LAS VEGAS, NV — Just off the Interstate, several miles south of the famous “strip,” lies Interstate Plumbing & Air Conditioning.

It’s no coincidence that the company has located itself away from the glitter of the strip. It has its eyes set on the Las Vegas residential market, not the big commercial and industrial segment. Owner Jim Manning is perfectly content with that scenario.

“We’re non-union and stay away from the major commercial work,” he added. “Although we do some tenant improvement work once in a while.”

Humble Beginnings

Manning, after a series of jobs in the “business world,” found out that he didn’t enjoy “wearing a suit,” so he turned to the plumbing industry, winding up as a field supervisor. In 1989 he founded Interstate from his garage with two partners. He bought them out in 1994.

For the first six months the company only did plumbing, but Manning saw the need for adding heating and cooling services. Today, Interstate employs 450 workers and has annual revenues of $50 million — a phenomenal rise that mirrors the explosive growth of Las Vegas during the past 11 years.

“I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” he said.

Manning said his bread and butter is in new construction, both residential and commercial. He carefully tracks every project. “We job cost every job every week,” he said. “We need to identify our costs at all times.”

Manning has been recognized as one of Las Vegas’ best privately owned companies, finishing number 38 in a local listing of the area’s “Top 100” companies in 2000. With business moving at a brisk pace, Manning is concerned about keeping up with demand — and keeping his employees happy and productive.

“We need to retain our employees,” he said. “We have very good benefits and we recently added an ESOP plan [employee stock option plan], giving each employee a stake in the company.”

Manning feels that retaining employees is the easiest process in hiring and keeping them. “We use word of mouth and our reputation to attract employees. Once they come on board, it is easier to retain them.”

If there is one subject Manning has a keen interest in (as well as other Nevada contractors), it’s the issue of “construction defects,” which Manning said has been initiated by “litigious-crazy” attorneys gravitating from California.

“Attorneys have convinced homeowners to file homeowner defects litigation, which stops the hvacr contractor [who has installed the hvac system] from going in and making repairs,” he said.

“We want the right to come out and make repairs. This litigation is depriving us of that. We may only give a limited warranty on a product but we want to stand by our products for life — and continue to serve that customer.”

Community Service

Manning believes in the Golden Rule, and helps out in his community as much as he can. Interstate is a member of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), which supplies Christmas gifts to needy families. Interstate also sponsors a Christmas party each year and invites ABC members to visit and help wrap presents for the gifts they are giving to the area families.

“We get 200 people in here wrapping presents, which we turn over to the Salvation Army, and they all have a good time,” he said. The effort provided gifts and clothing for 685 children last year, Manning said.

“I love my job,” he concluded. “And I’ve built the company to where I can do what I want to do,” he said, referring to his weekends hunting for black bear and catching an occasional L.A. Lakers game.

Sidebar: Editor's Note

As the spotlight turns to Las Vegas for the Air Con-ditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) Annual Conference and Trade Show, The News profiles two prominent Las Vegas contractors who reaped the benefits of the area’s explosive growth. Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the United States, and the boom has helped residential and commercial contractors alike. Two different paths to business success are reflected in the rise of Quality Mechanical Contractors, Inc., which specializes in multimillion-dollar casino and office developments, and nearby Interstate Plumbing & Air Conditioning, which eschews major commercial projects to focus on the residential market, especially new construction.

Publication date: 02/26/2001