Aero Mechanical Inc.
Quality, competitive pricing and timely delivery are three factors that set Johnston, Rhode Island-based Aero Mechanical Inc. apart from the competition. Founded in 1987 by Michael St. Martin, the company traces its roots back to St. Martin’s days as a plumber’s apprentice. In that role St. Martin learned the trade, as well as picking up some best practices that he would come to employ when working to get Aero Mechanical off the ground.
“One of the first things I noticed was how fast the bills came in compared to how the payments came in,” says St. Martin, president and owner of Aero Mechanical. “I learned within days that I needed to develop a great relationship with the bank so I acquired a small line of credit and learned a lot in the process.”
Over the course of almost 30 years Aero Mechanical has grown into one of the state’s leading commercial plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors. In addition to being a full-service mechanical contractor, Aero Mechanical also has 24 hour service, sheet metal and fire protection divisions.
While the company regularly performs work throughout Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts, an estimated 90 percent of Aero Mechanical’s work comes from general contractors, construction managers and owners based in Rhode Island. The company has a particularly strong presence in the health care and educational markets, completing projects for some of the state’s most recognizable institutions.
“We really have an outstanding list of clients, including some high profile clients who demand and expect a very high level of quality and service. Fortunately we have performed for them where others have failed,” says St. Martin. Earning them the best places to work award and contractor of the year for a major defense contractor.
Work has been slow in recent years as Rhode Island continues to emerge from a prolonged economic slump, but St. Martin is optimistic that a turnaround is beginning to take hold. “I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he says.
A leader in the education market
Aero Mechanical has developed a reputation as a mechanical contractor that can be counted on to deliver projects within a tight timeframe. This has been especially helpful when it comes to landing education-related work where contractors typically have a short window to turn around a project before students return to school.
The ability to meet tight deadlines came into play at a recent project for Nathanial Green Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island. “It was a very fast job with a tight 10 week schedule to install an entire fire protection system in less than three months during the summer while school is out. It was a challenge, but it’s what we specialize in and aided by our in house fire designer we finished with two weeks to spare,” says St. Martin.
Other recent projects in the education sector include a plumbing, sheet metal and mechanical job for Providence College’s new School of Business, as well as a HVAC work at Bryant University’s new gym and Innovation Center.
Keeping up with the times
As technology becomes steadily more integrated into our everyday lives, St. Martin and the team at Aero Mechanical are working to ensure the company is not left behind. “When I started the fax machine was the most complicated piece of technology we had, but technology is changing every day and keeps moving forward whether you’re on board or not,” he says.
With system like building information modeling (BIM) becoming more popular with every passing construction season, Aero Mechanical is in the process of developing in-house capabilities that will allow it to compete in an increasingly technology-reliant market.
“Building information modeling (BIM) is the technology of the future, but the challenge is trying to get everyone on board and competent,” says St. Martin.
While technology like BIM has already become commonplace in some construction markets around the country, St. Martin says that companies in Rhode Island are a little behind the times but with the economy recovering it will become a more common requirement.
We have remained strong and ready for the rebound in the Rhode Island economy and we have continually moved forward with the latest technology. BIM is coming and it’s a big change in the industry so we’ve invested in the software and people so that we can build the models in house,” he says.
While such technology is acknowledged as an important part of the industry’s future, St. Martin says that it can often be overwhelming for those who aren’t ready for the change. “The clients I work for want instant feedback, however we are careful to not just give the quick answer but always give the right answer,” he says.
Attracting and retaining talent
“Familiarity and keeping current with technology is not an option, clients expect and deserve the best we can provide. I don’t like the thought of upgrades because it always comes with a learning curve. However it usually makes life easier in the end. My older employees are less optimistic about new technology but they want to work in a place that keeps up and that is especially true when it comes to younger workers,” explains St. Martin. “We have some [millennials] in the field that get an answer to almost any problem in second’s right on their cell phones.”
Integrating the next generation millennial workforce into the businesses has been a continual challenge for many in the construction industry. “There has been so much pressure for kids to go to college but there are opportunities there for these kids to learn a trade and make money instead of spending it on college. I chair an apprentice committee and we are starting to see a significant increase in college eligible kids applying for the program,” St. Martin says.
The construction industry including Aero Mechanical has to be diligent about training the younger worker to take over for its most experienced workers. Those highly trained workers will be hanging up their tool belts at a record clip over the next ten years. “We have some of the best young talent and the highest level of training to stay ahead of the curve,” he says.
Aero Mechanical is committed to its own in-house training program in order to pass down the knowledge to the next generation of tradesmen sure up its roster. “We have a fair amount of work and that provides the opportunity to improve our training program. The primary goal is to give the newer journeymen and apprentices enough exposure to the seasoned foreman to learn from their experience,” he says. “We’re actually just starting a new program where we’re going to put a top level foreman in a field operations position mentoring the younger foremen, building on their experience and gaining confidence.”
As the economy rebounds, Aero Mechanical Inc. is geared up for new projects and planning for the future as one of Rhode Island’s premier mechanical contractors.
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