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JOURNALISM: MCI Design-Build Corporation[Download .doc version]

Cover Story: MCI Design-Build Corporation
by Jeffrey Reed, Special to Business London Magazine January 2013

It’s late on a Friday afternoon within the nerve centre of London contractor MCI Design-Build Corporation, yet the firm’s Big Three aren’t counting down the hours until the weekend. Instead, founder and president Paul Massé, son Scott Massé, vice president operations/project management, and vice president construction and estimating Brad Zimmer exchange banter during a two-hour reflection of the firm’s roots, success and future.

One statement clearly stands out from this roundtable discussion, when Paul Massé states, “We don’t sell buildings. We sell confidence.” And just like a labourer hammers the last nail on a project, Massé’s words complete the definition of MCI Design-Build’s secret of success. In fact, these are times of change and growth for the award-winning contractor formed in 1987. But long before the 2081 Oxford Street East-headquartered company tackled multi-million-dollar projects for high-profile clients in London and southwestern Ontario, MCI Design-Build laid a solid foundation through blood, sweat and tears.

In January 1987, hometown boy Paul Massé took his six-year stint as an architectural draftsperson, and 15-year stay with prominent London contractor McKay-Cocker Construction, and jumped feet first into untested waters of entrepreneurship. Massé Construction Incorporated (MCI) was born. As the 64-year-old does today, Massé lived for the moment – and with no regrets. “I left (McKay-Cocker) because I wanted to try it. I didn’t want to be 50 years old and say, why didn’t I do it? So I made the move. And it was frightening,” says Massé.

Writing cheques without work, and with Massé handling all estimating and drafting details, MCI saw tough economic times through the early-1990s. Its first job involved an office and warehouse addition to a mechanical contractor’s headquarters on Stronach Crescent, and its second job involved additions to a downtown law office. “After five years in business, it was really, really tough,” says Massé, “but you must have faith and stick with it.”

Today, that perseverance and positive outlook sees MCI Design-Build with a solid reputation amongst the industrial-commercial-institutional sectors. In particular, the firm has cemented a name for itself through its design-build capabilities. The design-build method of construction is the most cost-effective and efficient method available to purchasers of design and construction services. It’s the only method providing a single source of responsibility for the design, costing and completion of an entire construction project, and emphasizes an “on-time, on-budget” methodology.

“Our clients have come to appreciate the inherent value of the design-build process,” says Scott Massé, 32, and as heir apparent at MCI Design-Build already boasting 16 years with the company. “(Clients appreciate) the integrated approach and overall project cost savings, but even more importantly, the single course accountability and pride in craftsmanship that the project approach uses.”

A quick glance at past projects from MCI Design-Build reads like a Who’s Who of the local construction map. Covering a wide spectrum – a testament to the firm’s diversity – they include notable commercial plazas, industrial plants and warehouses, restaurants, offices, health and fitness clubs, golf course clubhouses, auto dealerships, places of worship, retirement and nursing homes, as well as healthcare offices and clinics – just to name a few. Working mainly within the Windsor-London-Toronto corridor, or two-hours from its London office, MCI Design-Build will travel to further destinations for customers whom are sourced mainly from word-of-mouth and referrals.

“At this point, we don’t have to aggressively pursue (other geographical areas),” explains Zimmer, with MCI Design-Build for 22 years and carrying 31 years of industry experience. “We have a nice little area that serves us very well. But if one of our customers says, ‘I have a place in Barrie’ or ‘North Bay’, we’ll certainly pack up and go.”

In 2012, MCI Design-Build needed only to travel to Chatham to complete a project which claimed the latest victory for the firm. Its crack team worked its design-build magic for the new Anjema Eye Institute, a state-of-the-art medical centre providing advanced clinical and surgical care, including: cataract surgery; glaucoma laser and medical treatment; retinal laser; wet and dry age-related macular degeneration diagnostics and treatment; eyelid tumour removal and reconstruction; and cosmetic eyelid surgery.

Offering the most advanced diagnostics available, Dr. Christopher Anjema trained at the Ivey Institute at Western University in Ophthalmology, and completed his fellowship training at Emory University in Atlanta. An associate professor at the Schulich School of Medicine at Western, Dr. Anjema is involved with researching new treatments in several areas, including new intraocular lens implants for cataract surgery, new Glaucoma drops, and anti-VEGF medications for macular disease.

That construction project took top prize at the London and District Construction Association’s (LDCA) first annual Project Excellence Awards, in the category of: Commercial ($1-$9 million) Arena/Auditorium, Recreation, Call Centre, Bank, Retail/Department Store, Restaurant, Professional Office, Hotel/Motel, Theatre, Funeral Home.

Former LDCA executive director Derek Smith, who joined the MCI Design-Build team in October 2012 after five years with the 575-member association, helped establish the new awards program. Smith, who now plays a key role in MCI Design-Build’s expansion of in-house design capabilities as director of project development, boasts two decades of construction design/administrative experience. He used his knowledge and expertise to also help the LDCA form its Young Construction Executives Club, which counts Scott Massé as a member, and he was part of the LDCA’s push for the use of information and communication technology throughout the five phases of a construction project. The association was the first mixed-trade construction association in Canada to investigate and launch a Building Information Modeling (BIM) training program for its members.

“(LDCA wanted) to recognize excellence in a peer-to-peer environment,” said Smith of the Project Excellence Awards, based on customer and trade satisfaction, workmanship and complexity, LDCA trade loyalty and qualification, project management and execution, and safety record.

“Patient flow is very important, and Dr. Anjema was very adamant in wanting to keep people moving … instead of sitting in one location and feeling like you are there for hours,” says Paul Massé of design requirements for the new medical centre which Scott Massé calls a “hospital grade facility.

“The biggest challenge from a construction standpoint was satisfying the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) expectations for a clinic, or an OR (Operating Room). It’s one of the first in Ontario with a privatized operating room, so accessing the documentation in order to satisfy sterility issues, post-op and pre-op, hospital grade and size was difficult,” adds Massé. In fact, the College of Surgeons followed procedures in its inspection of the building, which Paul Massé says still needed to fall within budget.

While striving to build on budget and on time, MCI Design-Build has also recently adopted a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. This involves conducting business in a socially responsible and ethical manner, protecting the environment and safety of people, and engaging, learning from, respecting and supporting the communities and cultures with whom they work.

“We’ve been doing this all along,” says Paul Massé, “but we didn’t realize it. We thought we would make a policy, and advertise it. But we still like to fly under the radar a little bit. We don’t like to be flashy.”

“CSR … allows our employees, leadership and most importantly our clients and partners to understand the foundation of the company and what tested business practices we ascribe to,” says Smith.

In total, 22 staff members plus eight office staff – including many long-time employees – make the MCI Design-Build business model work like the well-oiled machines on construction sites. And with Paul Massé now lessening his on-site duties and passing the torch to a younger generation, he also sees a smooth transition in a second generation succession. If anything, Scott Massé has recognized his father’s stamina and determination, since Paul suffered a heart attack in 2009 yet remains as enthusiastic as ever about the company and its future.

So does Zimmer, who says “finding people who are capable of doing the work” is the biggest key to future success. Paul Massé adds, “I think the sky is the limit. It will be up to (Scott and Brad) as far as where it stops. They do need to find the right people, and it is getting more and more difficult.”

An avid golfer, Paul Massé spends time at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in London, at his home in St. Joseph, Ontario and at his Florida home in the Pelican Preserve golf community in Fort Myers.

“I feel very fortunate that these guys, especially my son, are willing to carry on,” says Massé. I’m not going to do this when I’m 70.” But there’s no doubt those who carry the torch will continue to build on Massé’s vision from 1987 as they look to the future.


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