Last month, Plumbing and Mechanical magazine interviewed incoming Mechanical Contractors Association of America President Tom Stone, president and owner of Braconier Plumbing & Heating in Denver. He joined Braconier in 1992 and became president in 2005. Seeking ways to ensure the continued success of his plumbing and mechanical contracting firm, Stone got involved with the MCA of Colorado and has served as its president since 2006. He also is a member of the Pipefitters Local 208 JATC Committee, a role he has had since 2002.
Stone served on MCAA’s Advanced Leadership Institute Committee and the Online Piping & Usage Specification Task Force. He joined MCAA’s board in 2007 and has served on the MCAA Education Committee since 2010. Starting his career as a special journeyman pipefitter, Stone is passionate about coaching and has seen first-hand how education and determination can pay off.
PM: When and how did you begin getting involved with MCAA? Why?
TS:My father, Al Stone, has been very involved in MCAA and has always spoken of the benefits of being involved in your local and national MCA. The first MCAA program I attended was in 1995 — Class 18 of our widely acclaimed Institute for Project Management (that just graduated its 62nd class). I was amazed at how much I was able to learn in a two-week program.
I also developed some lifelong friendships with some of my classmates. Two of them are current MCAA National board members. It was clear there was great value to me professionally and personally in being active in MCAA. I went on to attend many more classes and conferences.
PM: How will your passion about coaching and education shape your role as MCAA president?
TS: I have received tremendous benefits from being involved in MCAA. One of my main goals this year is to spread the word about the value of being involved. As with anything in life, you only get out what you put into something. Once people take the first step and attend an MCAA event, you typically don’t have to worry about encouraging them again because they instantly see the value in being involved.
PM: What is the top item on the MCAA’s agenda for 2016?
TS:We have a lot of efforts underway, but certainly a top item is our Construction Technology Initiative. Technology is evolving at a lightning pace, and keeping our contractors ahead of the change curve is one of the most important things we can do.
We have joined forces with two very knowledgeable partners — technology consultant James Benham and the BuiltWorlds network — and we’ll be hoping to minimize our members’ risk and maximize the return on their investments in new technologies through research, information and educational programs, including our annual Construction Technology Conference, June 6-7 in Indianapolis.
PM: How is MCAA building its brand as an association?
TS: We continue to build our brand by constantly developing new and valuable educational resources and programs — that is why we’re known throughout the industry as “The Education Association.”
PM: What industry issues interest you?
TS: Certainly pension reform, which we are still heavily involved in trying to secure passage of on Capitol Hill. MCAA and our labor partners at the United Association have been leading the effort to get this much-needed legislation enacted. The demographics of our industry are also a major concern. There are many more skilled craftspeople retiring than entering our joint apprenticeship programs. We are working with the United Association and our members to increase the number of apprentices. They are our key to a strong workforce for the future.
PM: What is MCAA doing to help members recruit the next generation?
TS: We strongly support the efforts of the United Association to recruit and train the workforce we’ll need for the future. And they’re doing a great job! At MCAA, we’re also working hard to attract the best talent to our management ranks. MCAA now has 53 student chapters at universities across North America.
To further address this need, we declared 2015 to be The Year of the Intern, quadrupling the number of interns hired last year by our members to 350. We’re continuing this initiative in 2016, and will provide our members with cash grants from our Mechanical Contracting Education & Research Foundation for interns hired by them.
PM: What can people (young and old) gain by joining the plumbing and mechanical industry?
TS: The plumbing and mechanical industry is one where people get to know each other and build connections and life-long relationships. And with every job we do, there’s a sense of accomplishment and we all feel proud of what we’ve done. We get to actually build things. We don’t sit in cubicles and shuffle papers, that’s for sure. Mechanical contracting is an industry of opportunity, and that is true now more than ever.
PM: What do you value most about your experience at the MCAA?
TS: The one thing I value the most are the many friendships I have made as a result of my involvement with MCAA. While my business and I have received many benefits from all the educational offerings at MCAA, it is the friendships that I will always treasure.
PM: What is the most important lesson you learned from your predecessor(s)?
TS: The most important thing I have learned from my predecessors is that by working together as an association we can accomplish great things!
PM: A year from now, what will you want to say your No. 1 accomplishment was as president?
TS: MCAA has continued to improve year after year. If I had to pick one item, it would be to build and strengthen even further our partnership with the United Association. It is vital that we maintain and build on our MCAA/UA strategic planning efforts. This is critical to our mutual success going forward.
PM: If you had only one piece of business advice to give to plumbing, mechanical and service contractors, what would it be?
TS: I would encourage them to get involved in MCAA and its service arm, the Mechanical Service Contractors of America, to take advantage of the vast array of educational opportunities our association has to offer them and their team at all levels of their organization. The time and money invested will be repaid many times over. You cannot get a better ROI than participating in MCAA!