Old-Line Firm Sees Future in New Ideas
M+W Group pushes growth by helping upstate New York clients such as SUNY and the U.S. Army build for developing technologies
With more than a century of construction history behind it, M+W Group now has set its sights for a powerful future. The global firm has become a leader in solar power development, teaming up with the State University of New York to spread the alternative energy approach to all SUNY campuses.
Founded in Germany in 1912, M+W Group began as an air handling company. The firm has seen its U.S. footprint grow tremendously in the past 25 years, largely due to a long partnership with SUNY.
As state government officials began to see economic potential in high-tech industries in the late 1990s and early 2000s, M+W Group was chosen to do conceptual programming for clean room facilities on SUNY campuses. Work that began with design of contained spaces to limit contamination and control factors such as temperature has progressed to detailed structural engineering.
In a year in which the firm’s regional evenue nearly doubled to $1.2 billion from the $701 million reported in 2014, Ron Oakley, the firm’s Americas CEO says “the real catalyst [of the firm’s success] was the visionary thinking at the time, with the particular focus on high tech.”
The firm has a long history of photovoltaic manufacturing, and delved further into the solar market in 2013 after acquiring Gerlicher Solar Americas, an installer of solar plants that has now been rebranded as M+W Energy.
“A lot of our growth in the last couple of years has come from our solar business,” says Oakley. He says the extension in 2015 of the 30% federal investment tax for solar power systems on residential and commercial projects provides a catalyst for companies in the sector. “But it’s not just the tax credit, this is a renewable energy investment that makes economic sense to these organizations,” Oakley emphasizes.
In 2015, M+W Group opened a new U.S. headquarters building on the Albany campus of SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering. The firm’s 30,000-sq-ft office is part of the university’s Zero Energy Nanotechnology building. M+W Group has also entered a partnership with the university for a five-year, $105-million solar powerplant construction initiative.
“When SUNY wanted to expand into higher technologies, they looked at solar,” says Oakley. “We have a range of services through our companies M+W Group, M+W Energy and our shareholder’s company, developer Stumpf Energy.” He says M+W’s agreement with SUNY “was to try to bring those connections together and find innovative, lower-cost solutions for power and renewable energy.”
The firm also is at the forefront in other areas of technology development and has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the business and technology incubator at the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal located about eight miles north of Albany in Watervliet, N.Y. It is the oldest continuously active artillery production site in the U.S., dating back to 1813. In 2004, M+W Group began the renovation of the 142-acre campus into a technology research and manufacturing center.
“M+W Group continually goes over and above the role of prime contractor and has become our partner in developing the Watervliet Arsenal for commercial use,” says Bob Mahoney, senior project manager of the Arsenal Business and Technology Partnership, who notes the firm’s strong familiary with the intricacies of U.S. Defense Dept. regulations and design criteria in demolition, remediation, reconstruction and finish construction of projects at the site. The Watervliet site has been a National Historic Landmark since 1966.
M+W Group has provided traditional design, preconstruction and construction management services for the site as well as technical consulting and marketing support. Mahoney credits the firm’s design and construction management expertise in the renovation and development of a state-of-the-art, high-tech, multi-use building complete with a 12,000-sq-ft semiconductor clean room “from a building structure nearly 100 years old.”
While the solar energy plan for the SUNY campus system has yet to be finalized, Oakley expects roughly a half-dozen powerplants to be built, totaling 220 megawatts across the system.
“Some of the highest technology companies in the world have come to New York state,” Oakley says. “We are grateful to have been a part of this trend.”