Year in Masonry: 2004
From the joint introduction of the new MasonrySystems.org website and the co-location of Masonry Showcase with the Construction Specifiers Institute's Construct America, to even the OSHA Alliance signed in early 2004, MCAA has taken the steps to put masonry in front of architects, specifiers and other construction clients.
The masonry industry has faced a number of hurdles in regards to competitive systems such as tilt-up, precast, EIFS and steel. In response to these groups, MCAA has had to defend the advantages of masonry over other systems, building upon masonry's time-tested durability, low maintenance, cost savings from using load-bearing design, acoustics, energy savings, fire resistance, mold resistance and even speed of construction.
Marketing initiatives including Fastest Trowel, International Skills Challenge, Excellence in Masonry and our new Masonry: It Makes a Village competitions are exclusive promotional events tailored to directly market masonry products and services to architects and specifers.
Our new partnership with Construct America will also play a large role in influencing masonry clients. This event will provide an outlet for our members and suppliers to grab the attention of architects and specifers to show them everything masonry has to offer, including creative products and uses of masonry that architects and specifers may not have been aware of previously.
MCAA Makes An Impact Online
The Mason Contractors Association of America's website (www.masoncontractors.org) saw unprecedented success throughout 2004, experiencing a 5,400% increase in visitors and a 3,700% increase in content. People from around the globe were exposed to the MCAA and masonry. Contractors throughout the United States and Canada have seen the benefits the MCAA can provide them, and those as far away as France, Italy, Singapore, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey, Australia, and India frequently visited as well.
After being redesigned in June, the website grew to include more technical resources, a vast safety library, masonry career training information, and daily updates on news impacting the industry. Online member profiles were also expanded to include a link to member websites, contact information, sales volumes and a list of company specialties.
Website design became a very popular service to several contractors who saw the importance of establishing their company online. Many suppliers saw the benefits of advertising their products on one of the industry's top websites, and joined the Buyer's Guide and placed banner ads online.
The association also increased its communication to our membership through the use of Masonry Messenger, a twice per month e-mail and fax newsletter. Masonry Messenger supplements the communication efforts from our expanded website.
In October, the MasonrySystems.org promotional campaign was launched. The campaign includes a comprehensive website listing the benefits of masonry, the negatives of its competitors, and key tools to assist with masonry projects.
The MCAA site now attracts over five million hits per year. It lists tremendous amounts of free information and has quickly become a daily source of useful information for mason contractors.
Significant Legislative and Regulatory Progress; More in 2005
MCAA had a very successful year in the legislative and regulatory arena, but, as the saying goes, we have miles to go before we sleep.
While we've accomplished a great deal on the silica issue, the work of the Task Force is far from complete. MCAA is currently working with an attorney to refine our comprehensive set of alternatives to OSHA's draft proposal to regulate employee exposures to crystalline silica. The attorney will dot the I's and cross the T's, if you will, and ensure that our approach is technically and legally sound. I expect that document to be completed later this month, at which time it will be thoroughly reviewed and vetted through membership. In the meantime, OSHA is continuing its work on a risk analysis to determine whether or not and to what extent a silica rulemaking will be necessary. My guess is, the agency will have little choice but to put forth a proposal. Therefore, MCAA will fight to have our Silica Task Force initiative serve as a formal platform for any future rulemaking effort. As an industry we must understand that doing nothing is not an option at this point, but we also want to make very certain that any effort to regulate silica exposures is well balanced. We believe the Silica Task Force approach is just that - it will protect the health of our workers without jeopardizing the productivity and integrity of the masonry industry.
On the health care front, Association Health Plan (AHP) legislation may have again stalled in the Senate, but the 2004 elections have greatly improved the outlook for this important legislation. Several of the new Senators are strong proponents of this free-market approach and with their help I hope we can build a majority of support for the bill. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, also has a new chairman, Mike Enzi of Wyoming. While Senator Enzi has vacillated a bit on AHP legislation, he does have a very strong record of supporting small business issues and therefore should be willing to work with the Coalition to address legitimate concerns so we can move a bill forward. It is my understanding that the House Education and Workforce Committee is expected to act quickly on an AHP bill and have it before the full House in early April. The House action should coincide with the release of a study on the benefits of Association Health Plans for which the AHP Coalition has retained a consultant. This detailed study should be an effective tool to utilize on Capitol Hill as we continue our work to gain enactment of provisions which will provide greater access and affordability to health benefits for small businesses.
MCAA will also continue its work with Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA) on several important OSHA reform initiatives, including one which would require the reimbursement of attorneys' fees when contractors successfully challenge a citation. Later this year, President Bush is also expected to put forth another package of tax incentives. While we don't know yet what that package will contain, it is hoped that the Administration will push to make permanent current tax reductions as well as several deductions and work to eliminate the death tax entirely.
Great Year for Technical and Safety Activities
2004 has been a great year for MCAA for technical and safety activities. The Masonry Standards Joint Committee (MSJC) has completed the 2005 Code and incorporated key changes that will assist contractors in constructing masonry structures. The first is the raising of the lift height in low lift grouting to 12'8". This will certainly make low lift grouting more economical and efficient The second change will allow for concrete masonry units (CMU) to be wet cut. The previous code did not allow CMU to be wet, even during cutting. This change should also be received well by contractors and safety professionals in reducing construction jobsite dust. The MCAA is also supporting research that will make masonry structural design easier and masonry construction more economical by reducing the extremely long and sometimes impractical lap lengths of rebar in walls.
This year has also seen MCAA's influence in OSHA Regulations and safety Standards grow immensely. There have been bi-monthly meetings with OSHA's national staff concerning the OSHA / MCAA Alliance and the relationship between OSHA and MCAA is stronger now than its ever been.
In all, the MCAA is supporting the interests of mason contractors in every way, including codes, standards and regulations. As our presence in these areas get stronger, so will our influence 2005 will be an exciting year for MCAA's technical and safety committees.
"Check Out a Career in Masonry" is Going Strong
The High School Recruitment program, launched in schools across the country in the summer of 2003, is now in its second phase of activity. To date, we have distributed over 650 "Check Out a Career in Masonry" career kits to guidance counselors through the support of our sponsors. By delivering these videos, brochures, worksheets and information, our industry has reached a potential audience of over 500,000 young people. And the response has been great! Feedback from students and educators about our program has been very enthusiastic, and we have been contacted by many, many young people who are planning on pursuing careers in masonry.
This year's focus has been on promoting the second step in our High School Recruitment Initiative: coordinating Career Day presentations across the country. Through the career kit and email newsletters sent directly to guidance counselors at all 650 enrolled schools, we have advertised the option for an industry representative to visit their schools and give a hands-on presentation about masonry. Once again, response has been terrific! Only half-way through the school year, and we already have 40 career days completed or scheduled! These presentations are the best way for our industry to educate young people about our career opportunities, and they are listening!
Our online Masonry Career Training Database also continues to grow, and be a significant resource for students researching their pursuit of our careers. In the past month, we have added five additional programs to our listings. Through our Workforce Development efforts, we are providing information that has never before been available to audiences that has never before been addressed. Although this is just the beginning, we are laying a foundation on which to build masonry's strong future.
Masonry Showcase Sales
The new concept of combining with CSI has created excitement in the industry. Sales of space to companies joining us for the first time have been especially rewarding.
Currently, more than 30% of the exhibitors are first timers. Haener Block, Bad Dog Tools, Benner-Nawman, Fero, Vic International, Hambro Structural Systems, Dee Brown, Halquist Stone, Danish Tool, Keene Building Products and Premier Block are a few of the new faces you'll be seeing in Chicago. There are also some exhibitors joining us after an absence of a few years such as Firestone Building Products and Solid/Flue Chimney.
Prior exhibitors are the bread and butter of the show and make up the lion's share of exhibitors. We rely on the loyalty these companies show to our association and the relationship our members have developed with them. So, look for familiar faces like Non-Stop Scaffolding, EZ Grout, MK Diamond, Pettibone, Spec Mix, Fraco, JLG, Marshalltown Company, Multiquip and Manitou.
The 2005 Masonry Showcase will boast the most exhibitors since the 2001 show. You won't want to miss this event!
More on the Horizon
2005 is looking to be another successful year for the Mason Contractors Association of America. Thanks to your support, we continue to grow and make important strides throughout the masonry industry. Remember to regularly visit our website, www.masoncontractors.org, and read both our newsletter, Masonry Messenger, and magazine, Masonry, to stay on top of all the lastest MCAA and industry news.
About the Author
he Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is the national trade association representing mason contractors. The MCAA is committed to preserving and promoting the masonry industry by providing continuing education, advocating fair codes and standards, fostering a safe work environment, recruiting future manpower, and marketing the benefits of masonry materials. Visit www.masoncontractors.org to learn more.