Local 75 and 78 host Firestop Market Recovery Programs

Two Insulator Local Unions and their signatory contractors came together in an effort to enter or grow market share in the burgeoning firestop industry.

Mechanical Insulators Local 75 in South Bend, Ind., and Local 78 in Birmingham, Ala., each hosted a Firestop Market Recovery Program event sponsored by the Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT).

Local 75 hosted the FMRP from May 8-11.

Both Locals want to gain market share in the growing firestopping industry as work hours in the Mechanical Insulation industry have decreased for several reasons, including the continual shuttering of coal-fired power plants.

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Industry leaders support firestop technology

Local 75 Business Manager Andrew Miller, President Andrew Regnier and Vice President Keith Werner all attended the event.

A few Local 75 signatory contractors also participated. They were represented by Kevin Gradeless, Kem Gradeless and Mark Lehkor. Local 75 member Chad Robakowski also attended the class because he is interested in starting his own firestopping company and becoming a new signatory contractor. The Local 78 class was held from June 5-8.

Local 78 Business Manager Craig Francis took part in the training, along with Business Agent and Organizer Jacob Stanley, President Christopher Kugler and Apprentice Coordinator Justin Walker, as well as members Christopher Howard, Trevor Morgan and Eric Robertson.

Local 48 Atlanta Business Agent and Organizer Kenneth Slaven attended the event, as well. The employers were represented by Luke Lewis and Jason Kelly.

In both cases, the involvement of both Locals and their signatory contractors helped create a unique perspective on the firestop market.

Safety starts with mechanical insulation 

As part of the training, an assessment of each of the existing markets was conducted and then compared to other areas and best practices to ensure a customized approach appropriate for the specific market was developed.

Firestop contractor techniques and development were also addressed during the four-day class.

Upon completion of the program, all parties gained knowledge of firestopping, its intended purpose, where to bid and how to complete bids economically to increase the market share.

“I feel this course helped the contractors see the true market of the firestop industry in our area,” said Francis.“Going to college dorms, hotels, apartment complexes and the like, we have noticed very little of our traditional mechanical insulation being used. Our work in those types of buildings is about 85 percent firestop. The contractors also learned that there is just as much money to be made in firestop as there is in mechanical insulation.”image008 (1)

For Local 75’s Reginer, this class was the first step in reclaiming the work.

"The leadership of Local 75 felt it was important for our Local to start reclaiming some of the firestopping market share,” he said. “Local 75 and our contractors are currently not doing any firestopping in our jurisdiction, and this needs to change.”

While all parties were welcome to attend all four days of the class, the first two days of the course were dedicated to the Union side, while the last two days focused on the contractors.

Over the course of the FMRP, various topics were reviewed that covered a vast amount of firestop industry knowledge. It also helped both labor and management realize how important it is to respect and value each commitment in order to have a true, vested partnership.

Just as important was the dialog between the participants about their prior experiences, good and bad, in order to help develop a strategy for future initiatives.

The LMCT’s Firestop Market Recovery Program was facilitated by Tom Dake Sr. and Tom Dake Jr., representatives from Superior Insulation. Superior is a signatory contractor with multiple Insulator Local Unions and a national leader in the firestop industry.

Reginer appreciated how the class was conducted, which allowed all participants to gain a better understanding of both sides of the industry.

“Superior did a great job showing both sides of the fire-stopping market,” he said. “They show what it is like on the contractor side, and they also demonstrated everything that goes into firestopping from a union member perspective.”

For Francis, the class offered the Local’s leadership and contractors confirmation of what he and Stanley had been telling them about firestop in the Birmingham area.

"Hearing it from a contractor who has been successful in the industry really helped,” he said. “When they saw the spreadsheet on the manhours and profits, it got their attention.”

The contractors who are successful with sustainable firestop work have increased and enhanced their mechanical insulation opportunities as well, he noted.

Host a Firestop program at your Local 

For Locals 75 and 78 and their signatory contractors, the FMRP was the start of the journey to capture the firestop market within their jurisdiction.

Thanks to the course, each partner now understands the commitment that must be made in order to successfully work together and accomplish the ultimate goal of capturing the Firestop market.

Francis thinks more Locals should consider hosting the program.

"I recommend all Locals pursue the [firestop] work and to host the FMRP in their area,” he said.

In the case of Local 75, the class opened the eyes of one of their largest signatory contractors to an additional market that could create substantial revenue in the long run.

"I believe that the class was very successful. One of our biggest signatory contractors, Valley Insulation, is seriously considering getting into the firestop market,” Reginer said.

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