MHPS’s Paul Browning On Using Location To Gain Competitive Advantage

Does that mean they’ll need fewer people?

A natural gas power plant has about 35 folks working in it and we are really not trying to reduce that number. The labor cost is actually a very small percentage of the overall power plant costs. The big numbers are things like unplanned maintenance and unplanned downtime. Those are the ones with a lot of zeroes for our customers.

Have demands changed for the skills you need?

Oh yeah, definitely. I’m an engineer and I was at my university six months ago and I was riding the elevator, looking for a certain department, and I realized that there are whole new departments of engineering that didn’t exist when I was a student. Twenty years ago, AI was not on our recruiting radar nor were other new fields of engineering that are really important to us now, like 3D manufacturing, for example. You need the component to not only look the way you want it to, but also to have the mechanical properties you need it to have. So things like Nano engineering and material science, those are all very important to doing some of the new things like 3D manufacturing correctly and getting the results we need.

What sort of partnership programs have you developed with UCF and others to let engineering students know about the exciting things you’re working on?

We have a number of internship programs. A typical intern would work with us for a semester. Some work with us while they’re going to school but some will take a semester off of school or work with us during the summer as an intern so it’s a real full-time job kind of experience they get. And this is real hands-on engineering work, like designing the piping for a power plant or designing the control system for a customer’s application. They’re very valuable to us in terms of getting critical work done and at the same time, it’s a great learning opportunity for them.

How often you hire them?

It’s at least 50 percent. We tend to like them and they tend to like us.

What are some of the other advantages of being headquartered in Orlando?

First of all, MHI had five employees in 1999 and today we have over 2,000, with about 1,000 of those in the Orlando area. So when you’re in a high-growth mode like we are, living in a part of the country where the population is increasing and people are sort of flocking to this area, that’s a great dynamic for us. While we’re growing, we’re in a dynamic region that’s growing.

Another thing we love about Orlando: my responsibility is North and South America so it’s really well situated to give us easy access to areas in Central and South America. We also think the airport here is fantastic and we have a lot of direct flights to the cities we fly to, so that is a nice benefit as well.

One of the things that is underappreciated is what a business friendly state Florida is. I serve on the board of Enterprise Florida, which is chaired by the governor, so I have direct access not just to the governor, but to a lot of the business leaders in the state. I’m also on the Florida Council of 100, an organization of top leaders in the state. So it’s a really well-connected business community that, when we need help or advice from either government or colleagues in the business community, it’s readily accessible and there are good institutions in place to make that a seamless process. Southeastern United States also just happens to be where a lot of the large utilities are that buy the kinds of products we produce, so Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy, Southern Company, Entergy, a lot of our big customers are here.

How are you feeling about the company’s growth trajectory?

In 2018, for the first time in the history of our industry, we achieved No. 1 market share globally in the heavy duty gas turbine segment. So the big players are us, GE and Siemens and we passed them by last year, so we’re pretty proud of that.

What are your plans for continued growth over this next year?

We’ve started a new business called Power & Energy Solutions, which is getting us more into renewables, energy storage and some new areas for application for our artificial intelligence products and services, so there’s a lot of change happening in the power industry and it’s creating a lot of opportunities for us. We’re really optimistic about the future.

You moved to Florida from Canada when you took the position at MHPS – did you experience any culture shock?

Earlier in my career, I worked in San Diego, so I had some experience in a warm climate and trying new places. I’ve moved my family 14 times so I’ve gotten pretty good at relocating. I can tell you I really didn’t have a challenge in terms of relocating here. For a golfer, this is sort of a paradise.

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