A conversation with Wayne Jennings, head of the SSMRC

Wayne Jennings, executive secretary treasurer of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council, has been a millwright for more than 30 years and has been instrumental in the SSMRC’s development. Read the Q&A below to learn about his career journey and how he plans to keep the organization growing.

Q: What led to your position at the SSMRC?
When I began my millwright career in 1990, I felt like we had great local leadership with a vision to enhance the environment and relationships that affected my employment as a millwright. Twenty years later, I thought the local leadership could improve and I was the guy for the task. In 2010, I became the business representative for Millwright and Machinery Erectors Local 1192, which covered 45 counties in northern Alabama and 17 counties in northern Mississippi with a membership of slightly more than 500. At the same time, our parent organization (the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America) began a massive restructuring in the Southern District. In just a few months, my jurisdiction grew to cover Alabama, Mississippi, and a small portion of Florida and our membership grew to over 700. The restructuring also led to the creation of the SSMRC, which covers 11 southern states.

Five years later, I was given the opportunity to become executive secretary treasurer of the SSMRC. I humbly accepted, knowing my duties would quadruple and the man I followed (current United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Southern District Vice President Dennis Donahou) would be difficult to replace. Challenge accepted.

Q: What is the most important part of your position?
Managing the relationships that are crucial to securing employment opportunities for and educating our members. By providing a safe, professional, productive workforce on every job, every time, we secure the future for everyone.

Q: Are you looking to grow in new markets or expand in current ones?
Absolutely. We currently perform approximately 7 million man-hours of work per year throughout our southern jurisdiction. Most of the SSMRC’s work is performed in the power generation (45 percent), petrochemical (30 percent) and automotive (12 percent) industries. Rounding out the remaining percentages are light manufacturing, food and beverage, distribution, pulp and paper, and general industry.

With the push for zero carbon emissions and electric vehicles, our two largest industries will be going through major adjustments. We must focus on alternatives to stay viable. Our current targets and goals are focused on renewable energy in all manufacturing sectors and long-term maintenance in industries requiring millwright skillsets. We develop specific and proprietary training to fit any industrial need our partners desire.

Q: What is your biggest lesson learned?
Over my 30-year career as a millwright, I have found that we build success when we facilitate an honest and collaborative environment by investing in everyone from the applicant and first-year apprentice to the contractor and owner. By encouraging everyone to focus on the big picture, the future is much brighter for everyone. Total collaboration is the key.

Q: What is a “fun fact” about you people might not know?
I am highly competitive. Whether I am good at something or not, I give effort. I can also laugh at a tough loss and learn from the experience.