About Us2024-07-11T09:39:42-05:00

WHO IS

BUILDING ADVANTAGE?

Building Advantage’s mission is to increase market share for Union construction in Southeast Wisconsin and provide an ongoing forum for labor and management to advance their mutual goals and objectives in competing for work. Our organization is comprised of thousands of tradespeople, hundreds of contractors, and five management associations.

Directors

Chris Mambu Rasch

Executive Director

Chris advances the interests of union contractors and tradespeople in the Greater Milwaukee Area. By partnering with industry stakeholders and community leaders, Chris ensures that Building Advantage is at the forefront of crucial construction industry initiatives including workforce, business and economic development.

Katie Connell

Communications Director

Katie promotes and supports the work being done by union contractors and tradespeople through various marketing, communications and public relations efforts.

Executive Board

The Building Advantage Executive Board is made up of five labor and five management representatives, along with five industry advisors from across southeastern Wisconsin. Together, we work to solve issues of mutual concern, like recruiting our future workforce and getting our current members back to work.

Co-Chairs

Dan Bukiewicz

President

Dan was elected to President of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council in January of 2014. Before being elected to serve the Council, Dan had been a Business Representative of IBEW Local 494 since 2012 where he provided representation for all contracts, apprenticeships, pensions, grievances, and communications with various industry and businesses affiliated with Local 494. Prior to becoming a Business Representative, he spent 19 years at a large electrical contractor where he worked his way from an Account Representative to Service Department Manager.

He also is serving his third term as Oak Creek’s Second District Alderman where he represents the interests of 3,500-4,000 residents. He serves on various committees, including:

  • Planning Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Personnel Committee
  • Park and Recreation Board Member

Christopher Martinez

President

Chris Martinez is the founder and president of Dairyland Energy Solutions. For more than 20 years, the company has worked on notable Milwaukee projects such as; Johnson Controls HQ, Northwestern Mutual, Miller Park among others. Chris has remained an active member of the building trades and currently serves on the Milwaukee Electrical Apprenticeship Board as well as current board president of the Plumbing Mechanical Contractors.

Education:

  • Wisconsin State Indentured Apprenticeship – Milwaukee J.A.T.C.
  • Cardinal Stritch University – Business Administration
  • Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business – Executive Management

Additional information:

  • Wisconsin State Certified Master Electrician
  • Member of The Joint Apprenticeship Committee
  • Member of Butler Chamber of Commerce
  • Member of National Electrical Contractors Association
  • Member of The Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce
  • President of Plumbing & Mechanical Contractors
  • Past board member of Milwaukee Achiever Literacy Services
  • Past School Board President, St. Anthony Parish School
  • Past Director of Associated General Contractors
  • Past labor member of the Negotiating Committee

Labor Representatives

Charlie Falkner

Business Manager, Financial Secretary & Treasurer

Charlie was elected as the Ironworkers Local 8 Business Manager, Financial Secretary & Treasurer in December 2022. He began his apprenticeship in 1999 and became a Journeyman in 2002. Since then, Charlie worked his way up from Journeyman to Superintendent and worked on several projects exceeding $200 million with over 150 workers from multiple trades on-site.

Scott Knocke Headshot of Sheet Metal Workers Local 18

Scott Knocke

President & Business Manager

Scott Knocke has been a proud member of SMART for 34 years.  He started his Sheet Metal career in 1989 and finished his 5-year apprenticeship in 1995.  After his apprenticeship, he worked as a Field Superintendent until 2017.  In 2008 he was elected to the Executive Board for Local 18 and continued to hold that position until 2017.  In 2017, Scott was elected as the Local 18 Business Representative/Apprenticeship Coordinator and also to the Sheboygan Labor Council as financial Secretary/ Treasurer.  In 2018, Scott was elected President of the Sheboygan Trade and labor Hall Association, which he still holds. In 2020, the Local 18 membership elected him as their Financial/Secretary Treasurer Business Representative, where he continued to hold that position until 2022.  Scott was elected to the International Production and Sign Council of SMART as Vice President, and he continues to hold that position.  In 2022, Scott was elected as the President/Business Manager for Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 18 and he continues in that capacity today.

Scott and his wife Kelly have been married for 27 years and they have two children. His daughter, Kaitlin, will graduate from UW Madison in 2023 with degrees in Political Science and Legal Studies. His son, Mason, is currently at Western Michigan University studying Sports Management.  In his free time, Scott likes to go fishing on Lake Michigan and hunting.

Don Oldani

Business Representative

Don began his career with an IBEW Apprenticeship in 2001 and is now a Journeyman Wireman.  Throughout his 22 year career with IBEW Local 494, Don has involved himself in numerous Union committees and affiliated organizations including: meJATC apprentice interviews, Milwaukee Area Labor Council Delegation, Electrical Construction Industry Annuity Board of Trustees, MATC Construction Electrician Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, and multiple bargaining committees.  Don was appointed as a member of the IBEW Local 494 Executive Board in March of 2015 and served on the board until December of 2018 when he accepted his current position as a Business Representative with IBEW Local 494.

Bart Swearingen

Business Agent

Bart Swearingen serves as a Business Agent for the Milwaukee area 558, focusing on Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties.

Doug Volland

Business Representative

Doug Volland has served as a Business Representative for the Carpenters’ Union since 2017.

Management Representatives

Frank Grotkiewicz

President

Frank Grotkiewicz became President of New Berlin based Preferred Electrical Contractors, Inc. in 2022. Frank provides innovative design services and manages numerous healthcare projects in the Milwaukee area. Frank began his apprenticeship in 1993 with Local 494 and is now a certified master electrician. He serves on the Electrical Construction Industry Annuity Board and has been a member of NECA since 2014.

Ben Patterson

General Manager – Construction

Ben Patterson serves as the General Manager of Construction for TOTAL Mechanical, Inc; one of Southeastern Wisconsin’s leading full MEPFP contractors. He joined the company in 2008 as an intern, and gained experience in APM, PM, Senior Engineer, and Division Manager roles.

Ben is registered Professional Engineer, holds a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering, and lives in New Berlin with wife and three sons.

Mike Stern

Project Executive

Mike Stern is a Senior Project Manager at J.H. Findorff and Son, Inc., one of the Midwest’s leading builders with offices in Madison, Milwaukee, and Wausau. He began working at Findorff after graduating from Marquette University in 2010 with a degree in Civil Engineering.

Stern has managed a number of prominent Milwaukee projects including The Moderne and The Commons at Marquette University. He has been on the AGC-GM Board of Directors since 2018 and currently serves as AGC-GM Past President.

Nick Wellenstein

President

Nick Wellenstein serves as President of Wellenstein and Sons, Inc. a Pewaukee based carpentry subcontractor.  Wellenstein and Sons specializes in wood framing and finish carpentry on commercial and high-end residential projects.  With a field staff averaging over 40 union carpenters we are proud to have worked on many of Southeastern Wisconsin’s most high-profile projects over the past 60 plus years.  Nick has worked for the company since 2009 with roles ranging from project manager to estimator.

Nick holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire and lives in Pewaukee with wife and two daughters.

Joan Zepecki

Director of Corporate Affairs & Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Joan Zepecki has worked at Hunzinger Construction Company for 29 years as their Director of Corporate Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator. She is proud of Hunzinger’s track record, of meeting and exceeding diverse contracting and hiring goals. They have had incredible results with over $585 million in contracts awarded directly to minority, women, small or disadvantaged firms.

Joan’s Hunzinger experience begins at the preconstruction phase of the Wisconsin Center and Miller Park projects where she successfully worked with the owners and their boards, government officials, community members and subcontractors to develop inclusion strategies that ensured success. Joan has been building on those action plans for over 28 years.

Since 2019, Zepecki has been responsible for Hunzinger meeting the City of Milwaukee’s 25% SBE and 40% RPP goals for the Komatsu South Harbor Campus Project. With over 619,642 hours worked, 273,572 were regular RPP for 44% and 378,491 bonus hours were worked for a total project RPP achievement of 61%. On the SBE contracting side 41.47% of the contracts awarded were awarded to SBE firms for a total of over $64,484,654.00 dollars spent directly with SBE firms.

In addition to working on the Komatsu South Harbor Campus Project, some of her other projects include: The Milwaukee Bucks Entertainment Block and the Demolition of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Kern Center, MSOE’s Viets Field Parking Garage, multiple projects for Milwaukee World Festivals, Inc./Summerfest including the American Family Amphitheater Renovation, The Pabst Theater, multiple projects for Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Johnson Controls, Inc., Progressive Community Healthcare Clinic, Milwaukee youth Arts Center, and The Custer Stadium Renovation for MPS.

Advisors

Lindsay Blumer

President & CEO

Lindsay Blumer is a respected nonprofit organization professional with almost 20 years of experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, social enterprise and innovation.  Blumer has worked as a community fellow with United Way of America designing community impact solutions, advising and developing state government advocacy and policy work in various appointed roles, advancing curricular and program design as Assistant Dean at Ripon College, creating collaborative community-based solutions as the executive director of a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization and developing entrepreneurial pathways at Marquette University.  Her dedication to mission-based and community-focused work continues to drive her personally and professionally as the newly appointed CEO and President at WRTP|BIG STEP based in Milwaukee, WI.

Dajen Bohacek

Executive Vice President

Dajen (Diane) Bohacek is the Executive Vice President of the National Electrical Contractors Association, Milwaukee Chapter (NECA Milwaukee). She has nearly 20 years of experience working in association management in the construction industry. Dajen has served on various ERISA Trust Funds, Advisory Committees, and Workforce Development Boards throughout the course of her career. Dajen graduated from St. Norbert College with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology and Mass Communication and her Master’s of Arts from UW-Milwaukee in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Mark Kessenich

CEO

Mark Kessenich became CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee in June 2020. As CEO, Kessenich partners with and represents 40 general contractors, over 400 subcontractors and suppliers on issues affecting their businesses. Previously, Mark served as President and CEO of WRTP/BIG STEP. Kessenich holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Jonathan Kowalski

Executive Director

Jonathan Kowalski is the Executive Director of the Plumbing Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors’ Alliance (The “Alliance”). He joined the Alliance in 2019 where he is responsible for all the administrative operations of the Alliance and the execution of the policies, programs, and activities of the Alliance organizations. Under the direction of the Executive Committee of PMSMCA, under the authority of the Boards of Directors of the PMC and SMACCA Milwaukee Kowalski works with the Alliance to direct all labor relations activities and he serves as the spokesperson for the Alliance entities in dealing with the labor unions associated with the Alliance entities.

Kowalski’s previous career stops include over 15 years in higher education external relations at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (“MSOE”), the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University.

Kowalski holds a B.A. in Journalism (Print) from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) and a J.D. from DePaul University (Chicago, IL). He and his wife Maggie have two sons and live in Shorewood.

Matt Marcellis

Executive Director

Matt Marcellis became Executive Director of the ACEA in February 2021. Matt is a member of the Wisconsin State Bar and a proud Air Force veteran. His background in construction and business law will give him an edge with the competing interests of business reality and legal risk.

Industry Partners

Building Advantage was created by The Construction Labor Management Council of Southeast Wisconsin to actively promote the benefits of hiring union construction contractors and trades people. We are comprised of nearly 20,000 trades people, 600 contractors and six management associations throughout Wisconsin.

News

The latest news and communications from Building Advantage and our industry partners.

Industry Resources

We provide a variety of resources for union commercial construction related topics and events.

Contact Us

Interested in learning more about Building Advantage or joining the union construction industry? You’re in the right place! Give us a shout via phone or email — we’re happy to help!

Building Advantage
250 E Wisconsin Ave, Suite 100
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Chris Mambu Rasch, Executive Director
Email: crasch@buildingadvantage.org
Phone: (414) 469-5333

Katie Connell, Communications Director
Email: kconnell@buildingadvantage.org
Phone: (262) 719-6964

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