One big family: Mechanical contractor M.J. Moran marks 40 years

  • Bob Roy, a mechanical engineer for M.J. Moran, talks about his work for the company last Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bob Roy, who is a mechanical engineer for M.J. Moran, works on a project, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jim Moran talks about his business, M.J. Moran, as he stands beside the company logo in the front office, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jim Moran talks about his business, M.J. Moran, as he stands in the office of Bob Roy, the company's mechanical engineer, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “People have made this a home and we like it that way,” says Jim Moran, the founder and owner of M.J. Moran, a mechanical contractor based in Haydenville that will celebrate 40 years in business in 2018.

  • Jim Moran talks about his business, M.J. Moran, which he founded 40 years ago. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jim Moran talks about his business, M.J. Moran, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jim Moran talks about his business, M.J. Moran, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Scott Cernak is the general manager of the residential and small business division of M.J. Moran. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Robin Braman, the shop supervisor at M.J. Moran, works in his office, last Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 4/22/2018 6:00:09 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — M.J. Moran marks its 40th anniversary in 2018. But if you ask founder and owner Jim Moran what the company’s secret is, how a company can grow and be successful based out of a western Massachusetts Hilltown, he’ll give it to you straight.

“If I knew that, I could answer,” Moran said. “And I’d be a millionaire.”

Yet if there truly is a secret to M.J. Moran’s success, it might just be its employees and the relationship the company has with them. Many employees have been with the company more than two decades, and in some ways those are the newcomers. Others have been with the firm much longer.

“People have made this a home and we like it that way,” Moran said.

“It’s like family,” said Paul Cote, vice president and plumbing superintendent, who has been with the company since 1984.

Susan Flynn, vice president of finance, has also been with the company since 1984.

“It’s a big family,” said Flynn. “And Jim treats everybody like that.”

Paul Donah, president and director of safety, has been with M.J. Moran since 1980, and is set to retire in May, something he said he has mixed feelings about.

“He’ll be back,” said Moran.

“He’ll volunteer me for something,” said Donah.

The beginning

A mechanical contractor, M.J. Moran installs and maintains heating, cooling and plumbing systems, as well as more niche systems like medical gas.

Moran started the business with a partner and a $500 loan from his mother in 1978, running it out of his house. Since then it has expanded to two buildings, on 19,000 square feet, and about 80 employees.

“It’s a big payroll every Thursday,” said Moran.

Some of M.J. Moran’s clients include Smith College, Cooley Dickinson Hospital and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“We have a good steady clientele,” said Moran, who notes that much of it is repeat business.

He also noted that the company doesn’t advertise. “We don’t have to,” said Moran.

M.J. Moran has landed some massive contracts over the years, including $17 million for work on a science building at Smith College. Yet working for big institutions isn’t everything that M.J. Moran does, as it also has a home and small business division.

“We can do it all,” said Moran.

To meet those challenges isn’t easy, however. That’s why the company pays for training for all of its employees, many of whom are cross-licensed to work in more than one specialty.

“You’re investing in your employees,” said Flynn.

Moran also said that training helps the company keep up with changes in technology.

Both Moran’s sons, Chad and Kyle, work in the business, which they own with their father. Two of Chad’s children, Carol and Noah, also work for the company.

“It feels great,” said Chad Moran, on working with his children.

“Hopefully,” said Noah Moran, 16, when asked whether he’d like to have his grandfather’s job some day.

“Some days you can have it,” replied Moran.

M.J. Moran is not a unionized shop. However, Moran said that the company works with a number of unions, and gets along fine with them.

“They know we do our jobs,” he said.

Moran: I’m never retiring

Moran started working as a mechanic in 1965, when he became an apprentice. Now, at 73, he continues to work, and intends to never retire.

“They’re going to carry me out,” he said, answering in the affirmative when asked if he intended to die at his desk.

“It’s reality,” said Chad Moran, when asked how he felt about that.

Indeed, when Moran went on vacation to Florida for three months this winter, to say it was not easy for him would be an understatement.

“That was the hardest thing I did in my life,” said Moran.

Flynn also noted that because Moran’s office is in a different building than hers, having him call her from Florida wasn’t really a different experience.

“It was just like he was next door,” she said.

Moran’s involvement from his vacation looks to be in line with his philosophy for running his business.

“You’ve got to be the first one in and the last one out,” he said.

He also expressed pride in M.J. Moran.

“This is your baby, this is what you built,” he said.

Moran said he doesn’t micromanage his employees.

“Everybody here knows their job,” he said.

He also noted room for advancement at M.J. Moran, saying that its current president, Donah, started out at the company working as an apprentice.

“We like to promote from within,” he said.

One of those people is Scott Cernak, who was named general manager of the company’s residential and small business division two years ago.

“He’s one super individual,” said Moran.

Moran credited Cernak’s success with having been out in the field and knowing intimately about everything that he’s selling.

Cernak started out with M.J. Moran as an apprentice, and has been with the company since 2005.

“I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else,” said Cernak, who described Moran has a great boss, friend and leader.

Flynn said that she started a family while being employed at M.J. Moran, and she said that she appreciated the flexibility the company allowed her in this.

Moran said that times haven’t always been easy for his company, noting that there were a few times he almost lost the business because people couldn’t pay him and the jobs were bad.

“These employees stayed with me,” he said.

He also noted that he will have employees do things like cleaning and washing the trucks when work is less plentiful.

“We’ll do whatever we can to keep people busy to see that they get a week’s pay,” said Moran.

Moran wouldn’t divulge the average pay of those in the field, but he said that he compensates his employees well and provides good benefits.

“You have to pay good, or you’re not going to get good people,” said Moran.

Moran has lived in Williamsburg practically his entire life, and is a graduate of Williamsburg High School. Indeed, he has the old Williamsburg High School trophy case in one of his buildings, which includes a picture of him alongside the Franklin League-winning basketball team of which he was a member.

He also said that the location was ideal because it doesn’t rely on foot traffic, and Williamsburg is a convenient distance to Springfield, Pittsfield and Greenfield.

“We’re right in the middle of everything,” he said.

Sue Monahan, who works as an accountant and handles human resources, insurance, payroll, and pension among her duties, has been with M.J. Moran for 23 years.

“People,” said Monahan, when asked what has kept her in the job for all this time. “It’s a great place to work.”

Bob Roy, director of engineering and design, has been with M.J. Moran for about 16 years, but has known Jim Moran for about 30.

“The people basically,” he said, on what he likes about working in the company. “Good to work for and good to work with.”

In terms of the future of M.J. Moran, Chad Moran said that it would not expand, but would work with its current crew, although Moran said that adding new people is something the company would consider if someone good walked through the door.

“It makes it easier when you hire people and they turn out to be very good people,” he said. “That enabled us to grow.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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