Home AEC After 100 Years in Business, UMC Pursues Rebrand Amidst Seattle’s Rush-to-Market Environment

After 100 Years in Business, UMC Pursues Rebrand Amidst Seattle’s Rush-to-Market Environment

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By Meghan Hall

University Mechanical Contractors, now known as UMC, first opened its doors as a small heating and plumbing shop founded by the Granston family about 100 years ago. Since then, the firm has rapidly diversified its contracting offerings working with developers on everything from preconstruction and development solutions to building automation, manufacturing and facility services. Some of the firm’s most iconic work includes Amazon’s iconic Seattle Spheres, the Columbia Center and the Space Needle. As Seattle’s built environment becomes more complex, and competition for jobs amplifies, UMC has launched a rebrand in celebration of its 100th year in business, and the next 100 to come. The Registry spoke with UMC’s President and CEO Jerry Bush on the importance of UMC in the Puget Sound and its approach to the company’s rebrand.

Jerry, when you think of UMC as a firm, how have you seen UMC’s role in the Puget Sound commercial real estate industry evolve? 

UMC’s role is continuously evolving to better serve our client — from our mechanical contractor roots to a fully integrated partner with our clients and their facilities. As the industry and technology has changed, we have positioned ourselves to answer challenges with proactive solutions. 

UMC, Seattle, University Mechanical Contractors, Seattle Spheres, Space Needle, Columbia Center
Image Courtesy of UMC

How have you seen UMC’s offerings change to adjust to the region’s rapidly changing built environment? 

UMC’s offerings have expanded significantly over the last 10 years. While we have always provided facility services, today our clients demand more in terms of technology, controls, building analytics, predictive service and overall responsiveness to their needs. Focused on facility optimization and sustainability, UMC provides full-service building automation, analytics and comprehensive energy services – from basic energy conservation measures (ECM’s) to full-scale district energy expertise. Today’s rush-to-market mentality for commercial buildings is greater than ever. As developers race to be first up and occupied, our manufacturing capabilities answer the need for speed with leading edge technologies and processes to save time and congestion on the building site. And our energy consultants help clients find new and exciting ways renew, rebuild, remodel and rethink energy usage in older buildings, as well as working with public entities to lessen the carbon footprint of the built environment as a whole. 

What other factors do you think have made UMC such a successful and long-term player in the field? 

We know and leverage what we do well, and our team creates innovative, future-minded solutions where we need improvement. We maintain a high level of intelligence on our clients’ and employees’ current and future needs, and we address them quickly and creatively. We also maintain a company culture based on family and doing the right things for the right reasons. This was ingrained in the company from its founding by the Granston family a century ago. We believe that this culture will take us through another century. 

UMC is 100 years old in 2020! In your opinion, why does now make the most sense for UMC to pursue a complete rebrand, from its name to its visual identity, voice, logo and website?

We had passed up our old brand and grew out of our name. We are very proud of our history and culture. Our 100 years of success would not have been possible without our drive to progress and change to meet our clients’ and employees’ needs. It is time that our brand better represents who we are today. 

What goals does UMC hope to accomplish with such a wide rebrand?

We want to convey to our market all that UMC has to offer today and into the future and shine the light on our promise of collaboration and genuine, personal engagement between our teams and our clients. We have a history of success with some of the most complex projects in the region. But our culture is, by nature, humble. We do amazing things and, in the past, if that went unnoticed, we were okay with it. But we made a strategic decision to not be okay with it anymore, and to assertively and boldly tell our story. Our rebrand is only the beginning! 

How has UMC approached the rebrand? What was the thought process behind designing the company’s new website, logo, etc.?

We have worked on it for over a year. We kept a keen focus on who we are and designed the brand to speak this – loudly. The hard work and creativity that our team put into this project inspired me from the beginning. We included voices from across the company through discovery and positioning meetings and exercises. And we assembled a strong core decision-making team to carry the ideas through to launch. The point was not to change who we are, but to represent who we are in a bold new way. 

What is your favorite part of the rebrand and why?

I love the logo. It is UMC—strong and transformational. The radical difference from our previous logo clearly indicates how far we’ve come, and how far we will go.

Can you elaborate on how this rebrand will allow UMC to stand out from its competitors in an increasingly competitive construction environment?

First, it tells a compelling story of who we are and what we have to offer. In many cases, this alone differentiates UMC. In today’s competitive environment, for both business and top-notch talent, telling our unique story in an eye- and ear-catching way is crucial to attract prospective customers and employees. It demonstrates that UMC will not rest on being the best in the services we offer but will continually look for a better way. And finally, where UMC may not be better today, we will be tomorrow – count on it. 

What has been the general reaction to the UMC rebrand? Do you think, thus far, the rebrand is having its intended effect? Why or why not?

The reaction has been overwhelming. I continually hear positive feedback from employees, clients and even competitors. We hit the mark!

Is there anything else you would like to add that The Registry did not mention?

The new brand reflects the firm name “UMC” which our clients, partners and employees have called us for the past several years. Branding as UMC does not limit us to one service but allows us to incorporate our total range of services into our company story.