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: Having worked with several competitors, what can you tell us about what sets Welch and Rushe apart?
DAVID WELCH: One of Welch and Rushe’s greatest advantages is we are a union shop. We hire mainly Plumbers Local 5 and Steamfitters Local 602. One of the biggest advantages that we get is the training. Both the plumbers and the steamfitters have an outstanding training program. Having gone through the steamfitters program myself, I can attest for that firsthand. We get very well trained, experienced journeyman that come to work for us, and apprentices. And the way that the program works, the apprentices will be working on-the-job learning and going to school at night. For five years, they are totally immersed in their trade and then, if they become journeyman, they are free to move from company to company. From the union halls, we get good, solid, trained individuals, so we know when we’re calling either Local 5 or Local 602 that we’re getting experienced, trained journeymen. We are getting the best tradesmen that are out there. The perception is that the union employees are more expensive, and a lot of times they can be more expensive, but it can also be a lot more expensive to have to do a job two or three times. We know that our union journeymen are going to do the job once.
Tell us about your corporate culture. How do you keep your union and nonunion workers equally engaged?
One of the ways that Welch and Rushe integrates our union workers with our nonunion workers and keeps a consistent corporate culture, is we have a lot of—well, I’d say the word “meetings.” We have a lot of meetings. We have a lot of get-togethers. At least once a year, if not twice a year, we’ll have a summer picnic or a Christmas party. We have all the employees field and office to keep everybody together. We have frequent meetings with our foreman and our project managers—our coordinators. The main thing is communication. We let the men in the field know what our expectations are.
Another thing that we do for our key union employees: we take very good care of them and we keep them here. We don’t load up when we have a job and, when that job is over, send everyone back to the hall, then load up again for the next big job. We have our core men that we take care of. We have employees here that have been here 30 or 40 years now. Our average employee in the field probably has five or 10 years with us. Personally, I started over 30 years ago at Welch and Rushe. One of our vice-presidents, Larry Graves—he’s in his 30th year at Welch and Rushe. Our director of HR, Mary Munoz—she’s been here for over 30 years now. And we’ve got quite a few employees in the 20 to 25 year range, so, really, what we do to keep that corporate culture strong throughout the different union employees coming in. Our union employees that have been here for so long—they teach the new employees that come in, the new union employees, about the way things are done here, so we can stay consistent with our culture.
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