Strategically Thinking About the Future of the Masonry Industry
2001 Report of the President
Just when did the world become such a very small place? The last time I checked it still took forty-eight hours to travel around the world. In fact, the world is still 24,902 miles around at the equator. I step outside my house and Mt. Rainier still punches the clouds at over 14,000 feet. There are roughly 191 countries in the world and over 6 billion 100 million people living in them. So when did the world become so small? It has undoubtedly been the introduction of the internet and its uncanny ability to put us in direct contact with people and companies clear across the globe. Within seconds, we can be buying products and services from thousands of companies in hundreds of countries. We can obtain information on almost any topic with the touch of a computer keystroke. Clearly, it has become a smaller and much different world than the one that we have become so comfortable with over the past several decades.
I remember back to the introduction of the fax machine and doubted that anyone would buy such an expensive machine. Today, the fax is threatening the very existence of the U.S. Postal Service. I also remember the introduction of cellular phones and wondered if we could ever afford such a luxury. Today, I wonder how I'd ever be able to function if I lost my cell phone, which I have become so dependent upon. I marvel at the internet and the access to such tremendous information, products and services. Of course, I marvel at the internet once I figure out how to navigate my computer, or even figure out how to turn it on. I think those that know me know that I'm not one of the world's foremost authorities on computers.
But if there is any doubt that the internet is going to take hold much like fax machines and cell phones, just log on and surf the net to find out for yourself. But if you are computer illiterate like many of us older contractors, just watch your kids or grandchildren, they will show you the future.
The impact of a shrinking world and the introduction of new technologies is not limited to the internet. As the voice representing the interests of mason contractors nation-wide, the Mason Contractors Association of America has focused on the changing world around us, and the impact those advances will have on our markets and livelihoods as contractors.
As the only association representing all of the industry's mason contractors, we don't have the luxury of ignoring the future and its impact on us all. As President of the Mason Contractors Association of America, I am pleased to report to you here today that this past year, your association has continued to expand its effectiveness and the MCAA's influence as an advocate for mason contractors. I would like to share with you during the next few minutes some of the key accomplishments your association has achieved during the past year.
Strategically Thinking About the WorldThe MCAA took a major step forward this past year when your executive board met back in July along with your association's committee chairs to begin the process of thinking strategically about our future as an association. For fifty years, we gathered together to review and ratify the actions that had already been accomplished by our committees. As an association, we spent very little time thinking about the future and how as mason contractors, we would impact the future. Started at a Long-Range Strategic Planning meeting held in San Diego, California this past summer and then completed at the association's Midyear Meeting in Seattle this past September, the Board constructed a strategic plan that will govern the association over the next thirty years. During the strategy sessions, we collectively shared our vision of what the future will look like, who our competitors will be and whether or not masonry will be a viable building product in the future. Then, based on our best educated guesses, we strategize about what the MCAA must do to bring about the most profitable futures for all of our members. As an association, we will face many detours and at times, many road blocks along the way. But relying on this new vision and a new way of strategically governing our association, your Board is now on what I believe to be the right pathway to the future. This new Long-Range Strategic Plan will be introduced at our Annual Meeting later today.
Thinking strategically about the future of the masonry industry requires us as an association to look beyond our borders and begin to think globally about our industry. As the world continues to get smaller, we must seek to develop new alliances and partners to expand our capabilities as contractors. Much like we have done with our partners in the Canadian Masonry Contractors Association with the sharing of information and partnering on sound projects such as the Masonry Skills CHallenge and the constructing of the Habitat for Humanity home, our association must work to build partnerships with other like minded mason contractors all across the globe. I have asked our Executive Director Mike Adelizzi to explore the existence of other mason contractor organizations world wide and to begin seeking areas of mutual concern and benefit from developing expanded partnerships much like the one we have forged with our partners in Canada.
Leadership in Workforce DevelopmentBut as high tech as the world has become, our industry still relies heavily on the hands-on process of installing our materials. And as long as we are dependent on an expanded workforce, the MCAA will be intricately involved in developing the availability of a quality workforce. MCAA has indeed provided leadership in guaranteeing the future availability of our workforce. One of the most exciting programs that the association has started along with our Canadian partners is the Masonry Skills Challenge where we spotlight our industry's brightest apprentices, which even has galvanized the industry to become involved in investing in our industry's future workforce. Here in Orlando, you will have the opportunity to experience the Masonry Skills Challenge where winning apprentices from the U.S. and Canada will compete for the title of the industry's best. In addition to the Skills Challenge, we continued to support vocational training throughout the U.S. with our involvement in Skills USA. Skills USA encourages the establishment of masonry programs in our country's high schools which I believe is a critical area of involvement to find the future of our labor force. This coming year, one of our association's goals is to double the number of high schools offering masonry programs throughout the U.S.
Providing the training for our future masons is not enough. We must continue to provide the needed training for our industry's future supervisory personnel as well. That needed training continues to come in the form of our two-day Foreman Development course which is being conducted once again here at our annual conference. Estimating is another vital aspect of our businesses and our new Masonry Estimating course and manual will provide critical training for our membership.
Leadership In EducationAs contractors we know that our own continuing education to become more successful as business leaders never ends. Your association has also had a very successful year in providing quality education for our nation's contractors. One of the most exciting developments this past year is the expansion of your MASONRY Magazine to a monthly publication. Not only have we been successful in launching a monthly magazine, but the quality of each issue's features has dramatically improved. In fact, we have added new features such as the Contractor to Contractor and the Making the Grade features which highlights our industry's best. A valuable resource for our industry contractors is the MCAA Resource Catalog which lists over 100 publications geared toward providing contractors with the most comprehensive resources available for managing a successful masonry business. This past fiscal year, I am proud to report that we sold nearly $200,000 in publications which is nearly doubled from our sales volume from the year before.
Probably on of the most important events for the association is the MASONRY SHOWCASE and the educational opportunities it offers. In fact, this year, we have expanded our educational offering from eight to twenty and we have specialized those sessions in four areas of concentration: safety, technical, business development and a new section in residential. No other show offers contractors such a concentrated list of masonry specific topics. Add that to the nearly 40,000 square feet of exhibits and your MASONRY SHOWCASE has now become the event for mason contractors to attend.
Leadership In Masonry MarketingI am proud of the continued expansion that your association has exhibited in the area of masonry promotion. It's very difficult to understand why the MCAA has expanded its role in promoting masonry in light of the continued robust construction economy. Even with the extent of the investment from our brick and block manufacturers, I am asked why the MCAA would promote the use of masonry. But I believe that no one is in as strong a position to promote the entire use of masonry systems as the MCAA. For this reason, our association must become more involved with promoting masonry and educating our customers to the benefits of masonry. Customer focus groups have told the MCAA that the masonry industry is too splintered with too many sources of information. The MCAA can and must become a single unifying force for promoting our industry. We must continue to become the leader in promoting masonry. One event that I am most pleased with is our Architect's Masonry Symposium. Last year we had nearly forty architects from around the country attend the three-day symposium immersing themselves in learning about masonry. What customers have told us is that they do not have the same knowledge of our systems versus competitive systems. Our Architect's Masonry Symposium is an effective answer to providing our customers with the knowledge and comfort level to design more with masonry.
One of the vital aspects of the Symposium is the hands on aspect of learning about masonry that the architects receive when they help our industry's best apprentices build the Habitat for Humanity homes here in Orlando. What better way for our industry's customers to gain a greater appreciation for our craft than to put a trowel in their hands and actually lay masonry unites in the wall of such a worth while cause as providing a home for a less fortunate family.
In addition to the Architect Symposium, the MCAA once again had an exhibit at the Construction Specifications Institute Exposition where 3,000 construction specifiers attended the show. Once again, our booth provided hands on demonstrations for the customers who stopped by our booth and I am proud to report that your association's booth was once again one of the most popular booths at the CSI Exposition. I would like to take this time to thank Brad Proctor of Wasco who allowed one of this key employees, Mr. Steven Fechino, to attend the SCI show and work our booth with us. Steven provided the hands0on instruction to everyone who stopped in our booth and from what I heard he did a great job. The MCAA once again was a principle partner and supporter of the Masonry Industry Council which serves as a unifying force in the industry. The MIC is comprised of the major industry associations and collectively, it is beginning to focus the industry to address key problems that we all share. One of MIC's programs that the MCAA supports is the Federal Officials Program where government employees who are responsible for federal construction attend a day long serices of workshops so they can have a better understanding of our system. Conducting seminars along is not enough to reach all of the people that need the resources available from the MCAA. For that reason, we have invested a great deal of resources to expand our web-site. If you haven't already done so, I would encourage all of you to travel to our site and explore all the information we now have available on the internet. We now have all of our resources available for purchase on the web site. We have begun archiving MASONRY Magazine features from past editions on the site. You will be able to find information on careers, training information, and programs at future Masonry Showcases. Our members can also be found on our web-site. We believe that your association has one of the most interactive sites on the internet.
Leadership In Codes & StandardsFewer things can impact our industry fastest than codes & standards. For decades, we have relied on the volunteer support of fellow members to attend codes & standards meetings to represent the interests of our members. While it was somewhat effective and we are grateful to those members who have served our association's interests, I am proud to report that we have added a new full time staff position to represent our interests in the future. I hope you will all have a chance to meet our new Director of Engineering, Mr. Rashod Johnson during the next few days. In a very short time, he has already begun to have an impact. However, he can't do it alone. I urge our members to continue to become active on industry code and standards committee.
We remain involved in our continued support the Council for Masonry Research which conducts valuable market oriented masonry research. Since our first involvement with the CMR, they have invested nearly $750,000 in important research to expand the use of our products. As an association, we will continue to build MCAA's influence in masonry codes and standards development.
Leadership In The FutureDuring my first year as President of the MCAA, I've heard time and time again that we must work at developing our partnership especially with our industry's suppliers. I believe that we have worked at our partnership. The Masonry Industry Council, which the MCAA forged, is a direct result of our foresight toward unifying the industry. But no matter how good we are, we must recognize that we cannot do it alone.
Our association has come a long way over the last several years stepping forward to provide the leadership that is so lacking in the industry. But as good as we believe that we are at leading, what good is providing leadership if everyone refuses to be led. There is no doubt that our industry is still a fragmented industry. Our customers tell us we are splintered, our competitors take advantage of us being splintered, and our industry laments in the fragmentation.
The solution to unifying our industry begins with the MCAA. We must recognize that there are numerous small local mason contractor associations and thousands of mason contractors that choose to act alone and not affiliate with the national association. Time and time again, I see the MCAA launch a new program or campaign, and instead of all of our industry's contractor groups rallying behind our efforts, I see them copying our efforts only to call them their own. How ridiculous, how petty, how divisive. I call on every local mason contractor group, no matter how large or how small to affiliate with the national. Put aside your petty differences and join our fight to make masonry the dominant building material. I call on the leaders of each organization to provide the leadership and begin to solve the problem of a splintered industry that frustrates our customers and rewards our competitors and bring your organization under the MCAA umbrella.
We've achieved many of our goals and we've now branched our influence into the area of codes and standards. However, we have yet to effectively exert our influence in the area of legislative action which I believe is the missing piece of MCAA's total service to our members and their future survival. We must focus our efforts at building our influence in this area during the coming year.
Finally, your association's Executive Committee most recently approved plans to move forward to build a national headquarters for the MCAA. This is by far the most aggressive undertaking our association has ever taken on, but I believe that once completed, we will have a showpiece that we can all be proud of. In addition, investing in an association headquarters will put the MCAA on a solid foundation for the future. You will learn more in the near future about how you can support this worthwhile association project.
I would like to thank all the members who have become involved and given so much toward building the MCAA and its influence. I especially would like to thank our Board of Directors and specifically my fellow senior officers who I have relied on so much during the past year. As your President, I remain resolved that the MCAA will lead this industry into the new millennium as prepared as we can be with respect for the past, but an eye on the future.
About the Author
Richard M. Johnston is the co-founder of Johnston Construction Company, Inc. He is a past president of the Mason Contractors Association of America.