The State of the Association
2004 Report of the President
This past year was very busy, as well as historic, for us all.
We witnessed first-hand through the reports of imbedded journalists how a modern war is waged. We all cheered when Private Jessica Lynch was rescued in a daring raid. The American Soldier was Time magazine's "Person of the Year." We fought terrorism on its own doorstep. As a nation we got a little older, but our youthful dreams were rekindled as we dreamed of Americans traveling to Mars. We continue to work hard for a better life for our families and hope for a world without terror for our children and grandchildren.
We said goodbye to some old friends, like Bob Hope, Art Carney and Katharine Hepburn. "Friends" will soon go off the air. We watched with delight as Joe Millionaire flirted with a room full of beautiful women... we should be so lucky. Trista married Ryan. Melana dumped the average guy for the good-looking Jason... my, how things still stay the same. Each week, "Fear Factor" makes us squirm as contestants eat things we can barely look at. Whatever happened to the good old programs, like "The Cosby Show," "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Cheers?" And I don't know, but I'm really starting to like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
We cheered for various animals like the Marlins, the Bears, the Cardinals, the Dolphins and the Broncos. But we will always be Patriots at heart. The unthinkable almost happened with the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox almost making it to the World Series after neither has won the Series for nearly a century.
California experienced a historic recall and put another actor in the Governor's Mansion. The economy began to pick up again, and we began to feel good about our future.
As an industry and association, we continue to be bold!
Never before in the history of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) have we reached for such bold heights of achievement. While the economy and country were tenuous, we set high goals and expectations. We set these high standards because we knew that, in order to achieve great change and high reward, it was no time to be meek or conservative. We strategized at our meetings on how we could create an industry and association that challenged our members to expand their vision and their commitment to change how things had always been done, and to build an industry that might yet be.
But who to lead them? Who would be so bold as to say, "We have the vision"? Our answer has been us: the MCAA. Our unique position in this industry, and the construction industry as a whole, make our Association the one true choice to lead our industry's mason contractors.
This past year, our vision brought us to a new permanent home for our Association. The bold vision of our Board and officers and hard work by our staff helped achieve what has eluded us for decades. Today, we can be extremely proud of the accomplishment of purchasing our first national headquarters. Located in Schaumburg, Ill., our headquarters is a 9,000-sq.-ft. brick and block building that the MCAA and its members can be proud to call "home." Through generous contributions from many of our members, we purchased and significantly renovated our headquarters.
Today, the MCAA operates in two-thirds of the building, while renting out the rest of the space. This building will be home for decades to come and a pinnacle for masonry.
No area can impact our industry and our future faster than what happens in Washington, D.C. Two years ago, the MCAA membership responded with tremendous financial support, allowing us to hire a full-time Director of Government Affairs based in Washington, D.C. And in those short two years, we have impacted numerous issues.
One of our greatest battles is an ongoing fight to prevent OSHA's proposed silica standard. If passed, we believe this standard would cripple our industry. Had our Association not had the vision two years ago when we took a major step to expand our staff, today we would be struggling to comply with hundreds of burdensome new regulations coming from the silica standard. I am happy to report that we have been working hard to limit the impact of this standard.
Silica is only one ? albeit major ? issue that the MCAA has become very involved in passing legislation to assist our members. We have been a driving force to pass Association Health Plans that would help contractors provide affordable health insurance for their employees. We have also introduced legislation to provide contractors who train apprentices a tax credit to ease the burden of training. In addition, we have won several regulatory issues involving scaffold safety and beat back efforts to eliminate our long-standing exemption to overhand bricklaying.
While ergonomics remains one of our primary focuses, we continue to discover new federal initiatives that threaten our future as mason contractors. We will remain steadfast in protecting the interests of our members. To that end, I am happy to report that we have signed an alliance with OSHA, which we believe will build on the cooperative relationship that we have forged with them over the past two years.
Simply working with Congress and agencies to protect our interest is not enough. We have become very active in helping to elect members of Congress that share our beliefs on issues and values. This year will be a pivotal election year, and our staff and the political action committee, MACPAC, will be very busy supporting the election of pro-masonry candidates.
Advocacy Workforce Development
Over the past year, as the economy has slowed, the uproar for more masons has been tempered. But the demand for an expanded, quality workforce remains high. If our industry is going to compete for larger markets, then the need for greater numbers of well-skilled craft workers is a must. The MCAA must provide the leadership to ensure that our industry attracts and trains the labor force we need. And that leadership calls for unique ways to battle outdated methods of addressing our labor needs.
For decades, our industry has only engaged in workforce recruitment and training when our economy was booming, and even then, only after we experienced shortfalls, did we begin to act. Then we abandoned recruiting efforts when the economy slowed.
I am proud the MCAA is breaking that trend and keeping our focus on recruiting. This past year we contacted over 17,000 high schools in an attempt to place masonry vocational information in career libraries across the United States. To date, over 1,400 high schools have responded and over half of the schools have received their career information. Currently, the MCAA is soliciting sponsorship funding to ship the remaining career kits. Because of this effort, we now have a database of over 1,400 high school guidance counselors who will be contacted regularly about careers available in masonry. This high school career initiative will be a focal point of our recruitment efforts until all of our nation's 17,000 high schools have information about careers in masonry. No doubt a monumental campaign, and one that will allow our industry to attract the brightest students to our trade.
The MCAA web site is also playing a role in our recruitment and training efforts. Today, nearly 100 masonry training programs are listed on our career site where interested people can find the masonry training facility closest to their homes. The nation's high schools can also refer to our site to direct students to the nearest facility to gather more information about training opportunities.
Our Masonry Skills Challenge continues to create local interest in apprenticeship training. The Skills Challenge will play an expanded role in 2005 as we partner with the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). We believe that, as the 9,000 specifier attendees at CSI's Construct America view our Skills Challenge, we will be able to convince our customers that masonry is serious about training and that we employ quality craft workers capable of building their projects if they design with masonry.
Codes & Standards
I am very proud of MCAA's efforts to provide much needed contractor leadership in developing favorable building codes and standards. This past year, we finally produced the long-awaited "Design Manual for Masonry Wall Bracing," which is rapidly becoming a must-have book for serious mason contractors. The MCAA has also become a leading advocate for mason contractors in both the Masonry Standard Joint Committee and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
There have been a number of important changes in the codes and standards that affect contractors nationwide. Because of our technical influence, most of these changes have been to our benefit rather than our detriment.
Currently, one of the largest issues facing the masonry industry is the maximum steel reinforcement problem. The MCAA is supporting research that could completely change the way masonry is designed. This will allow architects and engineers the ability to more easily design with masonry, which will in turn increase masonry's market share in the construction industry.
In three short years, we have gone from no voice to the leading voice of technical issues for the mason contractor. We have our people in key positions on executive boards, technical organizations and committees throughout the masonry industry. Our influence over masonry codes and standards has never been greater and will continue to grow as our organization grows.
Advocacy in Masonry Promotions
Millions of dollars are spent each year by our industry to promote masonry materials, such as brick, block and stone. Yet, our industry customers search for a single source of quality information to help them design masonry systems and to cut through all of the confusion in dealing with our industry. The MCAA is best suited in providing this single source of information and to develop customer relationships built on trust over time.
Providing that leadership, the MCAA is working in conjunction with 16 of our local affiliate associations in developing a national campaign to provide customers with information on designing masonry systems. This two-part campaign includes a new web site called masonrysystems.org, where customers can find easy-to-use information on designing with masonry. The information on this site will include design details, mold, LEEDS, fire safety, public safety, lifecycle costs, sample model ordinances for specifying masonry in local communities and a comparison of masonry versus competitive systems. We believe masonrysystems.org will become the single source for municipalities, school boards and other customer groups for masonry education.
In the second part of this campaign, the MCAA ? along with the Executives Council ? is seeking a national ad campaign in roughly 10 industry publications, such as Architecture, Constructor and American School Board Journal, to promote and direct designers and customers to the masonrysystems.org site.
Never before has our industry witnessed such a dynamic contractor-driven effort to promote masonry. As this campaign gains momentum and financial support, the future for masonry will continue to grow with it. I would like to personally thank the local executives and their association boards for taking on this tremendous challenge and providing the leadership to secure our industry's future.
In addition to the joint national campaign, MCAA established a directive at last year's Annual Meeting to expand our own Association's web site, at masoncontractors.org. Today, the MCAA web site has grown into a highly informative resource that attracts over 2.5 million hits annually. Our membership can be proud of this site and the useful information that can be found on it. I am confident that this site will continue to grow in its influence and importance to the MCAA.
This month at the CSI Show, a special edition of Masonry magazine will be distributed to every attendee. This special edition will expose our industry's customers with the unique design features and flexibility of our system. I am very proud of the extreme quality of Masonry magazine, which has become the dominant industry publication.
This past April, our Association signed an agreement to co-locate Masonry Showcase alongside the Construction Specifications Institute Show at Construct America, beginning in April 2005. This new partnership between MCAA and CSI will allow our Association to market masonry more broadly to members of the CSI and their 10,000 specifier attendees, and MCAA will now become an integral partner in a major national trade show.
Last, but certainly not least, the MCAA will be introducing the "Masonry: It Makes A Village" program at the 2005 Masonry Showcase at Construct America. Developed by the Masonry Institute of Washington, this event is a contest between teams of architects and contractors. Each team must design and then build a unique masonry project, one that could be found in a village.
Throughout 2004, roughly 10 local "Masonry: It Makes A Village" contests will take place. The winning teams from each contest will then travel to the Masonry Showcase and Construct America shows to compete for an international title. The 2005 contest will be judged by both mason contractors and CSI attendees. I ask you all to think about the impact this contest will have on our industry when 10,000 architects and specifier attendees at Construct America view and judge our contest. The possibilities are immense.
Like codes and standards, workforce development and legislative advocacy, the MCAA is clearly providing leadership in masonry promotion. And I know that in the coming years, MCAA's efforts will continue to grow in this important area.
Strategic Planning for the Future
When I was first elected as a senior officer of the Association eight years ago, the MCAA was rapidly beginning to grow in its service and leadership to the industry's mason contractors. During the past eight years, the Association has added four key staff members and changed many functions, especially how we govern the MCAA. Today, our Association is guided by a member-developed, long-range strategic plan, and our Board meetings have become virtual planning sessions where members and Association staff continually revise and expand our strategic planning. Most importantly, we seek to expand the influence and effectiveness of the MCAA and our membership.
Our strategic plan has challenged the MCAA Board and committees to work together and put aside differences with our allied partners for the advancement of our collective interests.
We have partnered with customer groups, such as CSI and its Construct America. We have cooperatively worked with industry groups, such as the International Masonry Institute (IMI), in codes and standards, as well as government affairs. We will conduct a joint masonry industry legislative conference with the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) in the spring of 2005.
Although our long-range strategic plan has placed an increased financial burden on our members, it is allowing the Association to become a serious advocate for change. I am most proud of my fellow members who have responded to our increased request for financial support. We could not have achieved so much without your assistance.
At this year's convention, we have elected a new President who will take over the stewardship of the Association. I know that the Association will be in good hands to continue our growth of influence.
I can't believe how fast the last two years have gone. It has been an unbelievable honor to serve you these past two years as MCAA's President. I would like to personally thank the Board of Directors, and most importantly my fellow officers and the MCAA staff who have made my job so easy.
I will step down and join fellow Past Presidents, such as Bill Dentinger, Don Grant, Dick Felice, Lenny Pardue, Dick Matthews, Don Larson and Mike Johnston, who continue to provide leadership and guidance to the Association long after their terms have expired.
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.