US Builders Review                                                    

S. P. McCarl & Company Inc.

Industrial and commercial mechanical contracting services in Pennsylvania
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Dave Gushee

S. P. McCarl & Company Inc. (McCarl) has roots dating back to 1946, when Foster McCarl Jr. established the business after being discharged from the Air Force. The company quickly grew in reputation, providing comprehensive plumbing and heating services as McCarl’s Plumbing & Heating Company. Over the years, the company has grown and diversified, extending services to heavy industrial and commercial applications.

By the 1980s, then known as McCarl’s Inc., the company was one of the 50 largest mechanical contractors in the country. The business is now in its second generation of family ownership. 

Since 1996, McCarl – originally a branch office of McCarl’s Inc. – has been owned and operated by Foster’s youngest son, Shawn McCarl, who serves as president and CEO.

Shawn works with a strong managerial team, including Elizabeth Burke, vice president, CFO and COO, as well as Stephen A. Shank, vice president and director of construction. In business development, Kevin Guthrie began his career as an engineer in the manufacturing industry and started working with McCarl in 2001.

S.P. McCarl & Company Inc.

Building partnerships

The company has thrived in the renewable energy markets with a number of unique projects in various cogeneration plant facilities. While the team performs a range of project contract types, recurring business partnerships are the bread and butter of the company’s operations.

In 2013, the company completed a project through a partnership with NORESCO, a large energy services contractor, working together for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) and Department of Corrections (DOC).

McCarl’s heavy industrial experience made the company an ideal design-build partner for NORESCO.  Triggered by the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act, the project resolved to improve mechanical efficiencies for the department’s SCI Huntington and SCI Smithfield campuses while also addressing EPA concerns regarding emissions.

Scope of work for the McCarl team included construction of a new boiler house, bag house and ash handling system for the Smithfield facility. The steam from the new boiler plant now serves the energy needs for both locations. The project included a range of energy conservation measures to create energy savings for both campuses.

The McCarl crew was responsible for demolition of existing mechanical systems, rooftop unit replacement, condensate return units and piping placement, hot water exchanger installations, steam trap replacement and installation of variable air volume dampers. Throughout the duration of the project, McCarl worked closely with NORESCO and the DOC campuses to ensure safety and efficiency within the security restraints of these settings.  Under a separate contract with DGS, McCarl installed a steam line interconnecting the two prison facilities for the DOC enabling the shuttering of the old boiler plant at SCI Huntingdon leading to significant cost savings for the Commonwealth.

An exciting development for the McCarl team has been a growing partnership with Penn State University. In early 2013, the company competed against several leading mechanical contractors for a Job Order Contract (JOC), beating out the competition by selling value and strong capabilities.

“We collaborate with the school’s engineers, project managers and project coordinators from design concept to completion,” Guthrie details. “This partnership has been a huge factor in our success over the last two years.”

While McCarl employees are typically on campus every day performing maintenance and construction work for the school, the contract includes larger, more specific projects that are established through a pricing guide agreed upon by the school and McCarl. The company’s first major project under the JOC was a mechanical upgrade for Penn State’s Theater Building.

“Essentially, all of the HVAC piping was decaying at an alarming rate,” Guthrie recounts. “We met with our campus partners to discuss the options and after we sat there for 45 minutes going over the information, we asked the building owner if he had any concerns. He had several. The building had to be useable in just over a month and he wasn’t sure the project was feasible. Key members of that team did a walk through and our project manager, along with the PSU project coordinator, engineer and building owner ended up devising a phased plan to address the challenges through collaboration.  It was a classic example where upfront teamwork overcame tremendous challenges that would have otherwise been impossible to accomplish.”

Holding steady

While the construction industry in much of the country has seen steady growth in recent years, Guthrie explains that central Pennsylvania has been slow to recover. “The work volume here is very challenging,” he says. “This region was harmed greatly by the crash in 2008 and we just have not seen the recovery. The Marcellus Shale activity has helped alleviate some of that loss of work in the region, but the atmosphere is still pretty brutal.”

To combat this lag in market activity, Guthrie and his partners are looking to do more JOC work. “Partnering is something we have focused on for many years. The classic model is that a project is put out to bid and the lowest price gets the job, without taking into account qualifications, experience or quality of work. I don’t believe in that approach. We want to provide the best value to our customers through collaborative design-build work. We strive to take on work where we establish a cohesive team early on, we are committed to working with that team and we can accomplish common goals for the good of the customer, contractors and engineers.”

Not long after the market crash in late 2008, the management team at McCarl got together to talk about what the team wanted the company to represent and accomplish. “We established a new vision,” Guthrie says. “The statement we came out with is: ‘to be your trusted partner… always there for each other.’ This is something we have carried for the last five years. We take our mission very seriously and our team seeks customers that have interests in building a partnership. Our relationship with Penn State has been a huge success in that regard.”

Over the coming years, the McCarl team is holding steady to the company mission. The company’s leadership is seeking progressive minded partners who see the value in an integrated project delivery model, working together as a team.

Guthrie does not see any major growth in the company’s immediate future, instead focusing on building relationships and creating a sustainable business model. By working outside of traditional project formats, S.P. McCarl & Company Inc. is holding ground as an evolving force in the central Pennsylvania construction market.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Union Local 354- Plumbers & Pipe Fitters
Union Local 520- Plumbers & Pipe Fitters