Interview with MCAA President

Mechanical Hub recently caught up with MCAA president, Michael Cables. As the executive vice president at Kinetics, Fremont, Calif., Cables handles domestic preconstruction activities including estimating, labor relations, safety and quality assurance and control. He started in the industry as an apprentice in Tucson, Arizona. Back in 1984, the business manager of his local union told him that this company, Kinetics, was looking for an estimator.

Cables applied, got the job, and 29 years later, he is still with Kinetics. Here is the rest of the Mechanical Hub exclusive interview with MCAA president. Here is Michael Cables in his own words:

MH: What was it about your early experience in the industry that made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of it?

Cables: I'd heard that if I had a trade, I'd always have a job. That's as true for me today as it was then. Plus, I've all aspects of this industry to be challenging and rewarding. I like challenges, and I like the rewards that come from meeting those challenges!

MH: How has your career at Kinetics help prepare you to this point (MCAA prez)?

Cables: Over the past 29 years, I've worked in a variety of capacities at Kinetics, including running domestic operations. That diversity of experience, combined with my 250 days a year of travel and my background in the trades, has given me a very unique outlook. I tend to see things from a variety of perspectives, including the international viewpoint, since I've spent time in Kinetics operations in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Puerto Rico.

MH: What are some of your goals as president of MCAA?

Cables: I have three front burner issues: continue to provide our members with the industry's best educational resources and opportunities; further our joint strategic planning efforts with our labor partners at the UA; and ensure that MCAA remains at the center of efforts to gain Congressional passage of much-needed multiemployer pension plan reform legislation.

MH: What are some top (2-3) issues facing contractors today? What is your advice in rectifying those issues?

Cables: Most if not all MCAA member firms are well-versed in running a mechanical contracting business. They face the challenges of intense competition and irrational bidding practices, but frankly, that's nothing new. They are excellent at running their business, know the variables, and are good at management.

But the big issues today are often the ones you don't see coming and over which you as an individual company don't have any control. What we worry most about most are the regulatory or legislative changes to our business climate that come seemingly out of left field. The FASB issue of a few years ago comes to mind. Fortunately MCAA as an association acted on our behalf and resolved the situation to everyone's benefit. More recently, we just testified at an IRS hearing on draft rules to implement the Affordable Care Act health care legislation to minimize burdensome requirements. And most importantly, we're very active with our fellow associations working on multiemployer pension plan reform. All of these issues, without concerted action, could have a big negative impact on our companies.

MH: Can you talk about the significance of the MCAA and trade associations in general?

Cables: I can think of no better way to enhance your ability to be successful than to surround yourself with people you can glean experience from and learn from, and this is exactly what MCAA provides. MCAA members who have gotten actively involved in their local and national associations have found that their investment of time and energy provides huge returns. I've learned a lot during my 40-plus years in this industry and can attest to the benefits received, both in friendship and expertise imparted by my fellow MCAA Board members and the past presidents who have mentored me along the way, my peers on the MCAA committees I've served on, and my classmates from MCAA's Advanced Leadership Institute.

MH: Talk about some important programs MCAA has going? (Educational classes, informative seminars, meetings, etc.)

Cables: Recently we introduced the "MCAA Video App" to support training in our industry. With an iPhone or iPad or an Android device, our members can now install an app that gives them instant access, anywhere, anytime, to MCAA's entire library of mechanical construction, service, plumbing and welding safety videos-almost 40 in all. These videos are free to our members as a benefit of MCAA membership, because we don't put a price on the safety of our workers.

Contractors quickly find one of most important benefits of membership in MCAA is the opportunity to network with other contractors from around the country. Being able to discuss your company with contractors you don't compete against is a huge benefit and a key to your success as a contractor, and it is free. Additionally, the access to training courses and best practices provides the tools that enable success. The educational and safety products and programs that the MCAA offers are second to none. These are available to contractors who are affiliated with MCAA, and they provide a wealth of information and knowledge. People who are successful are the people who take advantage of the access to that kind of experience and information. I think it's great. I certainly owe a lot of my success to that.

MH: Please discuss the importance of getting involved in the political process on the state and federal level.

Cables: Political action is more important now than ever before, particularly when regulatory or legislative changes can have such a big impact. By working together, we can get things done, as with our current efforts to effect multiemployer pension plan reform. That's why I'm encouraging MCAA members to consider contributing to the MCAA PAC, participate in our annual National Issues Conference, and to be willing to e-mail, call or write their legislators. We need to get things done, and working together, I am confident we will.

MH: We (Mechanical-hub) are very dedicated in the youth of our trade - young, skilled tradespeople. Can you address the importance of attracting the younger generation to the trades as a viable career choice? What are some ways to attract them?

Cables: Once a young person finds out about the benefits, especially in terms of job security, compensation and benefits, of being a skilled tradesperson, it's not too difficult getting them onboard. Our challenge is getting the word out that this is a viable career choice young people should be considering. MCAA and the UA are constantly working to "spread the word" that the mechanical industry is the "industry of opportunity."

MH: What are some of your hobbies?

Cables: I enjoy spending time with my lovely wife Jennifer, our children and grandchildren. Jennifer and I are both motorcyclists, and we spend three weeks each year on the road together. I also enjoy archery hunting and fly fishing.

MH: The last time you said, "Today is a great day," you were doing what?

Cables: That is a tough one as I think most days are "Great Days." That said, I would probably say that it would be last Saturday while I was riding my 1948 Harley Davidson to a Motorcycle Show, then riding it home after taking 1st place in the show and winning "The People's Choice Award."