It’s What Inside that Counts

Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors

This year, Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors, Inc. (MMC) celebrates 55 years in the construction industry. The company has a long history of adapting to changing markets which roots it firmly in the 21st century. Customers benefit from specialized design, installation and service of mechanical systems at the best value.
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One of Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors’ most impressive and confidence-inspiring statistics is its engineers’ and technicians’ 1,400 years of combined experience on nearly 300,000 different projects. The company prides itself on its unique approach to customer service and the strength of its people. MMC president, Kristin Schultes, shares some of the company’s gains and initiatives with us.

Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors was founded in 1963, and in 1981, owner Kenneth H. Gilbert sold it to five of his employees. With 125 workers and around $12M in revenue, they were off to a great start. Always ahead of the pack, the company rebranded in 1995, in a process that included absolutely everything, from its logo to its field vehicles. In 2000, the company was sold to Exelon, but just eight years later, eight employees bought it back, with Mark Anderson as the largest shareholder.

Growth was exponential and in 2011, the company’s owners sold to APi Group, Inc. MMC merged with Doody Mechanical and in 2014, was awarded its largest project ever – the Sanford Fargo Medical Center. “The merger was challenging, as many mergers are, but it has been incredible,” says Kristin. “It is a classic example of how we are stronger together than the individual companies were alone. Here, one plus one equals more than two!” The merger’s success is evident in the numbers – with the company’s earnings at around $200 million annually.

Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors’ primary service is the design and installation of mechanical systems for commercial, healthcare, mission-critical facility, and multi-tenant residential construction projects. The firm also has service and controls divisions, with operations based mainly in Minnesota and extending into the surrounding Midwest area. The team recently completed the Sanford Fargo Medical Center in North Dakota as well as work on the Milwaukee Bucks stadium in Wisconsin and the Brookings Hospital in South Dakota. It recently added a service branch office in Fargo, North Dakota to expand its service footprint.

Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors is well-known for assisting clients in the process of visualizing the complex mechanical systems in large commercial and industrial structures. The cutting-edge virtual building system allows clients to visually “walk” through a building’s systems before any construction begins. But the company doesn’t only design and prefabricate; it also installs a variety of mechanical systems, which include heating, ventilation, air conditioning, medical gas, and plumbing, while a dedicated service division takes care of equipment maintenance, direct replacements, and a host of other services.

Perhaps the company’s most celebrated service is its prefabrication initiative, undertaken in a 50,000 square foot facility at its headquarters. This facility has all the state-of-the-art equipment and talent necessary to execute work efficiently with a high level of quality. Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors offers fabrication of sheet metal, plumbing, and pipefitting at its site; this level of production control allows the team to meet scheduling and cost targets.

MMC is also known for being a leader in modular manufacturing, which takes traditional off-site fabrication to another level. Here, the team combines various disciplines to create fully coordinated modules that may include plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, , fire protection and electrical systems all in one unit. Building off-site in a climate controlled area with proper ergonomics means higher quality and an increased level of safety.

Another initiative that sets the company apart from its competitors is its Assistant Project Manager or APM Academy. The academy is a six-to-eight week formal in-house training program that equips junior project managers with crucial technical expertise. It teaches industry standards and best practices, and the curriculum includes sessions related to every phase of construction. The course involves both classroom and on the job instruction. Attendees learn all key skills necessary for success in the mechanical contracting industry. This is just one of the ways in which MMC ensures that its project managers have all the necessary skills to take any project from its initial estimate to the final close-out.

The company isn’t only an industry leader in the construction and mechanical systems fields. It also sets the standard for diversity in the workplace. “I am passionate about diversity in general,” says Kristin. “Diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams – whether it’s based on background, experience or gender.” Kristin is also passionate about recruiting women and developing them in the industry. She is excited about an incredible leader in the field, Tasha Lawrence, who recruits and retains women and minority leaders in the field. The company provides scholarships for women at two local schools who pursue careers in HVAC – heating, ventilation and air conditioning – as well as plumbing and mechanical engineering. The company provides a platform for women where they can collaborate and be heard.

Kristin Schultes assumed the role of President on January 1, 2017. “The construction industry is very male-dominated and also has a heavy concentration of engineers. Being a female CPA is definitely a non-traditional path,” she says. Kristin is a registered Certified Public Accountant who developed a passion for the construction industry early on in her career. For her, accounting is the language of business and her strong knowledge of financials coupled with her understanding of the industry gives her a well-rounded perspective on the business. She believes very strongly in systems improvement, creative problem solving and teamwork. “Our team was a very strong team in 2017. I’m excited about the future,” she says.

To be sure, Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors’ list of successes is long and illustrious. The company was a critical team member in building Target Center in Minneapolis, so of course, was thrilled to be part of the renovation, which was completed last October. Renovations included the suite level, the TCL 612 Club on Skyway level, locker room areas and concourses. The project also involved construction of a new atrium, new loading dock, and court-side club. Part of the success was that Target Center remained open to the public during the first year of renovations. This created a few unique construction constraints, as much of the work had to be completed during allocated operation times. The team undertook meticulous disruption-avoidance and pre-planning to ensure that all systems functioned optimally. The project was completed in phases, and much of the work happened this past summer, when the center was closed to the public.

As a partially public-funded project, the contract required a percentage of the work to be completed by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBE contractors. MMC utilized many DBE contractors, such as Go Fetsch Mechanical, Total Insulation, MAG Mechanical, Vogel Mechanical, and Quality Cutting and Coring.

The company is currently working on the KA Development Block in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. It is an exciting project for the team. The first phase comprised HVAC and plumbing installation for Kraus-Anderson’s new office headquarters. It is now working on the mechanical systems for a brewery and hotel that are on the same block. The greater project is part of a major redevelopment.

Another huge project for Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors is The Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion at Augsburg in Minneapolis. Here, the company was responsible for all building and laboratory mechanical systems. It is the largest building Augsburg has ever built, at about 150,000 square feet. It consists of four floors and will welcome students of all degrees to enjoy the space. Classrooms and labs are configurable and support experiential learning, as well as a range of teaching and learning methods. The interior spaces of the Hagfors Center are built on a modular framework. This allows for flexibility and supports a variety of functions through its capacity to evolve with long-term needs. The design gave MMC the opportunity to work with its sister company, Modulus. Functionally, the greatest part is that the building allows designers to use pre-fabricated modular racks, enabling Augsburg to pursue a LEED Silver certification recognizing the project’s innovative, eco-friendly design.

Currently, Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors has seven designers with LEED certifications. Its green initiative program also rewards environmentally friendly behavior, with elements that include providing compact fluorescent light bulbs for qualifying employees, incentives for carpooling, buying high gas-mileage vehicles, and electrical and water energy savings at home. MMC also pays for energy audits on qualifying employees’ homes.

Last year, the company won the APi Group’s Synergy Award for exemplified leadership and dedication in collaborating with sister companies through opportunity and growth. The Commercial Real Estate Development Association of Minnesota also recently awarded it for its work in the healthcare sector. Its HealthPartners Neuroscience project was recognized for exceptional developments based on its architectural integrity, interior design, LEED certification, site development, integration into the community and the unique challenges that it posed.

Certainly, the company understands challenges. The industry as a whole is experiencing labor shortages, which will remain a challenge with the baby boomer generation retiring. Bu the company is nimble and adaptable. “Workload fluctuates,” says Kristin. “We develop our people and secure steady, profitable work for them as we grow.”

Undeniably, Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors’ strength is in its commitment to excellence, and resilience and creative solutions characterize all it does, “whether it is finding ways to improve quality or reduce construction costs, we care more,” Kristin says.

This company excels at the hard stuff, like medical facilities, data centers and science labs, and it shows in its ethos. Churchill once said that going through failure without the loss of enthusiasm is what constitutes success. Kristin sees that kind of resilience as the real test: “Learning from the little mistakes and the big mistakes. Living a continuous improvement lifestyle,” she says. What wise words to live and work by.

September 15, 2019, 4:27 AM EDT