Spirit of Cooperation Will Lead To Larger Markets for All of Us!
On August 21 and 22 in Baltimore, the masonry industry came together under the umbrella of the Masonry Industry Council to think and act strategically about the future of the masonry industry. The elected officers and staff of the Mason Contractors Association of America, the Brick Industry Association, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Portland Cement Association, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers, and the International Masonry Institute met for two days to analyze the issues that we collectively face as an industry and how we can work together to favorably impact the future of our industry.
It is little secret that our industry has for as long as any of us can remember been splintered with each special interest of our industry acting independently. Brick organizations representing their interests, block organizations representing their special interests, cement and lime promoting their interests, and contractor groups promoting their interest all resulted in confusion to our customers and an open field for competitive systems such as tilt-up and gypsum to take increased market share away from masonry. That is a situation that no longer is acceptable and one that we as a contractor association have vowed to change.
The August strategic planning meeting is significant in that it has been a long time since the entire industry has come together to begin to work cooperatively in the best interests of masonry. I attended this meeting along with MCAA Vice President Alan Griffin and Secretary Frank Campitelli and I was extremely impressed by the openness and level of cooperation from all the attendees. It's apparent that every organization still has its own special interests at heart, but by the end of the two days, a greater level of cooperation began to emerge.
Two primary goals were identified by the Council members for immediate action. The first is to develop a national accounts team that will include representatives from each of MIC's members. This team will identify two key national accounts that traditionally do not use masonry and get them to switch to masonry. I believe that this effort could have a long-term impact on our industry and future markets in which to compete.
What is the impact to all of us if our customers begin to select masonry instead of competitive systems from which to build their buildings? It is our goal to begin this new team approach to selling masonry by the first of the year. I am excited about the long-term prospects from this cooperative effort.
The second area of joint interest and action is in the area of workforce development. We agreed that MIC would conduct research to determine the state of our workforce and the realistic need for an expansion of our workforce. Basically, where are we now, how many masons are actually employed at the present time, how many can we realistically train and how many can we actually employ if we had them available to us. To me this one area is vital to our future if we are to expand our market share.
We also talked about a joint masonry show, and a national cost book to be used by all organizations in promoting masonry. These are projects we are all excited about.
During the two-day meeting, no issue was left off the table. Issues of product availability, construction quality, promotion, and legislative issues were all discussed. At times, tempers flared and special interests were guarded, but in the end, the long-term interests of our industry emerged and a commonality prevailed as we agreed to take the initial first steps of acting as one in dealing with our true competitors.
I applaud the chairmen, Board members and staff of the MCAA, BIA, NCMA and PCA who took several days away from their businesses to talk about cooperatively working together. I especially applaud the leaders of the BAC and the IMI who set aside differences to cooperatively work with the MCAA and the other industry groups for the best interests of masonry. Clearly a new leadership and willingness to put masonry ahead of special interests were prevalent during this meeting.
We will be successful in accomplishing the two short-term goals, the mere fact that we met was a success. It was significant that the leaders of all of our industry's associations met face to face and we were able to begin to put egos aside and gain a willingness to cooperate in the best interests of the future of our industry.
About the Author
William McConnell is the owner of Architectural Paving & Stone, Inc. He has served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America and on the Board of Trustees for the International Masonry Institute. McConnell was a recipient of the 2005 C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award.