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Helping Communities With Better Infrastructure

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John Prusak, Branch General Manager, Johnson Controls

This post is sponsored by Johnson Controls.

John Prusak, Branch General Manager of Johnson Controls’ Baltimore branch, is responsible for sustaining a high level of customer satisfaction, employee safety, overall branch performance, strategic vision, employee engagement and development, community and industry representation of the local Baltimore/Delmarva office.

He joined the firm in 1987 as an applications engineer and moved through the positions of sales engineer, sales associate and sales manager before becoming branch manager.

Here he talks about some of the infrastructure, technology and energy challenges he’s helping his clients solve.

 Question: What are some of the challenges customers face today in terms of overcoming infrastructure, technology and energy barriers?

John Prusak: Many of our customers’ buildings are old, as are the systems within these buildings. Compounding the challenge, the people who staff these buildings often lack the expertise to manage new technology. But the issue we encounter most frequently is a lack of funding to pay for infrastructure improvements, new technology and energy-efficiency projects. As a result, we’re using performance contracts with greater frequency to provide pathways to self-funding and enable customers to implement energy-saving projects.

 Q: Does geography play a role in any of these?

JP: Geography definitely plays a role. We deal with two distinct geographies—the large Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area, which is densely populated, easily accessible and teeming with aging infrastructure, and the rural communities of western Maryland and Eastern Shore, which are sparsely populated, isolated, difficult to access and harder to service. In addition, rural areas typically support fewer service providers, which tends to drive up pricing. Both geographies have different needs. But a shrinking tax base in metropolitan areas and a small tax base in rural communities means a lack of funding is common to both geographies.

 Q: How can they prioritize and tackle these obstacles?

JP: Prioritizing and tackling these obstacles begins with leadership that’s willing to focus on technology and energy challenges in an organization’s facilities. It then becomes the service provider’s job to sit down with company representatives, listen to their challenges and understand their goals for operating their facilities. With this information, the provider should be able to help prioritize needs and offer innovative solutions that incorporate energy-efficient systems, new technologies and funding mechanisms, like performance contracts, to make projects affordable and often, self-funding.

Q: How does the branch operate and provide service to the region?

JP: The Baltimore Branch is part of a much larger corporation—Johnson Controls— that brings with it important resources, including best-in-class products and services. But our goal is to be perceived by our customers as a local business. We do this by organizing around markets, including vertical markets such as healthcare, K-12, government and commercial real estate, and geographic markets such as the Baltimore metro area, western Maryland and Eastern Shore. We have truck-based teams and project teams that include expertise in the vertical or geographic markets they serve.

We also work hard at building relationships, assigning the same service providers and project installers to our customers with each project, whenever we can, and consistently exceeding our customers’ expectations. Just as important are the relationships we build in the communities where we live and work, volunteering our time to local projects, including, for example, food and clothing drives and the recent 2015 Komen Maryland Race for the Cure. We want to be visible in our communities, not just as a business, but also as good stewards, engaging in community service that helps communities prosper.

Q: What is one of your most notable customer accomplishments?

JP: Our most notable accomplishment is our work with Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, which serves an estimated 1.3 million residents in Baltimore and Baltimore County. We installed a cogeneration plant that uses excess methane gas to generate electricity. A second phase of the project included the installation of a solar field that generates additional electricity. These steps, along with other energy conservation and facility improvement measures, are saving the city $1.8 million in annual energy and operational savings.

We’ve also introduced air conditioning to Baltimore County schools and multiple energy conservation measures in Baltimore City Public Schools. We’re helping officials respond to pressure from constituents by offering an affordable solution, providing air conditioning to four schools and rolling it into a larger energy service contract.