April 1, 2003 4:41 PM CST

Strength Through Advocacy

2003 Report of the President

By

What a truly remarkable year this past one has been. As a nation, our strength of character has rarely been tested as it was in 2002. We endured the long healing process that began the day after the September 11th attacks. We have been introduced to multicolored threat warnings alerting us to the possibility of imminent danger. We were in awe of what America can become as shown by the determination and spirit of those men and women who rebuilt the destroyed Pentagon less than one year after the brutal attack, an unbelievable accomplishment.

Now, we face the promise that comes with a newly elected Congress while at the same time, as an industry, we cope with the uncertainties of an ailing economy. Rarely before have we experienced a President so unwavering and determined to protect Americans from such brutal attacks from a hidden enemy as we experienced just eighteen months ago. Regardless of politics, we must marvel at such dedication and leadership even in the face of growing discontent from those few Americans who chose to ignore history and seek to turn the other cheek regardless of future costs.

Leadership is more than a word loosely thrown around. In my mind, true leadership is a total conviction in a vision of a future ? and a focus and determination to endure the hardships that are faced on the long road to that envisioned future. Since becoming president of the Mason Contractors Association of America, a day doesn't go by that I don't marvel at the strength of character that President Bush must possess to be so steadfast in his beliefs and vision. To stand firm when the voices of discontent engulf you is truly remarkable.

As an association, we have stepped forward to provide the leadership that has been so lacking in our industry. Few argued that the need for true leadership existed, yet as we offered a vision for the future, many in our industry challenged our vision. For decades, the masonry industry lamented the loss of markets coming from the splintered nature of our industry. Those that led before us failed to build a cohesive industry capable of growing masonry's market share in the construction industry.

The MCAA stepped forward to fill the leadership void only to be welcomed with dissention and skepticism by those who should be allied with us. Clearly we have been tested, but those tests have hardened us and sharpened our vision for the future. That sharpened focus has enabled our association to achieve many accomplishments this past year while setting even bolder goals for the future.


Representing Your Interests
As mason contractors, we contend with tremendous external pressures impacting our business and our profitability. Winning jobs at a fair price, securing a skilled workforce, adhering to ever changing building codes and standards, getting paid on time or in some cases getting paid at all, challenge the very survival of our businesses. But no impact is as great, as fast, and as unforgiving as that of government intervention. As contractors, we know all too well the burden incurred on our businesses by increasing taxes. Add to that the arbitrary effects of increasing government regulations from agencies such as OSHA and its affect on our bottom-line is equally as devastating. As a Board, we looked into the near future and saw looming on the horizon still greater impacts to our livelihood from possible ergonomics and silica standards and we knew that something needed to be done.

This past year, through the support of our members through a dues increase, the MCAA hired a full-time Director of Government Affairs, based in Washington, D.C., who is representing our interests in our nation's capital. Through the efforts of our lobbyist, the MCAA has already established a presence not only in the halls of Congress, but in federal agencies and departments as well. We have begun dialogue with agencies such as OSHA with regard to issues such as ergonomics and other far-reaching initiatives that can devastate our industry.

We have met with the Department of Education and Treasury to discuss workforce development issues and tax incentives to assist us in expanding our labor force to meet future needs. We have met with key members of Congress to advocate legislation that will assist us as small business owners in vital areas such as tax relief, healthcare reform and prompt pay.

Assuring that our voice as an association and as an industry is heard, we have become active in the past election and played a role in electing four U.S. Senators who were instrumental in gaining a pro-small business majority in the Congress. Two specific contests that our association's political action committee, MACPAC, helped were Jim Talent's race in Missouri and Norm Coleman's in Minnesota. For the first time, our political action committee not only gave significant contributions but we became active in "get-out-the-vote" efforts in those races. It's those voter turnout campaigns that have a tremendous impact, especially in close elections.

We can no longer sit idly by and hope that candidates friendly to our positions will win their elections. As an association, we must insure that the 17,000 mason contracting firms and their more than 190,000 employees have the information to make educated decisions about who the best candidates are who will support the masonry industry.

The MCAA will become diligent in seeking the active support of every mason contractor. At previous MCAA meetings, we heard reports that in the last several national elections, less than 10,000 votes determined the control over the U.S. Congress. Clearly our industry's 17,000 contractors and 190,000 employees can have a say in who wins the next election and what issues will be voted on in Washington. By openly advocating our issues and mobilizing our industry we will gain the strength through advocacy to bring change to Washington that will ensure the survival of our industry.

The challenge will be great but we must remain diligent. For too long, our industry has lacked unity of purpose. Too many local mason contractor organizations remain uncommitted to the MCAA. Too many lack the vision of how strong our industry can truly be if we simply work together. Many remain focused on local issues and resist a direct alliance with the national association. As an industry, we must rise above this pettiness that divides us and work to bring our industry together under one umbrella ? the umbrella of the MCAA. I call on every local association to support the MCAA to the fullest so we can advocate our industry's position in our nation's capital through the strength of a single purpose.


Masonry Industry Council
MCAA's commitment to unify the industry runs greater than just bringing together our contractors. We have been a driving force behind the emergence of the Masonry Industry Council, an industry board of directors whose purpose is to unite the actions of the industry to more effectively compete with alternate systems.

Through our urging, MIC conducted a two-day long-range strategic planning session where the officers of the MCAA, the National Concrete Masonry Association, the Brick Industry Association, the Portland Cement Association and the International Masonry Institute came together to map out a long range strategic plan for the entire masonry industry.

This was a tremendous first step toward putting an end to the divisiveness that has allowed our industry's competitors to flourish. While our efforts thus far are minimal, the mere fact that we are coming together to identify competitive issues is a strong step toward solving our industry's problems, now and in the future. Every journey begins with a first step, and we have taken a big first step.


Our New Association Home
For over twenty-five years, we have discussed the possibility of investing in our long-term future by owning our own headquarters. This past year, through the hard work of our staff and Board and through the generous contributions of our members and key chapters, we realized the dream of establishing a permanent home for our association in Schaumburg, Ill. Our new headquarters gives us the flexibility for growth while helping to ensure the long-term financial health of the MCAA.

Today, we are in the process of a major renovation of the interior of the headquarters that we believe will truly make it a showpiece for the association. In addition, our plans are to make our headquarters a hub of activity with association meetings and educational offerings.


Insuring Your Future
Of utmost concern for our association and that of our industry is to elect a pro-masonry Congress. While we have begun the long journey to being able to influence legislation and regulations coming out of Washington D.C., we must focus our efforts to helping those candidates that support our issues.

The MCAA became involved in this effort last fall when we helped candidates for the U.S. Senate, such as Jim Talent's bid for the Senate from Missouri and Norm Coleman's race for the Senate in Minnesota. Our support, financial as well as our get-out-the-vote efforts, helped these pro-masonry candidates win their Senate races.

Our goal these next two years is to raise nearly $100,000 for our political activities. Through MACPAC we will be able to help over one hundred candidates for federal office in the 2004 elections. Without a well-funded MACPAC, our efforts will be minimized and ineffective. We simply must insure that we have the resources to guarantee that a pro-masonry Congress will be elected.

Fighting for Favorable Codes & Standards
While we have become very successful over the past several years in advancing the interests of our members in the code arena, we must remain diligent in our efforts in the future. Few areas are as volatile as the code arena. Our industry's competitors are constantly advancing code changes that seek to give a competitive advantage to their materials to the detriment of masonry. While we have effective full time staff representation, as contractors we must lend our support by attending code meetings to offer our testimony when code changes are considered.


Promoting the Use of Masonry
As mason contractors, we are in a unique position to promote masonry. We deal directly with owners and other masonry customers almost on a daily basis. We don't care what type of masonry our customers seek, we can install it all. Since we are in this unique position, it makes sense that our association takes a lead role in promoting our systems.

We have called on our Marketing and Education Chairmen to develop campaigns to promote a greater use of masonry. From the development of a national cost guide to a drastically expanded website, the MCAA is becoming a single source reference for our customers ? a single source for education, technical assistance and knowledge on our system. For decades, our customers have expressed their frustration over how difficult and cumbersome it is to do business with masonry. By becoming a single source for our customers we will alleviate the barriers to specifying masonry.

Our promotional efforts are not limited to traditional methods for masonry promotion. As President of the MCAA, I am excited to report a brand new initiative that we are about to undertake that your Board of Directors believes will have staggering promotional success. The MCAA has been in negotiations with representative of the Construction Specifications Institute over a possible partnership between our trade shows. I am happy to report that beginning in April of 2005 MCAA and Masonry Showcase will be co-located in The Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) Construct America. Our show will become a major partner and we will represent the masonry pavilion at Construct America. Our exhibits, two skills competitions and educational offerings will educate the nearly 17,000 architects, specifiers, general contractors, facility managers and owners that attend Construct America. We are extremely excited about our new partnership with CSI.

Finally, as contractors we will not only receive the benefits of attending Masonry Showcase, for the first time we will be able to enjoy the additional benefit of attending a show where we can network with our customers. Not only will you be able to enjoy the savings to your business from attending the Masonry Showcase, but you can now get work as well.

Your Board will be traveling to Chicago this month to attend the 2003 CSI Construct America Show where we expect to participate in a formal contract signing solidifying our partnership with CSI. The possibilities are endless.


Keeping a Focus on Training
While our need for more masons has temporarily diminished with the softening economy, we must continue to focus on building the conduit from our nation's high schools to a career in masonry. Under the direction of our Training Committee we have already begun to achieve our goal of placing masonry career information into our nation's nearly 18,000 high schools.

As aggressive as this goal is, our nation's students cannot consider careers in masonry unless they are exposed to it. In addition to placing career information in our nation's high schools, we will seek to establish masonry pre-apprentice classes in high schools throughout the country as well. These comprehensive goals will enable our industry to be a career of choice and not a career of desperation.


Conclusion
My friends and fellow members, we have achieved so much during such troubling times. We have asked more from our members this past year than at any other time and you have responded. We have never been in such a strong position to impact our future as we are today. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Mason Contractors Association of America, thank you for your support and trust.

On a more personal note, thank you for the privilege you have presented to me to serve as your President. I am excited about what we will achieve this coming year. With your continued support, the possibilities are endless.

Thank you.


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.

 

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