The first day of the MCAA Convention in Maui kicked off with the Annual Fun Run, a 3.1 mile race sponsored by Anvil International. Participants had ample time to stretch and exercise on the patio of the Grand Wailea Resort prior to race time.

WAILEA, Hawaii - Robert Armistead, the 2010 president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), worked hard in his introductory pre-taped video to outperform Lonnie Coleman, the immediate past president. Armistead donned the familiar white suit worn by Ricardo Montalban of the now-syndicated hit TV program “Fantasy Island” while speaking of the wonders of Hawaii and MCAA, all while obviously cradling a varying number of tropical beverages.

The spoof made for great entertainment, but incoming MCAA president, Mark Rogers, has had the gauntlet laid down for his 2011-2012 term. Topping Coleman’s memorable Steve McQueen impersonation and Armistead’s white-clad island boss will only be part of the challenge. Rogers acknowledged such when he accepted the gavel of leadership later in the program.

Armistead made good use of the Hawaiian vernacular during his live opening remarks to the nearly 2,000 attendees at the 122nd Annual Convention held in Maui, March 6-10. The meeting theme, “Charting a Course for Prosperity,” took on greater meaning as Armistead emphasized that the Hawaiian word for family - ohana - means more than immediate family and extended relations, but in a much broader sense, encompasses all who share common goals and beliefs.

Armistead, president of Armi- stead Mechanical Inc., a fourth-generation mechanical contracting and engineering firm with offices in Waldwick, N.J., and Newburgh, N.Y., said, “To my way of thinking, ohana is exactly what we have created at MCAA. All of us are an ohana by choice, consciously choosing to share with, and to support each other. I think that is a large part of how we all made it through these dark days of the last couple years, and how we have positioned ourselves for future success.

“At our company we have made hard choices and difficult adjustments, and I know from my visits around the country that your companies have done the same. But I can say that we are far more confident in our choices and have fared much better than we otherwise would have because we learned from our extended family here, and our association with MCAA. At our companies we are all devoting far more time to strategic business development … and are focused on winning the right type of work for our companies.”


In addition to the numerous education opportunities that filled the agenda, social networking and big-name keynote speakers kept meeting rooms full, even though the tropical breezes and ocean beckoned just a few hundred yards away. The Grand Wailea Resort and Spa and the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort hosted the majority of the guests and meetings, while nearby Fairmont Keal Lani captured guest overflow from the primary hotels.

Education sessions included programs on ethics in construction, advocacy efforts and government affairs, project planning, change orders and claims, and overtime. Several sessions were presented by MCAA members such as David Allen of McKinstry, a Seattle-based construction, engineering, and facility services firm. Allen spoke about Driving Brand Value in Construction Firms. Allen borrowed from the 17-step process written about by Marty Neumier in his book “Zag.” (See page 31 for more, and go to for the full story.)

The convention opening session featured Charlie Gibson, veteran television news anchor. Gibson hosted ABC’s “Good Morning America” for almost 20 years, and was the anchor of ABC’s evening show, “World News Tonight.”

Upon being introduced, Gibson’s first comment to the audience was, “I first met Bob Armistead backstage wearing that white suit. I tried to buy an ice cream bar from him.” And, with that, Gibson launched into almost an hour of commentary about subject matter that was not too controversial, perhaps in keeping with his general demeanor of 20 years on morning television.

“I don’t have canned presentations for occasions like this. I rarely do give speeches. So, for occasions like this I sit and write. It’s a somewhat cathartic and reflective task,” he said, describing his preparation for a group of mechanical contractors.

The one point when Gibson ventured very far into the current political landscape came as he described the differences between Washington, D.C., today and its climate years ago. “Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, then chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, once said, ‘Years ago, no matter what happened on the House or Senate floor between eight o’clock and five, you could count on getting together after six to get to know each other over a few drinks. These people are so angry they don’t even talk to each other after six o’clock.’ And that was 10 years ago when he told me that story. Today, people are too angry to really get to know one another, and in that, find the common ground to move away from gridlock.”

Gibson closed his comments by saying, “You have been very kind and indulgent to allow me to express what I have been thinking about.” Then, after a comically accurate 30-second news bite of his hour-long presentation, Charlie Gibson abdicated the stage, and the annual meeting of the MCAA was on its way.

A highlight of Tuesday’s program was the Annual Manufacturer/Supplier Exhibit, where 75 of MCAA’s supplier partners showcased their latest products, technologies, and services.

The United Association’s (UA) general president Bill Hite addressed the group during the closing session on the last day of the meeting. He gave the audience the straight scoop when he said, “We are holding our own, but we can’t stop our recruiting efforts to bring new people into our apprentice program. If not, some day we will wake up with not enough people to fund our pension fund, and our health care.” Hite’s comments mirror what the general public fears for its own Social Security benefits and health care programs; obviously the UA is battling similar long-term ramifications of an aging population.

Hite said UA had lost 2 percent of its membership since the recession began in 2008, and that the organization’s membership was off from its high point in 1982 of about 354,000 members. According to Hite the UA consists of plumbers, HVAC technicians, pipefitters/welders, and sprinkler/fire members.

Emphasizing his commitment to training new people, Hite said, “If you ever have a problem getting apprentices in your local, let me know, and I guarantee I will personally look into it for you.”

Hite also mentioned that he will seek another five-year term as general president of the United Association.

Rounding out the program on the last day was retired General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal tied his message of leadership in the military to the same principles required of running a successful business enterprise. “I think leadership is largely experience, and now, it is more important than ever,” he said.

McChrystal threw only one gentle barb toward his past military experience, saying that the Pentagon building is an example of how not to organize an office environment in today’s world. “If you think about it, every office is behind security; interaction between workers is not encouraged in that kind of environment. Open offices are how things get done these days,” he said.

Prof. Mike Feutz of Ferris State University was honored as the 2010 Educator of the Year. Feutz (middle) is flanked by MCAA Chair Bob Armistead (left), and Brett Christiansen, chair of MCAA’s Career Development Committee.


The Annual Awards Breakfast on March 9 honored members for exceptional safety performance and for management innovation, and celebrated the winner of the 2010-2011 Student Chapter Competition. Following the announcement of the winners of the golf tournament, tennis tournament, and Fun Run/Walk, Armistead announced the winners of the 2010 Safety Excellence Awards: Current Mechanical of Ft. Wayne, Ind. (Category I); University Marelich Mechanical of Anaheim, Calif. (Category II); Binsky & Snyder LLC of Piscataway, N.J. (Category III); Scheck Mechanical Corp. of Countryside, Ill. (Category IV); and Performance Mechanical Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pa. (Category V). Armistead and Management Methods Committee member Mike Candido presented the 2010 E. Robert Kent Award for Management Innovation to H.T. Lyons, Inc. of Allentown, Pa., for its Serviceeye system.

Armistead and Career Development Committee Chairman Brett Christiansen presented trophies and cash prizes to the finalists of this year’s Student Chapter Competition: First prize went to the MCAA Student Chapter at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The scores were so close that the Career Development Committee declared a three-way tie for second place. The University of Washington Mechanical Contractors Student Chapter, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of MCAA at Colorado State University, and the Pittsburgh State University MCA Student Chapter each received $2,500.

The Greater Michigan MSCA Student Chapter at Ferris State University is the 2010 Student Chapter of the Year and Prof. Mike Feutz of Ferris State University was honored as the 2010 Educator of the Year. The awards breakfast was topped off with poignant comments from basketball legend Bill Walton, who shared stories from his amazing college and professional career and valuable life lessons he learned along the way.

The Distinguished Service Award, the MCAA’s highest honor, was presented on the first day of the convention to Robert Turner, president and CEO of Tucker Mechanical an EMCOR Company, Meriden, Conn. Upon receiving the prestigious award, Turner said, “I am completely surprised - speechless. It is just fortunate that I can do something I really love. It has been a privilege. Thank you very much.”

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual for his or her contributions to the progress, development, and expansion of the industry, as well as for outstanding achievement and distinguished service to the MCAA.

Bob Armistead, MCAA chairman, welcomed Robert Turner to the stage to receive The Distinguished Service Award, the MCAA’s highest honor. Turner is president and CEO of Tucker Mechanical an EMCOR Company.


Mark Rogers of West Chester Mechanical, Chester, Pa., became MCAA’s new president at the closing session of MCAA 2011. Rogers told the membership that the reason for his MCAA involvement and contribution is because of what he personally gains from the organization and encouraged all to become even more involved during the coming year.

Rogers, the first Advanced Leadership Graduate (ALI) graduate to become MCAA president, spoke highly of the educational opportunity available through MCAA with the cooperation of Babson College. “This is the most significant revamping of the ALI curriculum since the program started,” said Rogers. He went on to talk about how the ALI has impacted his career, noting that well over half of the MCAA board of directors are now ALI graduates and that graduates are also a growing presence in local association leadership. According to Rogers, “What I learned and who I met at the ALI have not only been important to my career but have also been a huge asset to my company.” He ended the program by inviting all to attend the MCAA Convention, March 18-22, 2012, at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Publication date:05/16/2011