Case Studies

Mackin & Little Mechanical Inc.

Professionalism with a personal touch in the pipeline

Building good relationships begins on the home front at Mackin & Little Mechanical Inc., a contractor in Spokane, Washington, that specializes in industrial piping, commercial plumbing and wet side heating.

There’s no gap among the ranks, says Vice President and CEO George Renner, who, along with partner Mark Mackin, oversees a team of more than 70 plumbers, welders, project managers and support staff.

“A positive corporate culture generates closer relationships with clients, ensuring repeat business,” Renner says. “Everybody leans on everybody for support to pull the horse in the right direction.”

Mackin & Little Mechanical Inc.

Several times a year that direction leads to some extracurricular fun, not without purpose. This can happen several hundred miles west, aboard a chartered bus to a Seattle Seahawks game, or much closer to home in the local rink where the Spokane Chiefs play in the Western Hockey League—one of the NHL’s prime training grounds for prospects. The company is also a regular at Spokane Indians games, the single-A affiliate of the American League’s Texas Rangers.

For those who aren’t sports inclined, there are also parties and picnics, with activities aplenty for kids and an open guest list. Spouses, significant others, children, grandchildren, grandparents, nieces and nephews are all welcome as part of an extended Mackin & Little family, Renner says.

It is at these events where Renner feels he can best assess the needs and concerns of a work force he chooses carefully and wants to retain. Whether it’s gripes or gratitude, he wants to hear about it. Sagging morale reduces efficiency in many workplaces, and he’s not about to let it take root at one of the go-to companies of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. In a region where the construction industry is again humming, efficiency and integrity are essential, and he considers them both cornerstones at Mackin & Little.

“A well-oiled machine is created from relationships based on mutual trust and respect,” he says. “Without that foundation and the longevity it generates, we would not be able to deliver an excellent product every time.”

Family ties strengthened

Mackin & Little hires right out of the union hall for an initial “test drive” and should the new person be a good fit, he or she will be nurtured with on-the-job training. As a result, that person is likely to be there for years, if not decades, and feel part of a greater mission.

“I don’t mind if a spouse calls me with a concern,” Renner says. “I want that relationship with my employees and their families. Our employees are not laborers; they are family and that extends to everyone who depends on them. That is one of the best ways to build continuity.”

When issues do arise, Renner says he operates through a lens of compassion and consideration.

“Maybe one of 40 times, there’s an issue that can’t be settled with a holistic look at the situation, and when that occurs you just say ‘good luck and you know where we’re at,’” Renner says. “Nine times out of 10, they will come back because they know we value them and treat them that way.”

Business in the pipeline

While Renner says “our real lives are outside these walls,” Mackin & Little is plenty demanding of those it entrusts to work on projects in Washington as well as the other states where the company is licensed—Oregon, Montana, Idaho and California, with Alaska likely to be added to the list soon.

Mackin & Little US Builders Review

Mackin & Little’s projects tend to be large in scale, with clients including hospitals, universities, hotels and condominiums, senior living facilities, paper mills, aluminum plants, dams, shopping centers and office buildings. With the recession of a decade ago just a memory, the company’s services are in such demand that Renner can be selective about which work he’ll undertake.

“There’s more demand than supply,” he says, explaining that a loosened money supply has the private and public sectors reactivating projects that had long been on hold. “We recognize which jobs have the most potential. Our customers know us well, and that we won’t overextend. We’ll always deliver.”

He was thrilled to have his company chosen to upgrade the historic Davenport Hotel, deemed by many to be “Washington’s grandest” and one that has prided itself on efficient plumbing and heating since its 1914 opening. Modernizing those functions was “a real feather in our cap,” according to Renner.

Located in the heart of downtown Spokane, the grand old hotel lives up to its name and has hosted luminaries ranging from Charles Lindbergh to Amelia Earhart to Babe Ruth to John F. Kennedy. But like any complex that’s past the century mark, it was showing its age. Its entry on the National Register of Historic Places was a reminder that work had to proceed in an extremely sensitive manner. To date, it’s been Mackin & Little’s biggest and most profitable project.

Not too far east of Spokane, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Mackin & Little outfitted the emergency department and surgery wing at Kootenai Health, a medical center and full-service hospital.

Among the company’s many other projects have been the piping and wiring of a massive building that will handle snow removal at Spokane International Airport, and the workings for a fish hatchery by the Columbia River—something of a personal cause for Renner, who relishes fly-casting for trout, salmon and steelheads.

Another passion for Renner and the Mackin & Little team is sustainable energy. “We were fortunate enough to be part of the design-build team for the Saranac, a series of older buildings in Spokane that were renovated to include a cutting-edge ‘green’ mechanical system,” he says.

And while the bids had yet to be sorted out this spring for various water-treatment plants in the region, Renner seemed confident that the company would secure work on that front as well.

Bullish on Gonzaga

Upon wrapping up a lengthy phone conversation from his Spokane office in late March, Renner had to clear up some loose ends prior to catching a plane to Phoenix, where the Gonzaga University basketball team was playing in the Final Four.

For the better part of 20 years, Mackin & Little has had professional and personal ties with the private university in Spokane, with the company’s mechanical expertise running through academic and athletic buildings alike, and Renner and colleagues cheering on the Bulldogs in all sports.

Mackin & Little US Builders Review

This past spring was shaping up as something extra special. Coming off of four postseason wins, the Bulldogs romped into Arizona on a high note and on Saturday, April 1, they held off South Carolina 77-73 in the semifinals. But come Monday, the Bulldogs fell short against the other Carolina, 71-65.

A great game and great Final Four notwithstanding, it was still a disappointing end for the Gonzaga faithful, including—and maybe especially—Renner. But come next fall, he’ll be back cheering on the Bulldogs.

After all, Gonzaga University is both neighbor and extended family to Renner. And that means everything to this man for whom community is all things.

Published on: June 20, 2017

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