SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Many of the 1,600 commercial mechanical contractors who attended the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) national meeting value the networking and leisure time opportunities as much as the official agenda.

The unofficial meeting opened with an assortment of golfers, runners, tennis players, and sunbathers flying into the Valley of the Sun a day or two early for some fun and relaxation.

Tom Brokaw was the keynote speaker at the opening session of the MCAA national meeting.

High-Caliber Celebrities

The national convention included star-studded entertainment such as composer Marvin Hamlisch, singer/songwriter Kenny Rogers, and nationally acclaimed trumpeter Jesse McGuire, to drop a few names. However, perhaps one of the most notable moments took place when recently retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw presented the opening keynote remarks.

Brokaw appeared as if his typically dignified, unbiased delivery of poignant comments was nearly unchanged from the many years when he occupied the anchor seat at "NBC Nightly News." Only once did he ask permission to offer a personal suggestion to remedy a current ill in the fabric of American politics; he received applause for his vision of a new electoral process.

Near the end of his presentation Brokaw riveted the audience with his recounting of The Greatest Generation - those people who fought in WWII, and subsequently rebuilt not only the United States of America, but also the countries of Germany and Japan. Many of that generation started the HVAC and plumbing companies that were present in the audience as Brokaw spoke.

Brokaw closed by reminding the attendees, "When those men and women first came back from war, they didn't say, ‘I've already done my share'; they asked, ‘What else can I do to help?' When we look around to see what else needs to be done for our country, can we say that we've done our share?"

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet spoke on Tuesday. He served two presidential administrations and two political parties, having just recently resigned from his seven-year tenure at the head CIA post.

Tenet conveyed that even though the national media often accentuates the negative aspects of the CIA's work, there are many successes that must remain largely untold. He encouraged the audience and the American people to continue to support the war on terrorism, a war that must be won on more fronts than the obvious military one. Following Tenet's remarks, the MCAA hosted a trade show exhibit that featured nearly 90 companies on Tuesday morning.

Hamlisch entertained the group Tuesday evening, playing some of his famous tunes such as the theme songs from The Way We Were and The Sting. He also "composed" a song or two, as the audience offered titles of unpublished songs for which Hamlisch created lyrics and music on the spot. As an added treat, Mark McVey, who portrayed Jean Valjean in more than 2,000 performances of the Broadway show Les Miserables, teamed up with Hamlisch for a few songs.

Even an educational seminar featured a celebrity. Actress/comedian Lily Tomlin presented a seminar in the spouse program. Additional meeting sessions covered risk management and the construction of environmentally sensitive green buildings.

UA Updates

On Wednesday morning, when new United Association (UA) General President Bill Hite took the stage, he referred to the recent turmoil besieging the UA: The union is undergoing an investigation regarding misappropriation of funds.

"Everything that transpired during the last administration is being investigated and will be dealt with in the appropriate fashion should any wrongdoing be discovered," Hite said. "But, the past is the past, and today is the future."

He went on to discuss the partnership that exists between the UA, MCAA, and contractor employers. The UA has lost ground in some markets over the last 20 to 30 years; however, membership is on the upswing with 330,000 members and 300 local unions.

One of Hite's recent efforts to regain a foothold in some markets has been a successful relationship with the banking industry. All National City and Fifth Third bank branches will request union labor for all of their expansions. Hite said he envisions an opportunity to parlay this model into more business opportunities with drugstores, grocery stores, and other retail businesses.

MCAA President Mike Gossman (right) hands off the gavel to President-Elect Stanley Berger at the closing session of MCAA 2005, ending both the convention and his term as MCAA president.

Awards Ceremony

Following Hite's remarks, the Awards of Excellence commenced. Annual competitors were recognized for their efforts in the Sunday fun run and walk, golf tournament, and tennis tournament. Other awards included:

  • The Best Practices Awards recognize affiliated associations for programs and activities that lead to industry improvement. Recipients were MCA of Akron, Ohio, for its MCAA Intranet program; Eastern Iowa, Western Illinois for its MCA Pipe Dreams program; Twin Cities Piping Industry Association for its program; and the ARCA/MCA of Southern California for its Succession Planning Initiative.

  • Annual Safety Awards honor those companies that achieved safety excellence, as well as those that have shown the most improvement. The winners in each category were Coleman/Spohn Corp., Cleveland; Midwest Mechanical Contractors, St. Louis; RMF Nooter, Inc., Toledo, Ohio; and J.H. Kelly, LLC, Longview, Wash.

  • The Foster McCarl Jr. Philanthropy Award, presented by the Mechanical Contracting Education and Research Foundation, was awarded to Bill Bianco of Kinetics Systems, Union City, Calif.

  • MCAA's Educator of the Year Award was presented to Tim Wentz of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

  • The MCAA Student Chapter of the Year Award was presented to the MCA of Indiana Student Chapter at Purdue University.

  • The first-place winner of MCAA's 2004-05 Student Chapter Competition was the Oregon State University Student Chapter. The $5,000 award is to be split between the chapter and the university.

  • MCAA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, was presented to Tom Mikulina, vice president of industry relations for Trane, in recognition for contributions to the association and the industry at the utmost level. Mikulina is the first-ever non-contractor recipient of the MCAA's highest honor.

  • In addition, the following student chapters received their charters: Oregon State University Student Chapter of the MCAA; University of Toledo Student Chapter of the MCA; Northern California MCA Student Chapter at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo; and the Student Chapter at University of Wisconsin at Fox Valley.

    The 2006 MCAA National Convention will be held March 19-23 in Maui, Hawaii. For more information, visit

    The Oregon State University Student Chapter of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America won the student competition. Representatives from the chapter accept the award with MCAA President Mike Gossman and Jack Wilhelmi, the chair of the Career Development Committee and new MCAA board member.

    Sidebar: Student Competition Heats Up

    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Having made its first appearance at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) annual convention in 2002, the MCAA Student Chapter Competition has grown from rather humble beginnings to its current status as a "must see" convention event.

    The final four teams in the 2004-2005 competition represented student chapters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Washington, Purdue University, and Oregon State University. The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges - contractors from the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia areas - who evaluated and scored written technical proposals from 14 teams representing current and soon-to-be chartered MCAA student chapters.

    The first-place team, Oregon State University, received $5,000. The second-place team, University of Washington, received $2,500, and the other two finalist teams each received $1,000. Competition results were announced at the All-Member Award of Excellence Breakfast on Wednesday, March 2, 2005.

    During the session, all four finalist teams proposed their solution to a panel of three contractor judges: Robert T. Armistead, Armistead Mechanical, Waldwick, N.J.; Kenneth A. Durr, Durr Mechanical Construction Inc., New York; and Daniel T. Liscinsky, John J. Kirlin Inc. Baltimore Division, Linthicum, Md. Each judge represented a specific interest that would normally be involved in a mechanical proposal process, i.e., general contractor, owner, and school. The project involved the construction of a 35,000-square-foot Dramatic Arts building on a college campus in Denver. The project included site preparation, complete interior/exterior plumbing system, and extension of utility services from the existing central utilities plant located in the adjacent block to the south (approximately 300 feet, crossing one street).

    Each of the four teams had 20 minutes to deliver a proposal to the judges. Fifteen minutes were allotted for the prepared presentation and five minutes set aside for questions and answers. Though the judges generally asked the same questions of each team, they did ask questions specific to the team's proposal when warranted.

    The winner of the competition, Oregon State University, proposed an alternate solution to the regenerative ventilation dual duct system (RVDD) that was already present in the campus central plant. The team's proposal included one domestic pumping station and one hydronic pumping station. The total guaranteed maximum price (GMP) was $1,375,059 within a 14-month completion schedule. The team suggested a unique directional boring technique in order to stay clear of a special campus garden site and also in order to minimize student safety hazards associated with excavation on a college campus.

    - Mike Murphy

    Publication date: 03/28/2005