April 25, 2005 8:00 AM CDT

Advancing the Masonry Industry

2005 Report of the President

By

The past year has been remarkable for our industry and our country. We have witnessed things that have never before happened in our life times. The Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable by actually winning the World Series, and now our attention focuses on the Chicago Cubs to see if they too can make history in the Fall Classic. The New England Patriots won the SuperBowl again, proving that there still can be a dynasty in football. Hockey was cancelled this year, but did anyone notice? Lance Armstrong won an unprecedented sixth Tour De France. We witnessed a disaster larger than anything we've ever experienced and learned the real meaning of ?Tsunami'. Martha went to the big house. We got iPods, BlackBerries and instant messages, making it unnecessary to ever talk to each other in person.

Brad and Jen separated, and now millions of us hope that we will be the one to provide comfort to the broken hearted. We said goodbye to friends such as Frazier, Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex in the City. We found Desperate Housewives intriguing, and we were fascinated with Wife Swap. The Apprentice captivated us, and every week we heard those dreaded words: YOU'RE FIRED. We lost some very good friends: Ray Charles, Julia Child, Rodney Dangerfield, Janet Leigh, Jack Parr, Christopher Reeve, Reggie White, Marlon Brando, Ronald Reagan and Johnny Carson.

One of the closest and most contested Presidential elections took place last fall and America became further divided between red states and blue states. Still, we all came together as one nation with our support and admiration of our military and the sacrifices that they are making for our freedom and for the hope of freedom everywhere. The war in Iraq can anger many, but there is little doubt that our troops make us all proud to be Americans. We can all sleep safer knowing that thousands are sacrificing to keep us safe from the harm of terror.

This past year has been very exciting for the Association. Our committees have been getting stronger and more active. Our Board has continued to provide strong leadership and stewardship in guiding the Association. Our Senior Officers have met more regularly with Association Staff to provide support and guidance in moving the MCAA and our agenda forward. And I am pleased to report that our working relationship with partner chapters has begun to galvanize the contractor segment into a cohesive force for change. This past year, our financial situation began to improve as we settled into our new home in Schaumburg. Our Staff and Board are to be commended for their hard work in strengthening our financial picture. We look forward to an even brighter financial statement this coming year. As President of the Association, I am proud to report that the state of our Association is sound, strong and engaged.

Strategic Vision
The Association Board and Staff have been guided by our Long Range Strategic Plan. This past February, the MCAA Executive Board and representatives from several of our chapters met in Napa, California to review the vision we established five years ago, to determine if the road we set is still relevant today, and decide what changes need to be made to our long range course. This long range strategic thinking has helped us attain some very significant achievements. Not only will it guide the Board as to how to effectively allocate resources and effort, but it will aid the MCAA in accomplishing even greater successes in the future.

Promoting Masonry
One of the fastest growing areas of the Association is our effort to market the use of masonry and masonry systems. Millions of dollars are spent each year promoting the use of brick, block and stone. Yet we struggle as an industry to protect traditional masonry markets, let alone expand new ones. As mason contractors, we are in a unique position to promote the greater use of masonry through masonry systems. From this podium you have repeatedly heard that as contractors our only concern is to deliver what the customer wants. Be it clay masonry, concrete masonry, stone or other masonry materials, we will sell what the customer wants. Therefore, it is in our industry's best interest to have a national contractor effort to promote masonry.

Many of our chapters have effective promotional programs and we have learned from them. Working with our allied chapters through the Masonry Execs Council, we have launched MasonrySystems.org, a national effort to promote masonry systems. Launched this past October through a dedicated website and advertising campaigns, MasonrySystems.org is growing as a valuable tool to promote masonry. Hits to the site have steadily increased since its launch, with thousands of architects, specifiers, school and public works officials visiting it. The MCAA Staff has provided a great deal of resources to developing this site and working with our chapter exec partners.

The "Masonry: It Makes a Village" national contest at Construct America?, making its debut here in Chicago, is sure to draw the attention and imagination of the nearly 5,000 specifiers and architects attending. Five teams, made up of architects and contractors, will start with an array of masonry materials and will build a project that can be found in a village. Masonry Showcase and Construct America? attendees will select the overall winner. The goal of the "Village" contest is to stimulate those architects and specifiers to ask the question: Why don't we use more masonry on our projects? And why aren't we more creative with masonry? If we are successful with our "Village" competition, the impact to our industry will be significant.

Masonry magazine continues to be a very professional tool for promoting masonry. At last year's CSI show, Masonry magazine was distributed to every specifier in attendance. Again this year, Masonry will be widely available to the architects and specifiers at Construct America?.

Building Our Labor Force
We have struggled to build and sustain a quality workforce for decades. Traditionally, our industry invests substantial resources in recruitment and training when we have a backlog of work, and then we stop our efforts when work slows. The MCAA and our Board has continued to invest our time and resources to recruit even in lean times. Our High School Career Initiative has been highly successful in getting our message to our nation's high schools. Through the sponsorship of our contractors, suppliers, and affiliate associations, we have distributed masonry career information to more than 700 schools nationwide. These materials have introduced masonry to hundreds of thousands of young people who never before had knowledge of what our industry offers its workforce.

To continue this multi-stage, on-going recruitment initiative, we have been communicating on a regular basis with the guidance counselors at these high schools, and sending them quarterly newsletters, which have resulted in a growing number of career days and fairs- more than we've ever coordinated before. There are still over 16,000 high schools that need career information. Our job is just beginning but thus far, the results are exciting. I urge you all to help us sponsor this program.

Codes and Standards
This has been an exciting year for MCAA in Codes and Standards!

Masonry Standards Joint Committee
As a result of the OSHA Proposed Silica Regulations and the Bricklayer's and Allied Craftsmen requesting that all cutting of masonry units be cut wet, we rallied our troops as contractors, and wrote over 100 letters to the Masonry Standards Joint Committee (MSJC) requesting to add this language to the 2005 Specification. We achieved our goal, and there is now verbiage in the 2005 MSJC Specification allowing masons to wet cut concrete masonry units. Thanks to your letters and influence, this was accomplished. There is certainly truth to the adage "strength in numbers".

Another revision in the MSJC that benefits contractors is the change in low lift grouting requirements. In previous documents, the maximum height of a grout pour was five feet. The 2005 document has raised this maximum height to twelve feet eight inches (within specified criteria). This should increase contractors' productivity when grouting masonry walls.

While the maximum reinforcement ratio code provisions are better, there is still quite a bit of work left in order to reduce lap splices and steel in load bearing masonry walls.

American Society of Testing and Materials
Our work in ASTM is ongoing. We have our staff and members leading key committees, ensuring our voices are heard and our influence is strong. There is a renewed effort to develop ASTM Standards for lightweight concrete masonry units and masonry workmanship.

Occupational Safety and Health
In May of last year, the MCAA entered into an Alliance with OSHA. As part of this Alliance, OSHA and MCAA will work together to provide our members and others with information, guidance, and access to training resources that will help them protect employees' health and safety, particularly in reducing and preventing exposure to wall bracing, fall protection, scaffolding, and forklift safety hazards. The Alliance's goals include: training, education, outreach and communication of safety issues as they relate to mason contractors. As a result, OSHA is exhibiting at this year's show and presenting an OSHA ten hour Safety Course specifically tailored for masonry construction.

In just 4 years, the MCAA's influence in codes, standards and regulations is monumental and growing as time progresses.

Influencing Our Nation's Leaders in Washington
No other area of our business can impact us greater in such a short time as government regulation and legislation. Five years ago, we envisioned the establishment of a Washington D.C. office. Roughly three years ago, we made the commitment to budget for and hire a full time Washington staff. Today, the MCAA has achieved a level of influence in Washington that we only could dream of five years ago. Today, we have influenced many OSHA regulations and been a major player in the formulation and promotion of legislation, such as, Association Health Plans and tax relief for contractors who hire and train apprentices. And, probably our greatest achievement thus far, has been our ongoing effort to draft industry proposals governing occupational exposures to crystalline silica, rather than contend with a more stringent standard put forth by OSHA. This June we will be holding a Legislative Conference in our nation's Capital. I urge you to attend this important and informative conference.

Communication
I am most proud of our Association efforts to communicate our issues and our activities to the 17,000 mason contractors in our industry, and to our customers, as well. Our website has had unbelievable growth over the past year. Prior to the establishment of a full time Internet Technology manager, our website was stagnant, with roughly 300 hits per day. Today, our website has become a focal point for our industry. Our hits have reached higher than 28,000 per day with over 10 million per year. Visitors come to our site to find out "what is going on in masonry" and to get information about masonry and masonry systems. In fact, our website reaches beyond our boarders to visitors from over 75 countries. Our Association is truly becoming global. In addition to our website, Masonry magazine and our email newsletter, Masonry Messenger, provide members and contractors with timely news and information which shape public opinion.

Protecting Your Future
Nothing can absolutely protect your future, but doing nothing will absolutely hurt your future. As MCAA's dedicated dues paying members, you can be proud that your investment in the future is having an effect. We thank you for your support this past year. You truly have taken the effort to make the masonry industry stronger for us all. You may know other contractors who have not yet chosen to join the MCAA. They may believe that they are not big enough or don't have enough revenue to pay dues. We still need them. We need every mason contractor. No matter how big or small, residential or commercial, we all face the same concerns just on a different scale. You make a huge difference in our industry's future and your own future by being a part of the MCAA. Everyday we fight tilt-up, precast, EIFS and other systems. The only one fighting for you and your masonry business is the MCAA.

In closing, I would like to thank you for attending our Convention and Showcase. I would like to thank our Board and dedicated hard working Staff who have made our successes possible. And I would like to thank you for the privilege of serving as your President this past year. It has been a memorable and rewarding experience.


About the Author

G. Alan Griffin, President of Griffin Contractors, Inc., has severals years experience in the masonry industry. He is a past president of the Mason Contractors Association of America and the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association. Griffin grew up working in the masonry business founded in 1957 by his father and grandfather, and has since taken over the family business. Griffin was award the C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award for exemplary leadership in advancing the masonry industry in 2007.

 

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