Business Matters: The value of contractors’ associations

It is entirely possible to run a construction business and never participate in any of the associations that serve this industry. But if you’ve shied away from them – thinking perhaps it’s all just backslapping and golf – think again.

In addition to providing education, training and professional development, many of these associations serve as the frontline troops in the battle to keep government regulations, funding and taxes from hobbling the construction industry. Additionally, many provide networking opportunities, group insurance rates and a way to explore new market opportunities.

Bill Moore, vice president of marketing for Brandenburg Industrial Service, a demolition contractor in Chicago, is a member of the National Demolition Association and sees education as the primary benefit of membership. “Part of the reason most of the big companies we have as members have grown is because of the things they have learned from the association,” he says.

The NDA also brings its members’ experience and knowledge into the regulatory decision-making process. “We have an excellent relationship with OSHA,” Moore says. “We help educate their compliance officers on our jobs and wherever there is a new proposed rule, we meet with them and comment on it, and tell them whether we think it is a good idea or a dumb idea. We do the same thing with the EPA before anything becomes law. We have the type of relationship where they can call us and get an honest answer.”

Larry Gaskins, president and CEO of L.C. Gaskins Construction in Jacksonville, Florida, has been a member of the Associated General Contractors of America since 1979 and served as the national president in 2002. The way he sees it, if you run a construction company, you have an obligation to participate in an association. “The ones who don’t participate are letting everybody else do their work for them,” he says. Gaskins says his managers and supervisors take full advantage of AGC’s supervisory training programs, and that having a connection to policy makers in Washington has helped tremendously in his federal contracting work.

To give you a better idea of what construction associations have to offer, here’s a closer look at the top five associations in the heavy-highway/civil, demolition and utility contracting industries: Additionally we’ve listed many of the specialty contracting associations and their websites at the end of this article.

Associated General Contractors of America
Founded in 1918, AGC represents more than 32,000 firms and 98 regional chapters. It advocates the construction industry in Congress, with federal agencies and in the courts. With a staff of more than 70, it has played an instrumental role in recent legislative victories such as the passage of a new six-year highway and transit funding bill.

AGC also provides its members programs and services to improve their individual businesses such as the Web-enabled DocuBuilder 5.0, a pay-as-you-print construction contract document service. The association’s career and educational offerings run the gamut from material for elementary students and craft training to seminars for upper management. For more information about AGC’s educational offerings visit this site.

AGC has annual conventions and mid-year meetings as well as numerous state and regional get-togethers and events at construction trade shows. For more information visit this site.

National Utility Contractors Association
As the oldest and largest trade association working solely for the utility construction industry, the National Utility Contractors Association represents contractors, suppliers and manufacturers involved in water, sewer, gas, electric, telecommunications, site work and other segments of the industry across the country.

With nearly 1,700 member companies and 42 chapters in 28 states, NUCA has been and continues to be a driving force for improving conditions in the industry by: successfully lobbying to advance and protect the profession in the legislative and regulatory arenas; delivering the latest in safety and professional education; and uniting the industry so that it can more effectively address common problems and strengthen construction markets and profitability for all stakeholders.

Members receive up-to-date industry information through various publications. The association’s annual Utility Construction EXPO – held in February or March at different locations – offers professional education courses, celebrity speakers, networking events and a trade show that features new products, and technologies. (Every third year, there’s a “Big Show” that focuses on heavy equipment.)

For more information, visit this site.

Associated Builders and Contractors
Calling itself “the voice of the merit shop,” the Associated Builders and Contractors advocates open competition and a free-enterprise approach to construction contracting. Founded in 1950 to protect the bidding rights of non-union companies, ABC today has 23,000 construction company members organized into 79 chapters across the United states. The companies that participate in ABC represent all the crafts and specialty trades – everybody from electricians to earthmovers.

Local ABC chapters and members offer craft training and apprenticeship programs as well as advanced-level training and professional development programs for construction managers. And there are nearly 50 student chapters with construction management programs at colleges and universities.

ABC partners with many other construction and small business associations in lobbying for legislation that favors the industries it serves. It’s national convention is scheduled for March 15-17 in Las Vegas.

For more information visit this site.

American Road & Transportation Builders Association
When it comes to getting involved with the government’s massive road building initiatives, no association is more intimately involved than the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Since 1902, ARTBA has played a key leadership role in the passage of every major piece of federal transportation legislation – from the first Federal-Aid Road Act in 1916 to the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users law in 2005.

The group represents the interests of the $200 billion roadbuilding industry that sustains some 2.5 million jobs. It has about 5,000 members in divisions that include highway contractors, planning and design, research and education, materials and services, traffic safety, equipment manufacturers, public-private ventures in transportation and federal, state and local transportation officials. ARTBA also has 33 state chapters.

In addition to working on federal transportation funding issues, ARTBA serves as a consensus voice for the industry on policy, environmental and regulatory issues, economics and safety issues.

ARTBA launched its first “Transportation Builder Project Management Academy” in 2005 specifically for construction project managers involved in building highways, bridges, rail and transit systems, airports, parking facilities and waterway and port projects. It also participates in ConExpo-Con/Agg and numerous industry trade shows. The association’s 2006 annual meeting will be held September 26-29 in San Diego.

For more information visit this site.

National Demolition Association
Demolition intersects with a lot of other construction applications, which is why the National Demolition Association has nearly 1,000 member companies involved in demolition as well as civil engineering, recycling, landfill and salvage operations. The NDA keeps members abreast of regulatory and safety issues, informs the public about demolition issues, provides networking opportunities and promotes and disseminates information on the latest technical advances in equipment and services.

The group’s Demolition Safety Manual is considered the bible of demolition safety practices and one of the main reasons contractors join the association. The group also offers a hazard communication program, demolition safety talks, position papers on various industry topics and training videos. The next annual meeting and convention will be held March 26-29 in Nashville, Tennessee, and the association regularly exhibits at brownfields conferences as well.

For more information visit this site.