Merlo Plumbing Company, Inc.
For Norman Merlo, founder, chairman and CEO of Merlo Plumbing Company Inc. (MPC), business is more than a reputation for high quality commercial and industrial-grade plumbing and HVAC; business also revolves around employing some of the finest union tradespeople in the industry. Merlo founded his namesake company in 1983. “Being around for 30 years now, we’ve put a lot of good people to work; at one point we were up to 60 employees,” he shares. “In a way, we’re keeping the economy going.”
However, Merlo admits that keeping things moving along hasn’t been easy in recent years for the St. Louis-based company. “We hit our budget last year and did well, but this year we lowered it a bit because sales and projects were way down in the first quarter from January to June,” he reveals.
Yet, Merlo remains optimistic for the second half of the 2014. “I see the second half of 2014 moving up and construction picking up for St. Louis’ plumbing contractors,” he assures. “In fact, I think we can do double what we’ve done in the first quarter.”
Diversified union service
Indeed, things are looking up for the commercial and industrial contractor that’s been serving the greater St. Louis area for more than 30 years. “We currently employ approximately 30 plumbers and pipefitters, but that fluctuates depending on our workload because we’re 100 percent a union shop,” details Merlo. “Our foothold is mainly in the commercial and industrial plumbing market, we do some institutional work and the occasional residential remodel, as well. In general, we’re working on a range of industrial facilities, hospitals, warehouses and some city water main work.”
MPC’s diversity in markets has allowed for some leeway coming out of the recession. “Last fall, we finished a premium outlet mall in the St. Louis area,” details Merlo. “This project included 100 different retail stores and tenant buildings. We did all of the plumbing and lawn irrigation.”
That is not all MPC has in store, though. “We’re also doing three small projects at the St. Louis Zoo,” continues Merlo. “Also, in Sunset Hills, construction is commencing on Friendship Village, a retirement complex. The earthwork has begun and they should be starting with footings and foundations soon. We’ll be doing the underground plumbing. We have also bid on work at the Ferguson school district and that project should be close to $1 million.”
Restoring a St. Louis landmark
Merlo has even had a hand in some of the city’s most historic sites, including the Grand Basin Fountain, an attraction that’s been drawing crowds since the turn of the century and the World’s Fair. Held in St. Louis’s historic Forest Park, the World’s Fair hosted more than 20 million visitors from around the country.
The Grand Basin and surrounding canals were some of the greatest aquascapes ever constructed in the U.S. At the end of the 1904 World’s Fair, everything was torn down with the exception of the St. Louis Museum of Art, overlooking the Grand Basin.
In honor of the centennial of the fair, Forest Park and its remarkable water features were refurbished and revitalize to their original 1900s grandeur. Clear water also flows once again in the historic Jewel Box in Forest Park, a unique and popular interior fountain located in a shallow rectangular reflecting pool.
Teaming up with MPC, who handled the installation of the Grand Basin fountain equipment along with Conti Electric, was St. Louis-based fountain consulting firm Hydro Dynamics. At full speed, the system turns over approximately 6,400 gallons of water per minute, propelling water up to 50 feet high with spouts from six additional fountains climbing up to 30 feet.
A mass collaboration effort, Forest Park’s Grand Basin and Jewel Box have been brought to new life for generations more to enjoy. After more than 30 years in business, MPC is a go-to for landmark projects and Merlo says the company is focused on constant improvement and innovation.
“We have many safety meetings and require our employees to attain professional education units [PEUs],” he shares. “Some of these classes we have in over own warehouse where we get 30 to 40 people together and talk about new water heaters or piping systems. Hands on situations are good; in fact we had one of these meetings just a few months ago.”
In a competitive St. Louis landscape, Merlo Plumbing Company Inc. continues to build on 30 years with an ongoing commitment to education and quality union craftsmanship.
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