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July 18, 2007 8:50 AM CDT

NCMCA Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest


From left to right: NCMCA President Wayne Starr, contest chairman Gary Manning, and first-place winner Juan Mejia Martinez.  Photo courtesy of NCMCA.
From left to right: NCMCA President Wayne Starr, contest chairman Gary Manning, and first-place winner Juan Mejia Martinez. Photo courtesy of NCMCA.

Juan Mejia Martinez of Gates Construction Company in Mooresville, NC, is the 2007 North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association (NCMCA) Masonry Apprentice Skills Contest champion. Martinez finished first in a field of 40 apprentices from 14 NCMCA member firms during the May 19 contest held at the CEMEX facility in Winston-Salem, NC.

Rounding out the top ten, from the top: Justin Flinchum, McGee Brothers; Amilcar Chinchilla, Gates Construction; Chris Sparks, Beam Construction; Eulalio Hernandez, Gates Construction; Juaquin Lopez, Old North State Masonry; Gerber Alvaranga, Gates Construction; Josh Dellinger, Masonry Unlimited Cherryville; Travis Greenly, McGee Brothers; and Antonio P. Morin, Gates Construction. The top ten scores ranged from 149 to 159 points out of a possible 180.

Contestants were given two hours to complete a predetermined project later scored for plumb, level, square and range, measurement, correct design, manipulation, tooling and neatness, full joints and production.

Martinez, 32 years old, lives in Charlotte and looks forward to one day bringing his wife and two children to the United States from Mexico. He participated in the 2006 Skills Contest, finishing in 13th place.

Martinez's supervisor at Gates Construction is Tom McDonough, who said, "Juan started at Gates Construction as a laborer several years ago and has worked extremely hard. He always showed a real interest in learning what we were doing and how to do it. He was so interested in learning that he acquired his own tools to start working in the trade. He has been laying for about two years full time. Juan is a quick learner, conscientious worker, not only about being at work, but about the work he performs. He's is a strong asset to my crew and to Gates Construction Company."

Gates Construction, a general contracting firm specializing in masonry construction, began in 1969 and presently has about 200 employees. Five of the top-ten finishers in the 2007 contest were Gates apprentices.

Company President Bob Gates said, "Obviously, I am very proud and pleased with how well our guys performed and how well they not only represented Gates Construction Company, but how they represented the masonry industry in North Carolina as well. This contest and these results reenergize me and remind me why I'm so fortunate and proud to be a part of this industry. Juan is very deserving because of all the hard work and pride he exhibits in what he does. He's had excellent training with his superintendent, Tom McDonough, and has a great desire to succeed and do things right. I'm very proud of what he has accomplished and glad that he's part of the company."

Asked his advice for future contest participants, Juan said, "Try hard to do your best everyday, not only in competitions."

As the contest winner, Martinez was presented the David R. Sigmon Award for top score, $600 in cash (traditionally matched by the employer), a RSC masonry saw, and a wheelbarrow full of tools.

NCMCA members provided approximately $13,000 worth of tools and cash for awards, which were divided among all the contestants. Members also donated equipment, labor and materials.

Contest Chairman Gary Manning of Manning Masonry in Williamston, N.C., expressed appreciation to host CEMEX, the NCMCA Central Piedmont Chapter, the NCMCA Triad Chapter and to all of the sponsors of the contest for helping to make the event a success.

The NCMCA promotes masonry as the building material of choice and a great career opportunity, and has membership of some 200 companies affiliated with eight local chapters around the state.

For more information, visit the association website at

About the Author

The North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association, Inc. is dedicated to serving the Masonry Contractors of the Carolinas and to promoting masonry as the building material of choice and as a career option. For more information, please visit


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