David Allen, McKinstry Co. (left), and David Kruse, L.J. Kruse Co. and outgoing MCAA president chat with an unidentified attendee at the festive opening night reception held at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa.

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Boston: 35°F, snow and rain. Baltimore: 43°, cloudy with rain. Cleveland: 29°, snow. Palm Desert: 75°, clear skies and sunny.

One of the daily updates delivered to guests’ hotel rooms reminded visitors that the early-March weather in Palm Desert, Calif., was one motivating factor for attending the 119th Annual Convention of The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). The sunshine coupled with tennis and golf opportunities were part of the appeal of leaving winter weather behind for a few days, but certainly not the only reasons that more than 2,000 contractors flocked to the desert oasis in Southern California for the gathering.

As is always the case, MCAA pulled out all the stops with a meeting that has become known for its exceptional line-up of accomplished speakers, engaging educational sessions, and entertaining social events.

Distinguished speakers from government, business, journalism, broadcasting, medicine, and professional sports along with others taught the importance of protecting the natural resources and developing the skills and knowledge that contribute to professional and personal success.

Educational sessions offered attendees valuable information about how to brand for the new green building movement, improve the basics of business management (i.e., strategic planning, cash, and profit), make the most of new business tools, plan for the succession of the family business, and find new ways to address the challenges in our personal lives.

Entertainment events headlined by the popular rock ‘n’ roll group Huey Lewis and the News and the Stellar Show Band gave attendees unforgettable memories of an amazing convention experience. From the opening session to the closing program, attendees experienced MCAA’s best and honored their industry’s accomplishments.

Maske!, a stringed instrument trio of women from Australia perhaps stole the show with their lively performances which included two electric violins and one electric bass. The trio drove 14 hours from an engagement in snowy Aspen, Colo., to make it in time for the show, after their flight from Aspen was cancelled. That dedication to their craft and commitment to perform for the MCAA conference was recognized by David Kruse, 2007 president of MCAA and one of the owners of L.J. Kruse Co. in Berkley, Calif.

The string trio preceded Kruse, who addressed the audience with a 2007 year in review. After 42 trips and more than 120,000 airline miles, Kruse acknowledged his brother, who is also his business partner, for the support and encouragement to “Go take a year off from the company, and work for MCAA.”

In addition, Kruse said, “I am proudest of the way the association responded to the green movement. The green building movement has gained tremendous status in our country. Owners, developers, and contractors have joined to make the most of this projected $200 million business opportunity. Carbon neutral buildings and net zero buildings will depend upon highly sophisticated mechanical systems.

“MCAA has taken bold steps to promote sustainable construction. There is a new excitement across the board. Green is the new red, white, and blue,” said Kruse, acknowledging the quote from a recent book he had read.

Kruse, a third-generation contractor, called upon the membership to remember those who had paved the way for this industry. Kruse’s own grandfather founded L.J. Kruse in 1916.

“We see that our industry’s landscape is changing. We are seeing more non-union competition; we are the ones who must work side-by-side (labor and management) to ensure bright futures for our companies. Frankly, our success will be our only lasting testimony to those who have gone before us.”

“We are an important industry, and our work matters,” said Kruse. We must hold fast to the triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet. By taking the risks and changing the way we operate our business, we will most importantly protect that which is most important to us.”

Cirque du Soleil performers from the famed Las Vegas acting troupe intrigued MCAA members at the opening night reception. About five performers on stilts gathered crowds throughout the night with their amazing costumes and creative improvisation.


The MCAA Distinguished Service Award was presented posthumously to Charles L. Boyd, The Limbach Co.

“This is the first time the award has ever been presented to a member who is no longer with us,” said Kruse. Several friends and associates spoke fondly of Boyd, via video. He was described by one as “A man who believed in this association’s ability to change the industry.”

His wife Joanne Boyd said, “He believed in doing the hard work, and he never asked people to walk the walk that he had not already walked.”

Madeleine Albright, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former U.S. secretary of state, rounded out the opening session with her views on several important political and social issues.

“I would like to issue a clarion call for militant moderation; moderates with the courage to stand up and fight the extreme views of the right and left. It’s time to tell those extremists to sit down,” said Albright to a cheering audience.

Albright came to the United States when she was 11 years old, “sailing by the Statue of Liberty.” She was an infant in Prague, Czechoslovakia, when Nazi Germany invaded that country. Her family then “moved to London at a time when it was being bombed nightly.” Albright attested that she “Saw first hand the tyranny of Communism,” when Russia invaded her homeland. Albright has become one of America’s most accomplished women in recent history.

Regarding the war in Iraq, she said, “Ultimately, success will depend upon real diplomatic advancements in the Middle East.”

She also spoke of several key issues that she believes the next U.S. president will face, “The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the use of better diplomacy to fight terrorism, and the worldwide trend for democracy to slide in the other direction after decades of advancement.”

She pointed out a new cold war division driven by China, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. Much of her talk focused on a support for democratic government processes and she provided examples from around the world where democracy has been dismantled, with an aftermath of leaving people worse off than they were before.

Publication date:03/24/2008