for our company than 2009. Margins are not where we’d like them. We have been able to “bump our numbers” ever so slightly compared to this time last year.
PM: How can MCAA help its members take advantage of business opportunities in 2011?
MR: Education, period. I started my business in 1996, and I immediately got involved in MCAA locally. I was appointed to MCAA’s national education committee in 2000 and was its chairman for several years. That committee is made up of 10 to 12 members from around the country who are out there in the trenches and know what’s going on. They meet twice a year to put together programs that address what members need. These programs are not just for CEOs but for top managers, project managers and estimators.
Really good companies invest in their people further during slow times. As a result, they will have a more educated work staff going forward. Other companies pull back. I just turned 45, and I started this company out of my basement 15 years ago. Getting involved in MCAA is the best thing I have ever done. What I’ve learned over the years of being in an association is to invest in your people. Keep them involved. Let them know you appreciate them and their job makes a difference.
PM: What will be the greatest challenges facing MCAA members this year?
MR: We are constantly seeing challenges from the political arena. MCAA is pro-active, and we’re working diligently to stay on top of these issues in Washington with [General Counsel] John McNerney and our Government Affairs Committee. In recent years we’ve really ramped up our advocacy efforts as Washington has become more involved in our businesses. Anything that comes up, MCAA is ready to take the challenge and get on it.
New accounting standards proposed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board for construction companies sponsoring multiemployer defined benefit plans is a recent example. The changes would result in a huge overhead administration cost and incorrect or misleading financial information, which would affect many members’ ability to secure a line of credit and bonding. MCAA is leading the charge to get FASB to modify its proposal to achieve its goals without resulting in unintended consequences for our members.
PM: How do you describe the benefits of being an MCAA member to MCAA’s student chapter members?
MR: Being an MCAA member will benefit you and the people around you. You don’t have to be a certain age or certain size company to get involved. You’ll find you’re more than just a number within the company, regardless of what your title is. Whatever you get out of it is what you put into it. The relationships I’ve made within MCAA are based on friendships that will last a long time.
PM: If you had only one message to give to your fellow contractors, what would it be?
MR: Get involved in the industry, be it in an association or as a trustee on a benefit plan. You can’t do business today by putting your head in the sand. The world is changing. You will not reach your profit potential if you think you can do business the way your father did or his father did. This is a people business. You need to get good people, train them and give them power if you want to succeed. To do that, you have to be a leader who grows professionally.
PM: How large a role will building information modeling play in construction projects in 2011?
MR: It will play a big role. BIM is the hot new topic today. Much as it did in 2005 when green building was the hot topic, MCAA is working to make sure our members are equipped to understand BIM’s complexities. MCAA has a very active BIM Committee and offered an intensive two-day course on BIM for our members last October. BIM contracts and risk allocation will be the focus of our next BIM conference in April in Baltimore.
PM: What are MCAA members doing to take advantage of building owners’ interest in green construction?
MR: Back in 2005, green building was 2 percent of the market, but MCAA started to give information to members on LEED construction. Now, close to one-third of new buildings are green; by 2015, it will be half of the buildings.
Green building is something we’ve talked about for five or six years, which really has been a benefit for MCAA members. Being educated by MCAA five years ago was a tremendous help to me.
Things are a little later to get to the Northeast than on the West Coast. Part of it is due to the historical buildings here and all the renovation to existing buildings. When a new building goes up, though, LEED is on the top of the list. More and more owners are pressing for their buildings to be LEED-certified. Energy efficiency and water efficiency are the two big issues.
PM: What do you hope to accomplish as MCAA president?
MR: I’m going to talk about the benefits of being involved. I want people to know they need to get involved locally, nationally or both, to help themselves, their company, the industry, the association and the people they’re around at work. At my company, we talk about the issues. Our people are involved in MCAA and they’re seeing the benefits. It really validates what we’re doing here. That’s why I do it, not for the title.
An association needs new people to get fresh ideas to stay strong and keep moving forward. MCAA has a great mix of young people and experienced people. Each side learns from the other. Our national board is a prime example. It’s what makes this association the best one out there. I have a great opportunity as one of the youngest MCAA presidents ever. In a lot of associations you have to be ready to retire before you’re in a position to become the president of the association.