JCI begins milking Duluth

The first two Red Plan building projects run by JCI are underway. Here’s the Trib’s story. Stowe and Lakewood are two of the newest buildings in the District. And what is JCI doing to them? According the the article:

Scope of work: Installation of an updated fire alarm system, sprinkler system, security system, energy efficient lighting and heating and cooling systems and classroom Smart Board; upgrades to the school’s playground equipment and to small sections of the exterior of the building

JCI and its subsidiaries manufacture all of these items. Why are they, being put into the newest schools? Because as Robert Aho explains:

“My understanding about these two schools are that they are less in need of upgrades, but the control systems were by someone else. By putting these two projects at the top of the list, JCI ensures long-term contracts for maintaining the control systems and shuts out their prime competitor, ABE. Those control systems are only around ten years old—why on earth would they need replacement? Because they are somebody else’s control systems, that’s all.”

ABE of Duluth which was permitted to bid on these projects but frozen out after several mechanical engineers who knew how much it had bid on the project were pressured by JCI to spill the beans. Once JCI had a good idea how much to bid on the project itelf ABE stood little chance of winning the bid and the mechanical contractors all got the word. Play ball with JCI if you want any work because they do all the hiring.

There are sixteen schools in Duluth which could be worked on. As Dave Korhonen, JCI’s first Red Plan Project manager explained to me it might be easier to let one manufacturer provide the guts of all the schools so that if you get the first jobs all the others will fall your way. It looks like JCI got the head start it needed.

After snooping around for its little competitor’s bid price JCI turned in its bid ten minutes before the deadline. Smooth.

Dave Korhonen also sort of apologized to me when I talked to him about doing this work on these new buildings. He explained that the codes had changed a little over the last decade making it justifiable to replace ten year old equipment.

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