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AFSA Members’ Anniversaries

Members Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) is recognizing members who are celebrating milestone membership anniversaries. The member companies featured here have belonged to AFSA for 15 or more years of continuous membership.

Several members are celebrating milestone anniversaries with AFSA in March and April 2022. Tommy Clements, president of VSC; Robert Gagnon, P.E., FSFPE, SET, owner of Gagnon Engineering; Travis Mack, CFPS, CWBSP, RME-G, COC, SET, senior engineering manager at MFP Design; and Mike Meehan, CEO and chairman of VSC; shared some of their favorite AFSA memories and things they’ve learned with Sprinkler Age. 

How did you get involved in the industry and afsa?

Clements: “A longtime family friend was one of the owners of Arkansas Automatic Sprinklers, so I knew the company was for sale. I led a private equity investment group that purchased the company in 2009. I had been a construction consultant to owners and developers for eight years, so I was familiar with the construction trades. Fire sprinklers were appealing to me because each project has an opportunity for intellectual property that allows a company to differentiate itself by ‘building a better mousetrap.’”

“The company had been a long-standing member of AFSA, and the previous owners were strong believers in the benefits of membership. I wanted to become more involved and was introduced to Board Member Wayne Weisz and Past Chair Willie Templin on a trip with George DiMatteo. They were able to give me a much deeper look at how AFSA was organized and functioned. They also gave me ideas about how to get involved on the national level. After I expressed my interest, I was afforded the opportunity to become involved by Past Chair of the Board Joe Heinrich.”

Gagnon: “I received my bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and hired an employment agent who put me through many tests. I was given a stack of offers from employers that matched my interests and abilities, and Automatic Sprinkler Corporation (ASCOA) stood out. It had the right mix of office and field work, design and field supervision, conceptualization and viewing the finished product, and calculation. I needed to be involved with something that made the world a better place. This profession was perfect and was the best business decision I ever made. I often say, ‘Don’t follow the money; follow your interests, and the money will follow you.’ ASCOA paid for my B.S. and M.S. degrees in fire protection engineering and was my first client when I founded Gagnon Engineering. I also joined AFSA early in my career. I knew that it was important to be an active part of my profession.”

Mack: “I had taken drafting courses in high school and got a job drafting for a fire sprinkler contractor after graduation. I got involved with AFSA through internet searches and found AFSA’s Sprinkler Forum. It just grew from there.”

Meehan: “When I was going to college, a family friend reached out and asked if I needed work. I was 19 and looking for a summer job but didn’t want to dig ditches. Yes, I thought a sprinkler job meant underground work! I was clearly mistaken. I started as a pipefitter apprentice in 1979.”

“When AFSA was established, our former President Marty Giles was one of the original founders. We immediately saw the value it would provide to VSC, specifically training for our fitters and staff. Personally, my involvement began around 1983 at a local level with the Virginia Chapter, and later on a national scale.”

What is your favorite or most used AFSA benefit?

Clements: “The annual convention! The education, networking, and entertainment are second to none. We bring multiple employees to take full advantage of the multitude of training opportunities that are offered in a short period of time. It’s a great way to reward your team members for a job well done.”

Gagnon: “I take the webinars when I need CEUs to renew my P.E. license and two NICET Level IV certifications. I love to network with fellow professionals.”

Mack: “The Sprinkler Forum is the best benefit for any design professional in this industry. The cost/benefit is very much worth it.”

Meehan: “The networking and relationship building with peers, and the benefits of the NFPA code standard process. What is so valuable is AFSA’s involvement with the business codes and standards—it benefits the entire industry. It helps the standards have more merit. The Safety Portal is also a very useful tool that can save a good deal of headache.”

What is your favorite AFSA or Convention memory?

Clements: “The first convention I attended was in San Diego in 2009. It was a three-day crash course in all things fire-sprinkler related. The convention was an opportunity to share ideas, learn what issues are facing the industry, and see how other companies in different parts of the country handle certain issues. It also allowed me to lay the groundwork for friendships in the industry. Those relationships have strengthened my business, and I consider many like family.”

Gagnon: “Many AFSA meetings and seminars with the Chesapeake Chapter and nationally.”

Mack: “Meeting in person all of the people I have communicated with over the years through the Sprinkler Forum. I have developed solid business relationships and personal friendships with many of them.”

Meehan: “In 2018, when I was chair, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own personal journey—from a teenage pipe fitter to standing at the podium as the National Chair of the Board. I can still recall my first day of work as a pipefitter apprentice, and the individual growth and success I experienced are parallel to the growth and success of both our entire industry and AFSA as an organization.”

What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry?

Clements: “The rapid consolidation of sprinkler contractors over the past five years and the influence of private equity firms on business valuations.”

Gagnon: “I feel that I have been pushing the rock uphill in support of sprinklers my whole career. I remember when the fire service was resistant or unaware of the benefits of sprinklers. I remember touring a ‘fire-safe house’ at an NFPA convention that was not sprinklered. I told them that they should be ashamed. Today, the fire service and NFPA are active proponents of the installation of fire sprinklers. I am a happy man.”

Mack: “As a design guy, it is the change in going from hand drawing to now doing 3D virtual design and construction. Things we are doing today in the design side could never have been imagined when I started.”

Meehan: “The rapid consolidation of sprinkler contractors over the past five years and the influence of private equity firms on business. The increase in technical and training abilities of AFSA, as well as the most recent industry consolidations that are impacting the association and the contractors.”

What’s the key ingredient to your success?

Clements: “Surrounding myself with outstanding people and letting them do their job.”

Gagnon: “My mentors. My mentor at Western Maryland College was (and still is) Dr. James Lightner. I had many mentors and Colleagues with ASCOA, including Ezio Angellini. My mentor at the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering was the legendary Dr. John L. Bryan, among many others, including Dr. James A. Milke. I am truly blessed. I followed my interests and was mentored by the best.”

Mack: “Luck and being blessed. I have had some phenomenal mentors in this industry. I can’t begin to thank those who have come before me to teach me the ins and outs of the fire sprinkler industry and how to manage a successful business.”

Meehan: “Surrounding myself with good people and empowering them.”

If I weren’t working in fire protection, I would be… (fill in the blank).

Clements: “ … a real estate developer or a trade contractor other than fire sprinklers.”

Gagnon: “I cannot imagine not doing what I do. My work was a daily delight, and the choice I made 53 years ago as a 21-year-old kid out of college was a wise one.

Mack: “I hate to even think where I would be. I would probably be stuck in a job that I didn’t like doing something I didn’t like. I think I was made for the fire sprinkler industry. Even with all of the stresses that come with our industry, I am blessed to be able to do something for 30-plus years that I still enjoy every day.”

Meehan: “ … a traffic court judge.”

Celebrating AFSA Members

Recognition for milestone membership anniversaries in Sprinkler Age will be done in five-year anniversary increments and is available to all membership types. Congratulations to these members! Interested in joining AFSA and enjoying the benefits mentioned by these members? Visit firesprinkler.org/join to sign up for a free, six-month trial membership for contractors. Other membership types are also available. Visit AFSA’s website for details or call (214) 349-5965 ext. 133.

AFSA Members’ Anniversaries
March–April 2022

40-Year Anniversary
Contractor Members
VSC Fire & Security, Inc., Ashland, VA

35-Year Anniversary
Contractor Members
Inland Fire Protection, Inc., Yakima, WA
Mid South Fire Solutions, LLC, Shreveport, LA
Rustic Fire Protection, Inc., Norton, MA

30-Year Anniversary
Designer Members
Gagnon Engineering, Cooksville, MD

20-Year Anniversary
Associate Members
ITW Buildex, Itasca, IL

15-Year Anniversary
Contractor Members
ABR Fire Protection, Inc., Bufurd, GA
Allied Fire Protection, LP, Dallas, TX
ATCO Fire Protection, Inc., Rome, GA
B & B Fire Protection, Jeffersontown, KY
Diboco Fire Sprinklers, Inc., Flat Rock, NC
Jefferson Sprinkler, Inc., Gretna, LA
Designer Members
Leon & Associates, Brandon, FL
MFP Design, Gilbert, AZ

 


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