Metal Architecture Home

Larry A. Swaney: Visionary, association founder and industry promoter

2016 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Larry  Swaney  Low Rez

"A visionary." That's what John S. Lawrence Sr., founder of Modern Trade Communications and 2012 Metal Construction Hall of Fame inductee calls Larry A. Swaney. The Larry A. Swaney Award⎯that's what the Metal Construction Association (MCA) calls its award it entrusts to an individual who has worked unselfishly for MCA's success and the betterment of the metal construction industry as a whole. Swaney was MCA's first president and one of its founders.

 "Larry worked 34 years as an ambassador for the promotion of metal in construction," says Stephen Swaney, Larry's son and current business development manager at Alpine Distribution, Eugene, Ore. "He was always trying to promote the use of metal in construction by advancing coil coating quality and efficiency; raising the level of coatings offered to go on painted building products. [He was] trying to deliver a versatile and endless choice of looks and designs to help metal be more than a metal box, and offer beauty, value and integrity."

A Mission for Metal

Swaney grew up in Ohio and Indiana, and served in the Air Force during the Korean War as an officer. Upon graduating from Washington University in St. Louis in 1956 Swaney joined a local steel service center and quickly became a successful salesman to metal fabricators of flat-rolled metals. In the early 1960s a new coil coater called Precoat Metals was starting up in St. Louis and one of its initial customers told its owner that it should hire Swaney as a salesman.

"Larry Swaney embodied what can be in my mind as Mr. Metal Construction, or Mr. MCA. His very career was centered around metal construction, and he virtually put the industry on his back and was the driving force for what it is today."

-Robert G. Scichili, president of Robert Scichili Associates, Richardson, Texas

"In late 1963, Precoat Metals hired Larry as its lone sales person and he helped it develop and expand, and spent 31 years there retiring as its president in 1994," Stephen says. "He helped grow that business from one struggling plant struggling to survive to six plants and sales just under $200 million dollars when he retired." He was Precoat's president for 20 years.

In the early- to mid-1960s metal buildings were struggling to develop an identity and place in industrial and commercial construction. "[They] were struggling to be accepted as an alternative type of construction option," Stephen says. "My father's mission and goal was to educate the architectural and design community just how cost effective and functional a metal building could be as well as long lasting and aesthetically appealing."

Back in the mid-1960s, the initial coil coating paints were reportedly very low quality, and somewhat dangerous to work with and apply. But, "Larry Swaney stood for quality in processing because he knew that to move the industry into acceptance, quality was at the forefront," says Robert G. Scichili, president of Robert Scichili Associates, Richardson, Texas. "To do this he had to promote the paint companies and steel providers to bring on the quality in coatings and the steel companies to offer the packages to the end users. These end users were and are the arteries to propagate the message and then of course deliver it. I personally was the first Kynar representative for a coatings company in 1971 that bought into Larry's philosophy because we were missionaries together into the market. I grew into this market at his knee of instruction and encouragement."

Industry Advocate

To further increase the use of metal in various forms of construction, in 1983 Swaney and a number of component manufacturers founded MCA, hoping to to focus on market development.

"Back in the 1970s, a new wave of suppliers was hitting the metal construction industry in the component industry," Stephen says. "For years the preengineered building sector had its own association and agenda, and this new wave of companies looking to cater to the customers who just wanted a new metal roof or sidewall or to replace an existing roof. The [Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA)] and member companies snubbed their noises at these companies and the thought of selling components and not complete buildings in their eyes wouldn't work. How wrong they were, and the MCA was created to empower and involve the component manufacturers for architectural, industrial/commercial and insulated panel sector a network and voice to work together to promote and develop standards for this segment of the industry. That is how the MCA got started and thrived through the years!"

As MCA continued to grow and prosper, the one thing it and the industry was missing was a unified trade show to promote metal in construction and in particular both components (industrial, commercial and architectural), and pre-engineered metal buildings. Swaney, along with other MCA board members came up with the idea and concept of METALCON.

 "[This] pushed the formation and establishment of the educational and exhibit based trade show which has evolved into the largest conference and exhibit of its kind promoting the use of metal in construction," Stephen says. "[He] tried to get companies of all sizes and suppliers of all types of complimentary products to become active in MCA and METALCON, and to promote standardization and compliance to building and technical codes raising the bar of metal above competing products."

It was Swaney's dedication and hard work to promote the industry that led to MCA's Larry A. Swaney Award. Bill Hippard, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance had the idea for this because, "We needed a way to recognize people who had done a lot in the industry, and Larry was such a big part of the industry." "His vision of the market dictated that an industry show and conference was needed and so it is," Scichili says. "No person in my memory did more for the promotion of metal building products and was more greatly admired than Larry Swaney."