HALF MOON BAY, CA – Bruce Bennett has been named the 2014 TAUC James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year.
The award, which recognizes outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the union construction and maintenance industries, was presented at a special ceremony on May 8 at TAUC’s annual Leadership Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay near San Francisco, California.
Bruce Bennett is a member of United Association Local 495 in Cambridge, Ohio. He was nominated by McCarl’s Inc. for his work as general foreman on MarkWest Utica’s new fractionator plant in Hopedale, Ohio.
As the top project coordinator for McCarl’s for nearly two decades, Bruce has overseen numerous large-scale assignments in the steel, cryogenics and power sectors. This time around, he was tasked with managing the construction of a crucial portion of MarkWest’s new fractionator plant, which the company urgently needed to process natural gas liquids extracted from local Utica Shale gas deposits.
The scope of the project was enormous. Bruce was responsible for overseeing the installation of more than 60,000 linear feet of pipe ranging in size from one to 60 inches in diameter. And just to make things more interesting, three weeks into the job, MarkWest asked McCarl’s to finish 90 days early! The original deadline of March 31, 2014 was moved back to December 31, 2013 so the facility could begin shipping wet gas byproducts as soon as possible.
“They worked seven days a week, pretty much 24 hours a day — even holidays — to meet our deadlines,” said Gary Borham, Project Manager for MarkWest Utica. “They did a fantastic job meeting our demands.”
In addition to time pressures, Bruce and his team also had to deal with a harsh Ohio winter, pushing ahead despite often miserable weather conditions.
“That was probably the biggest thing, overcoming the weather challenges,” Bruce recalled. “We started on September 4, and only had two days off between then and January, early February,” Bruce recalled. “So guys were tired, guys were stressed, but we could always relate back to our friendship. Picking the right team and having the right guys with you is what it’s all about. Even though it’s an award for one person, it’s not a one-person thing. It’s definitely a team effort.”
“Bruce’s approach was simply to assemble the best team of supervisors,” said Bill Cornell, VP of Operations for McCarl’s.
The people on Bruce’s team “work with him, they don’t work for him,” added Ralph White Jr., Business Manager for UA Local 495. “He likes it that way, but he’s still the boss. Bruce always leads by example. He never asks anybody to do anything that he either hasn’t done or isn’t willing to do himself.”
“His positive attitude enhances his effectiveness as an ideal team player,” observed McCarl’s President Robert Santillo. “You can always depend on Bruce’s integrity and strong leadership skills. He has taken on many difficult projects and kept them on track through excellent planning.”
“Just planning, planning, planning,” Bruce stressed. “That’s what it takes to get it done.”
And all of that planning paid off. “In addition to getting the job done ahead of schedule, the quality on the project was very exemplary,” Bill Cornell reported. “We had over 4,400 field welds on the job, and didn’t have one leak during startup.”
“We installed over 60,000 feet of pipe in a little over five months,” Bruce said. “Our weld rejection rate was at around 1.6 %, which was very good for the winter we had and the obstacles we had to overcome.”
“He always makes things happen. He’s that kind of guy,” Ralph White said. “Of all the craftsmen that I know, I don’t know any of them who could hold a candle to Bruce.”
“Bruce exemplifies union construction at its best,” said TAUC President Tom Felton. “He proved that it’s possible to work at the highest level and get the job done without sacrificing the core values of safety, quality, leadership and cooperation. He earned the respect not only of his fellow craftworkers, but of the contractor and the customer as well.”
About the James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award
The James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award honors outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the union construction and maintenance industries. It is given to building trades members who have a gift for recognizing the vision of a project and can bring that vision — from blueprint to building — to fruition in a professional manner. Apprentices, journeymen, foremen and general foremen from all crafts are eligible for nomination.
The recognition program was originally created in 1989 as the Craftsman of the Year Award. TAUC changed the name in 2008 to memorialize James J. Willis, Sr. He was a dear friend and supporter of TAUC and an authentic leader within the union construction industry for more than five decades.
Jim started out as an apprentice ironworker in 1945 at the age of just 16 and eventually rose to the rank of First General Vice President within the international union. He also served as President and Labor Co-Chairman of the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, Inc. (NMAPC) from 1988-2000.
Jim was hugely influential within the union construction industry, and his steadfast commitment to fairness and cooperation was legendary. It is fitting that the award bearing his name honors a union worker who demonstrates unparalleled leadership and professionalism, because Jim exhibited the same qualities throughout his life.
The James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award recognizes five categories of achievement:
Projects must be completed in the calendar year of the award. Nominations are forwarded to our judge’s panel to be evaluated and ranked in each category. This year, the members of the James J. Willis Award Task Force were: Bill Ligetti, Ironworker Employers Association of Western Pennsylvania; Vic Sunshine, AGC of St. Louis; and Jacob Snyder with Enerfab.
The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) is the premier national trade association for the 21st century union construction and maintenance industries. Our more than 2,000 member firms include union contractor companies, local union contractor associations and vendors in the industrial maintenance and construction fields. We demonstrate that union construction and maintenance are the best options because they are safer and more productive, and provide a higher quality and cost-competitive product. For more information, log on to www.tauc.org.