"It provides us with financial stability, opportunities for employees to build careers with us and avenues for deep and wide relationships with clients over many years," Johnson says. "All kinds of things can be done to help a client optimize their buildings for energy usage. We're constantly looking for ways to do more."

But for mechanical contractors thinking of jumping into the facilities management game as a quick way to boost revenue, experienced contractors like McKinstry would say, "Not so fast."

"It's a heck of a lot more difficult than it sounds," says Johnson. "You must hire and retain operations-minded team members and really understand what makes them tick and what career path they want to follow. Because at the end of the day, you're hoping for a decades-long, annuity-type of relationship that's absolutely dependent on the quality of people you have."

Moore adds, "It is difficult. Managing a high-tech facility requires providing round-the-clock staffing and know-how of other technical programs.

"It's a complex business. It takes a long business cycle to build a great operations division," he says.

Quick Take

McKinstry Co.

505 3rd Ave. South,Seattle

president: Doug Moore

Employees: 1,000

Founded: 1960

here & now: McKinstry is helping Montana State University meet its sustainability goals, engaging in a five-year efficiency program that will bring key upgrades to several residence halls and auxiliary buildings on campus. The first phase of the project kicked off in June.