A industry-leading mechanical contracting company serving the Washington, DC metro area and beyond
David Welch is the owner–operator of Welch and Rushe Inc., a mechanical contracting company located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Co-founded by David’s father, Linden Welch, in 1966, WRI has grown from a two-man operation to a 200-person operation serving clients locally and internationally. Today, the company is recognized as a leading mechanical contractor in the Washington, DC market, and has worked on numerous projects of national significance, including the National World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol Visitor Center.
OFFIT KURMAN: How did the company get started, and how has it changed since you stepped into the role of CEO?
DAVID WELCH: Welch and Rushe was founded in 1966. My father and James Rushe founded the company, so we just had our 50th anniversary last summer and we’ve been going strong. James and Pete started the company as a plumbing services company. They were originally Welch and Rushe Plumbing Services—all they did was plumbing. Somewhere in the late 1970s they decided to get on to the HVAC side and they hired their first steamfitter, a gentleman named Bob Butland. They started a HVAC service department and that really allowed for quite a bit of growth. There’s more work on the HVAC side than the plumbing side in Washington, DC, so once they acquired an HVAC division, things really started to take off.
In 2000, Jimmy Rushe retired and Pete Welch bought him out. They were about a $15-million-a-year company. I had worked off and on in the trade up until that time, and in 2000 I got a phone call from Pete, asking me to come back to Welch and Rushe. I was working for a competitor at that time. From 2000 to 2008, we went from $15 million to $80 million and we did it mainly based on our reputation. Of course, those were some incredible times. The construction industry in Washington, DC was just booming. We took advantage of that and experienced quite a bit of growth, and we have used that strength and all of our lessons from 2008 to now to sustain us and keep us strong, and we kept a pretty decent market share in Washington, DC.
When did you realize you wanted to run the company?
I decided that I would like to be the owner of Welch and Rushe probably somewhere in the late 1980s. I actually wanted to be a farmer, and I was going to go to college to become a farmer. Agriculture was my first love, and I realized sometime—three or four semesters into college—that business was more my interest. I switched my major to business administration, ended up going through Steamfitters Local 602, did a five-year apprenticeship, and started working in Welch and Rushe. I left Welch and Rushe as a first-year apprentice. I did it purposely. My father and I had decided it would be best to work with different companies to learn different corporate cultures, see the way different companies run. I probably worked for maybe four or five different companies throughout my career. In 2000, I came back and started working this last stretch for Welch and Rushe. In 2006, I took Welch and Rushe over. My father decided it was time to retire, so I took the company over. In 2011, I bought the company from him.
The reason I had made a change when I was in college from business administration to getting into steamfitting—I was at the University of Maryland, I was three semesters in, and my father came to me one day and said, “I don’t know why you’re in college. You should be a steamfitter. You should go through the trade. You can eventually take over my company.” I was three semesters into college, left college, which was a mistake, went through a five-year apprenticeship program then, ended up getting married, and then I decided to go back and finish my business administration degree. It worked out well, because now I’ve got a five year apprenticeship, so I’m a journeyman with Steamfitters Local 602. I also have my business administration degree, so it’s the best of both worlds.
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