Orlando Plumbing Company finds success ‘The Modern Way’
No job in the Orlando area is too small – or too big – for Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. (MPI). On the residential side, the Winter Springs company gets a constant flow of testimonials from customers like Ken, who wrote, “Modern Plumbing is fast, friendly and gets the job done when they say they will. Prices are the best I can find. They follow up and schedule the work to be done very fast. They are simply the best.”
At the other end of spectrum, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company called on Modern to coordinate plumbing work for the University of Central Florida’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, a 198,000-square-foot research facility. The LEED Silver project included offices, laboratories and a vivarium with more than 24 miles of piping.
When the project was finished in 2009, Modern received an ABC Eagle Award for construction excellence for its work, which included:
• Domestic water, animal water, and laboratory water systems
• Reverse osmosis water systems
• Chemical waste, storm and sanitary systems
• Two natural gas systems
• Lab vacuum, compressed air (regular and high pressure), carbon dioxide and two specialty gas systems
“Regardless of the size of the job, we give our customers the same high level of service, which we call The Modern Way,” said Charles Bracco, Vice President, in a recent interview. “It’s a philosophy based on taking pride in what we do, providing service with honesty and integrity, and doing things right the first time.”
Modern Plumbing is also taking advantage of today’s technology with a dynamic website, including a blog, and a strong social media presence designed to attract service and repair customers. “A large commercial contractor isn’t going to visit our website to see if we can do a $5 million project for them,” said Bracco. “But having an informative and helpful website is crucial for connecting with our service customers, and we will continue to invest in that marketing channel.”
Modern Plumbing also equips its service technicians and project supervisors with iPads that connect with the office as well as the company’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) system. “A foreman in the field can see the complete model right on the iPad,” said Bracco.
Nearly four decades of service
Back in 1972, Frank Bracco moved from New Jersey to Orlando and opened Modern Plumbing Industries three years later. Charles was born in 1977 followed by his brother Anthony. As the boys grew, so did Modern.
“Central Florida was growing quickly in the late 1970s, and my father worked on 600-plus new houses per year for U.S. Homes,” Bracco said. “He got right into the residential housing market, but when mortgage rates spiked in the early 1980s, he quickly saw greater opportunity in commercial markets.”
Frank Bracco built the company to include four business units: plumbing, site work, irrigation and fire-sprinkler. But in the late 1980s, he decided to downsize and focus on the company’s core competency, which had always been plumbing.
By the mid 1990s, Modern was growing again and began to see increases in project size. “Our job size grew from about $100,000 to more than $1 million by 1997 and eventually became the $5 and $6 million projects we are doing today,” Bracco said.
During the recent economic downturn, the company reduced its workforce, but was one of the few contractors that didn’t cut wages, Bracco said. “We had a strong balance sheet, which was a big help,” he added. “Other companies that were highly leveraged with a lot of debt found it very challenging to get through the recession.”
Today, Modern Plumbing has about 70 employees and a well-diversified portfolio of projects, including biomedical research facilities, hospitals, medical offices, schools, offices and hotels. The company serves commercial, industrial, and residential customers in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties as well as the surrounding Central Florida region.
“One of the big challenges our industry is facing today is a shortage of skilled labor,” Bracco said. “Our company has always been active in apprenticeships in Seminole County. But we have to figure out how to get the kids in high school interested in plumbing or we won’t have anyone to build new projects over the next few decades. While plumbing is hard work, if you get some experience and learn in the field, there are plenty of opportunities to make a good living and move up to being a foreman or manager.”
Modern believes in safety first. Bracco is a strong supporter of OSHA and other safety standards. “We conduct regular training for team members who are in the field, and many of our foreman have earned the OSHA 30 hour certification,” he added. “That emphasis on safety is just one of the reasons that general contractors who focus on quality will call us for a plumbing quote on their projects. We’re known as a company that gets the job done right.”
A change in leadership
After 38 years of running Modern Plumbing Frank Bracco moved into semi-retirement this September, still coming into the office, but not every day. This was the culmination of a transition of leadership that began a decade ago.
Back in 2003, Charles Bracco was working in California and Anthony Bracco was at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “We decided to move back home, work with our dad and see what we could do with the business,” Bracco said. “We knew that succession planning is always a big challenge for family businesses, and we wanted to put a structure in place to make the transition from one generation to the next.”
Over the next few years, the three Braccos talked about the direction to take the company and the infrastructure needed to follow that path. While the recession slowed their planning, the younger Braccos steadily played a greater role in the organization, supported by their father and the company’s long-time employees. Charles is now the General Manager and Anthony is the Director of Sales and Marketing.
“We felt that doing service and repair work provided the critical flow of revenue during the recession, and we mostly stuck with projects within a 25-mile radius of our office,” Bracco said. “We also took on projects near the homes of our technicians, who live in different counties, in order to minimize their drive time.”
As the result of a lagging economy in Central Florida, Modern Plumbing expanded its geographic scope, taking on major commercial projects like the Vaccine Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) biomedical research facility in Port St. Lucie and the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach. “We can team up with our general contractors to do work around Florida or at military bases outside the state,” Bracco said.
Looking ahead to 2014, Bracco expects the non-residential markets to pick up steam in the coming year. “Between new schools, hotels, UCF and the theme parks, we think Central Florida is going to be a hotbed of new construction activity,” he said. “To the east, renovation of the Daytona International Speedway and construction of a Hard Rock hotel and retail complex mean a lot of new work in the Daytona Beach area. With a great team in place, we see lots of good opportunities to keep growing our company in the next few years.”
Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc.
255 Old Sanford Oviedo Rd.
Winter Springs, FL, 32708