LAS VEGAS, NV — Doug Lea wants his field workers to be the best-equipped workers in Las Vegas. The president of Quality Mechanical Contractors, Inc. takes lot of pride in planning his new construction jobs long before his workers hit the field running.

“We do all of our CAD work and prefab work here in the shop so we can help control our labor,” he said. “We do as much here as we can.

“I don’t think anyone around [Las Vegas] is doing the design drawing work that we do. Some still do pencil drawings and use T-squares.”

But Quality maintains a cordial relationship with its competitors, according to Lea. “We’ve made ductwork for our competitors in the past,” he said.

With the daily changes in the commercial landscape in and around Las Vegas, Lea’s company has jumped into a niche and has made the best of the area’s rapid growth. It didn’t take long for this former sheet metal company, founded by Jerry Spillsbury in 1970, to move into other markets, including plumbing and piping.

Lea joined Quality 11 years ago, after spending 10 years with the company’s largest competitor in the area, Hansen Mechanical. Hansen and Quality are heavily involved in the area’s commercial new construction market, especially work on the famous “strip,” where money seems to be no object to developers and owners.

Casino Jobs Pay Off

“Our bread and butter is new construction,” Lea said. “We work on the mega-resort casinos, government buildings, and large retail office buildings.

“One of Quality’s recent jobs was a $68 million hvac and plumbing contract with the new Paris Casino. The total Paris project was $900 million.

“The Venetian was a $1.7 billion dollar project,” Lea added. “We had the hvac and plumbing contract for Phase One, which was $28 million.”

Lea said that the new construction boom has slowed a bit from 1998 to 2000, although to the outside world, the slowdown was hardly noticeable. “New construction will pick up in 2001,” he said. “We see a lot of permits being pulled and mechanical engineers say they have never been so busy.”

It’s not all casinos being built. There are also the new Turnberry Condominiums going up further down the strip. When completed, the high-rise condos will loom far above any other commercial buildings and command $2 million apiece.

With the demand for bigger and better projects, the talent pool of experienced engineers and field workers is taking a big hit. Although Quality is able to steadily draw from the local union ranks and currently employs 250 workers, it is concerned about the future.

“We found that starting around 1998, we had outgrown our expertise base,” Lea said. “The good people we have now are being stretched pretty thin.”

Not only is the available labor force shrinking, but there are more demands being put on the workers. “We are starting to see more need for certified field workers,” Lea said. “People need to follow up their training with certification.”

Lea said that Quality is successful because it changes with the times.

“We are successful because we have had the vision to think outside of the box,” he said. “We are innovative. We are looking for new and better ways to do things. We embrace technology.”

And Lea says that despite the recent boom in new residential and commercial construction, things can get better.

“I think Vegas’ best days are still ahead,” he said. “There are many tax advantages for businesses to relocate here. The casinos’ occupancy rates are still very high. The Las Vegas Convention Center is bringing more conventioneers to town.”

Publication date: 02/26/2001