A Steadying Force in Uncertain Times
2002 Report of the President
For many reasons, this has been an extraordinary year. While our accomplishments as an association have been many, the events of September 11th have created other challenges. America, as usual, is meeting these challenges with strength and unity.
The acts of heroism we have witnessed are incredible and have given us renewed faith in our fellow Americans. Such selfless acts are definitely awe-inspiring. We have seen that ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary results when the motivation is great. It is definitely time to be bold. And bold is what we are, both as a people and as an association. We will not let terrorism hinder our lifestyles or our future, but we will meet the problem head on, just as past generations have done in order to guarantee our freedom.
Our current boldness as an association is exhibited by our approval of a new staff position to deal with government affairs and the fact that we are currently negotiating the purchase of our own national headquarters building after renting for 51 years! Our boldness as a country is exhibited by our commitment to end terrorism in our nation and around the world. America strikes back!
Since we are "the ultimate responsible party," the mason contractor is in a unique position to lead the masonry industry. Unfortunately, not everyone shares our unique perspective of leadership. Not everyone wants to relinquish control to the mason contractor. Why should they? For years, the mason contractor has played a minimal role in providing the leadership that the industry needed. Our supplier friends carried the load of leading the masonry industry. They had well-financed associations with top-notch staff to promote the interest of masonry. Even the union through the International Masonry Institute and its large budgets provided a service for the industry. But over the years, the mason contractor has gradually stepped up to the plate of leadership and pointed the way to the future. And the path to our future is in unifying the industry and this effort has become a long term goal of the MCAA.
We have begun to achieve our goal through groups such as the Masonry Industry Council that MCAA helped to form several years ago. This organization, supported by the Mason Contractors Association, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Brick Industries Association and the Portland Cement Association, has begun the long and arduous task of unifying the industry. We are beginning to see the results of our industry working more closely together through programs such as the establishment of a masonry pavilion at the Construction Specifications Institute show, the Federal Officials Seminar, and the development of a fourth Masonry Designer's Guide. We have a long way to go to build our industry, but through groups such as MIC and its four active committees, our industry is beginning to think and act in unison.
Our MASONRY SHOWCASE has also become a unifying force for the mason contractor and our suppliers. At this year's show, we have over thirty local groups meeting in conjunction with the national show. In addition to the local meetings being held here in Phoenix, we are conducting a Masonry Summit Meeting with the heads of these local organizations and staff. It is our hope that at this summit meeting, we will gain insight from the leaders of the local industry associations to continue the process of building MCAA's Long Range STrategic Plan and ensuring the mason contractor's role as the leader of the masonry industry.
Serving the Needs of the MembershipThe number one goal of any association is to serve the needs of its membership and that of the industry. Serving the needs of our membership is indeed our number one goal because without our members, we would not be in business helping to build the masonry industry. Our primary service to the members is through communication. We accomplished an extremely large task this past year by increasing the publication of our Masonry magazine from a bi-monthly to a monthly publication, and I am proud to say that the quality of your association's magazine rivals that of our competitor's. In fact, I have heard repeatedly that our magazine now exceeds that quality of our competitor's. As members, you can take pride in that fact. Another huge accomplishment this past year is the expansion of our website, which not includes a members-only section. This site now allows members to receive a full range of safety programs at no charge saving our individuals firms thousands of dollars in safety training costs. The members-only site keeps members up-to-date on what's happening in both the association and the masonry industry as a whole. It even allows members to talk to each other through the use of forum discussion groups, chat rooms and question listings. I am extremely excited about our new members-only site, which I believe will rival any member benefit the MCAA has to offer. I believe that the ability to easily discuss issues with fellow members will one day be worth more than the price of membership to our individual firms.
The MCAA not only served you through increased communication, but we have expanded many of our programs as well. The MCAA Resource Catalog was once again expanded to include many new offerings which members can purchase at substantial discounts. Our new Scaffold Safety Course and the new Masonry Wall Bracing Design Manual that was developed in cooperation with our good chapter and members of the Mason Contractors Association of Michigan will once again keep our members on the cutting edge of what's happening in our industry. We have come a very long way in such a very short time in our service to the membership.
For years, much of our focus has been toward developing our industry's workforce. However, in order for the MCAA to become a total service association for our members and to face the reality of the current economic situation, we have to become more involved in promoting the use of masonry products by our customers. I am proud to report that the MCAA has expanded its involvement in masonry promotion through not only the continued support of the Architects' Masonry Symposium, exhibiting at customer shows such as the Construction Specification Institute trade show and the ASCE Structures Congress and the Federal Officials Masonry Seminar, but we have become active in advertising the use of masonry in such publications as Architectural Magazine. We continue to fight for you for our share of the construction dollar.
Codes & StandardsFew areas of the masonry industry have felt the presences of the mason contractor greater than our industry's building codes and standards. This past year, through the efforts of the MCAA, the interests of the mason contractor have been heard. But our efforts must not stop.
There are those in our industry that would design building codes and standards that would make our industry far less competitive to other construction methods. Many of these people have never laid a brick or block in their lives, yet they have a strong voice in the types of codes and standards that are developed. Finally, we have a constant voice to offset the voices of those that would over-design masonry into oblivion. MCAA is the only national organization that is fighting for the interests of the mason contractor on code committees and it's rewarding to know that we have the assets and skill to become a leader in this area and the dedication to support our involvement with a greater dues burden. Our membership should be applauded for supporting such a worthwhile action.
Workforce DevelopmentAs mason contractors, we realize the dependence that our industry has on having a quality workforce available for us to employ. It is because of this critical need that the expansion of our industry's workforce remains a primary focus of the MCAA. Keeping a constant focus of our industry on recruitment and training is crucial to developing the future of our labor force. One such event is the Masonry Skills Challenge, a collaborative effort between the MCAA and our Canadian counterpart in apprenticeship skills. Our Skills Challenge, taking place here at the convention, pits winning apprentices from across the U.S. and Canada against each other in a test of skills for the right to be called the industry's best first, second and third year apprentice. A second popular event in the Fastest Trowel on the Block contest which pits journeymen against each other in a test of both speed and skill. These two events, while fun to watch, keep our focus on what is needed in our industry. And that's a quality workforce.
Another program that the MCAA has become very involved with is Skills USA-VICA. This organization promotes vocational training in our nation's high schools and post-secondary programs of which masonry in one of the trades offered. Currently there are 225 Skills USA-VICA masonry programs which are feeder programs to our apprenticeship programs throughout the U.S. It is our belief that getting to these students early and giving them some experience in masonry is of vital importance in convincing them that masonry is a worthwhile career path. Our continued support of Skills USA-VICA and the expansion of the number of schools offering Skills USA-VICA masonry programs is important to our industry's future workforce development.
We must not be content with just training our future masons, we must become involved with training those individuals that teach our future masons. The MCAA has increased its support of the National Masonry Instructors Association, an organization that is dedicated to increasing the capabilities of masonry instructors. We have become involved in assisting this group in establishing a quality national conference where masonry instructors from around the country can come together to learn from each other on how to conduct quality masonry training programs.
Simply providing the best training programs with the best instructors is not the entire answer to the future development of our workforce. We must convince the parents of our future workforce that a career in masonry is worthwhile. We have spearheaded the development of an informational brochure targeted toward parents that answer the important questions that partners have regarding our industry. I, for one, am excited about reaching beyond the student to talk directly to the parents, since it is the parents that have tremendous influence over their children's futures.
Public AffairsThe role of any national association is to perform tasks that individually local chapters can't accomplish on their own. One critical area that the MCAA should be playing a vital role is that of public affairs and more specifically, government intervention.
Few areas of our business can impact us more rapidly and without impunity than government intervention. We all known too well the effects an OSHA regulation can have on our businesses. Taxes, labor laws and other government regulations also can make running a successful and profitable masonry business almost unbearable. And the role of government in our business lives is only going to become more burdensome with the prospects of an ergonomics regulation for all of us to contend with.
Thankfully, the nearly 700 page OSHA Ergonomic Standard that was passed early last year was rescinded by COngress and approved by the Bush Administration. But had the Clinton Administration had their way, as contractors, we would be faced with adhering to the most burdensome regulation, making HAZCOM look gentile. The state of Washington, however, is implementing an ergonomics standard in July of 2002 and could well become the leader on this issue. What would it cost your businesses to give each of your employees two hours of paid breaks each day? That was one of the new regulations that was proposed by OSHA. Thankfully more level heads prevailed.
However, the issue is not going away and we will once again be faced with an ergonomics standard in the future. It is issues such as this that have prompted the MCAA Board of Directors to make a stronger commitment and statement in the area of Public Affairs.
At our last Midyear Meeting this past fall, the Board approved the funding of a full time staff person to fight for our members on Capitol Hill. Supported by a modest dues increase, it is our hope to have the interests of mason contractors and more specifically, MCAA members represented in Washington, D.C.
As a national association, we have done a reasonable job of looking after the interests of our members in Washington. But like codes and standards, being effective in Washington requires full time attention. We can no longer hope to impact future regulation and legislation last minute. Being effective in this area is much like winning a football game. Most of the success of the game is fought minute by minute in the trenches. We must be diligent and be in the offices of members on Congress and federal agencies so when the time does come to face another future ergonomics regulation, the interests of the mason contractor will be felt. If we do not participate in the development of the ergonomics standards, all else will be pointless.
Building for the FutureAs your president for the past two years, I am proud of the many goals that we have accomplished. We established a goal to hire a full time Director of Engineering and we have achieved that goal. In fact, today, the MCAA's advice is sought on codes and standards committees thus ensuring the interests of the mason contractor in future codes and standards. I am proud of the leadership that we are beginning to exhibit in masonry promotion, workforce development and contractor education.
I am proud that the MCAA Board of Directors has shown leadership by supporting our full-time involvement in Washington, D.C. But what I am most proud of as your president is the new outlook that your Board and the entire MCAA has toward dealing with the future. Since our board represents the most knowledgeable and dedicated individuals in our field, we now spend a large block of time at each meeting allowing these minds to brainstorm together, identifying where we need to be in the future and how we are going to get there and less time reviewing the reports of the past activities.
Today, the MCAA is focused on what the future has in store for our industry and we have the foresight to work to ensure that the future will be successful for all of our members. Our Strategic Long Range Planning will keep the MCAA ever vigilant in ensuring that the MCAA will be the leader for all mason contractors and for the masonry industry.
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.