Our Work Awaits Us… Let Us Begin!
Report of the President
By Donald Grant
For nearly two years now, the theme of my President’s message has been “Our Work Awaits US … Let Us Begin.” It seems however that our work is never done. There is always a new challenge facing us, a new issue to deal with, a new problem to solve, and always an uncertain future to contemplate.
We face ever changing problems as mason contractors. Problems from competitive systems attacking our markets, demanding customers, continuous training of employees, collections, taxes, contract negotiations, change orders, punch lists all lending to the feel of utter frustration. We look back to earlier years of when we first got into business and longed for what we remember to be the simpler days and wonder why we deal with all today’s challenges.
It seems as though that our beginnings have no end and that it never seems to be easy. We all swear that had it been this hard to run a masonry business when we started, we never would have gone into the masonry business.
But we are in the masonry business. Most of us raised families by what we earned as a contractor. We provided a good living for the families of our employees. Many of us today are still raising families and hope to have a thriving business well into the future. And we all hope to have a thriving profitable business to turn over to our children.
That’s why we must continue to work hard to meet these challenges so that we can look to the future for better times for future mason contractors. We cannot shirk from our responsibilities to build a brighter future.
Your national association, the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) has faced our industry’s problems head on. Through our membership and involvement, your association has developed programs, services and materials to help us construct the brighter future we all seek for ourselves, our families and industry.
It’s been through your financial support and involvement that the MCAA has become active enough, viable enough and committed to fight on your behalf. Individually, we cannot solve our problems, but collectively, networking with one another, we have strength to accomplish our goals.
It is at convention time, that we reflect on our MCAA’s year of accomplishment and contemplate the year ahead. Ladies and Gentleman, fellow members of the MCAA, it is my distinct honor to report to you, that once again, our Association is strong, active and engaged in building a viable masonry industry for us all.
The MCAA has had many accomplishments and during the past year, we have accomplished many of the goals we set out for our Association. Equally important, we have established new goals that will guide us in years to come.
I am pleased to report that the Mason Contractors Association of America has achieved the following.
Recruitment & TrainingAs a critical component of running a successful and profitable mason contracting business is the availability of a well-trained workforce for us to employ. The MCAA had led the industry in the challenge to recruit new masons and provide quality training materials for our industry’s future labor pool.
Focusing the entire industry on recruiting has been our biggest challenge and keeping the industry focused on the long-term program of recruiting new masons will continue to be our challenge.
Masonry Career Day has become the rallying point to motivate the industry to act. This past year, the MCAA held the first Masonry Career Day with great success. Not before this had the industry been focused to act in a unified fashion, contractors and suppliers jointly going to schools to promote our industry as a viable career path. The career day galvanized us with a common goal. Although, career days don’t happen on the day we designated, by having one day selected as the national masonry career day, contractors and suppliers are motivated to establish their career day plans. We look forward to our second masonry career day which is February 27.
As contractors, we are short-term results oriented. We see results of our labors immediately as our buildings are completed. Unfortunately, recruiting our workforce is painfully slow. We must not become impatient or lose sight of our ultimate goal – a well-trained and qualified workforce.
Training SeriesOur Masonry Training Series continues to gain acceptance and use. It is by far the most complete and comprehensive training manual for our industry. To meet further industry need, the MCAA is making plans to develop a Spanish version of our training series. We hope to have our Spanish series on the market in time for the fall school season later this year.
VICAThe MCAA continues to be committed to an integral part of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America’s masonry program. This past year, 45 students from around the country completed in Kansas City to build the best masonry project. MCAA has brought the two winners here to Charlotte. They will be demonstrating their winning skills on the Expo show floor.
New Training ProgramsThe MCAA has targeted thirteen cities around the country in which no apprenticeship or training programs exist. It is our hope to assist in establishing local apprenticeship and training programs in those areas. This is an important part of insuring that we meet the challenge of developing a larger workforce. After all, if young people are interested in our industry, we must have the educational outlets available to train them.
Lastly, we have partnered with the Washington Conference of Mason Contractors to develop a Foreman Training Program. The pilot program is being run here at the MCAA Conference. As contractors, we must support this program fully. Our supervisory employees can make or break many of our projects and indirectly our companies. We must invest the time and money to train our foremen. We must resist the temptation to short cut their management training or worse, skip it entirely and just send them out to manage crews without the necessary skills.
Legislative ActionGovernment intervention in our business is one area that alone, we as contractors can do little about. OSHA regulations, taxes and other government requirements handcuff our abilities to manage our companies the way we choose. The MCAA’s involvement in the legislative process has grown steadily over the past five years.
Last year, the MCAA and its members were one of the major participants in a Construction Industry Legislative Conference. Five construction associations met in Washington to educate our elected officials on issues impacting construction. The Board has agreed to conduct our own legislative conference later this spring. By conducting the Masonry Industry Legislative Conference, it is our hope to focus members on Congress on issues affecting mason contractors and small business needs.
Simply meeting with our elected officials is not enough. We must help to elect more Representatives and Senators that support our issues. For this reason, the MCAA PAC has set a goal of $35,000 which will be given to the federal candidates who support our position. The MCAA PAC dollars are not association dollars. Nor are they your membership dues dollars. PAC revenues are personal contributions members’ give. I would urge all of you to contribute to the MCAA PAC.
SafetyA safe working environment is a way of life for anyone in construction. Responsible mason contractors spend thousands of dollars to train their workers in safety, because it is the smart thing to do. The MCAA has invested significant association resources to develop safety programs and materials to help your firm work safe. This year, the MCAA has completed Part II of our forklift training manual. This new addition is the “hands on” portion of forklift training that will help meet OSHA’s new forklift training requirement.
In addition, we have added six modules to our safety training topics. The new modules cover scaffold safety and silicosis-fall protection.
Lastly, the MCAA partnered with the ASA and Intec to offer our members a comprehensive computer safety software. This easy to use program has everything a contractor needs to meet OSHA requirements. It will be demonstrated in our booth at Masonry Expo. I encourage you to stop by for a demonstration.
TechnicalThis past year we have established a technical committee to collect, evaluate and disseminate all pertinent technical information gathered from organizations that effect the mason contractors. To meet the needs for the high tech 21st century the modern mason contractor must be more aware of any changes in construction standards for masonry which will effect his job quality and performance. Your Association has representatives and officers on the Council for Masonry Research (CMR), Masonry Alliance for Codes and Standards (MACS), the IMI, the ASTM, the Masonry Standards Joint Committee and just recently the formation of a task force to develop a standard practice for bracing of masonry walls during construction. A seminar is being presented with these new guidelines at our convention. Never before has the magnitude and involvement of the industry been so focused on seeking a solution to a masonry construction challenge. We owe a debt of gratitude to the volunteers serving on this task group for addressing this critical issue.
MCAA Conference & Masonry ExpoThe MCAA Conference and Masonry Expo continues to be the pinnacle of activity for both the MCAA and the masonry industry. Masonry Expo, a partnering of the NCMA and the MCAA has seen steady growth through mutual goals and objectives. Our conference and Expo offers contractors exceptional educational programs, product comparisons, and thousands of dollars of cost savings. It pays to attend each year. These are just a few of the compelling reasons for all mason contractors to make attending our conference and Expo a yearly priority.
Member CommunicationKeeping members informed of everything the Association is doing on their behalf is an important function. With so many new programs and services being added and existing programs being expanded, keeping members informed is a never ending task. Two publications that have improved this past year is “Masonry” Magazine and our newsletter “Update.” Both of these publications have become invaluable in promoting the MCAA and its programs. These publications have also become invaluable as an educational tool for mason contractors.
Association GrowthMaking everything that the MCAA does possible, is due to the steady growth in membership. Our Association has had net membership growth for more than six years and this current year we anticipate another year of net membership growth. We have also established new chapter ties in Southern Illinois and the Nation’s Capital and we have targeted thirteen new chapter locations. In addition to new chapters, we have forged closer ties with our backbone, our existing chapters. Because it is through strong chapters that we will be able to accomplish greater goals.
Helping to build a stronger chapter network, we have just completed a “Chapter Operations Manual” which assists new chapters form and existing chapters improve their service to members.
FutureA national association’s main purpose is to set the agendas, the goals established through a long range of objectives established by committee work. National associations cannot accomplish anything without the strong support of its members and chapter network. Effective associations rely on its network to implement the vision. With a strong network of members and chapters, and a steady growth of involvement of our members the MCAA is enabled to set the highest goals and standards for the industry.
I am proud to be a part of the MCAA. I am honored to have served as your President these past two years. I would like to thank my fellow Senior Officers, Donald Larsen, Mike Johnston and Bill McConnell for sharing their time and support. I would also like to thank our Regional Vice Presidents Frank Campitelli, Alan Griffin, Robert Schuerman, Fred Kinateder, John Smith, Sr, Robert Fenimore, Ken Thompson, Rennie Tejeda and Robert Barkshire and Committee Chairmen Richard Matthews, Richard Felice, Paul Clements, Doug Nichols, Roy Swindal, Buddie Barnes, Mark Larsen, Ed Boettcher, III, Mariano “Skip” DiGiovanni, and John Smith, Jr. who have unselflessly dedicated themselves to making the MCAA such a driving force in the industry. And lastly, I would like to thank the entire MCAA Board, members and the dedicated MCAA staff for helping the MCAA accomplish all that we have.
Most of all I want to thank you, the members, for allowing me to represent you. I enjoyed my experience during a very exciting period of time. “It was the best of times: It was the worst of times.” We had an expanding market with fewer qualified craftsmen. Thank you for allowing me to serve this wonderful profession we have chosen and to lead the MCAA which is the glue that binds the masonry industry together.
Finally, I’d like to share with you a phrase I heard many years ago. It goes… Success comes in cans-failure in cant’s. The success of this organization will be determined by how many of the “cans” can be filled by our members. It takes “cans” from all of us to advance our association, our industry, ourselves. So as the baton is passed, I wish the new officers success in their tenure and pledge my assistance to them in achieving the goals and objectives of our Association.
Our work awaits us…let us begin!
About the Author
Donald Grant served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America.