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The Strength of the MBCEA is in the Chapters

Gary T Smith Headshot

This will be my first industry perspective written from the grand position of newly elected president of the Metal Buildings Contractor and Erectors Association (MBCEA). Frankly I think my fellow board members got tired of me talking all the time and decided I needed to put up or shut up. Well, I have never been one to back down so I am laying my cards on the proverbial table.

The mission of the MBCEA is to "support the professional advancement of metal building contractors, erectors and our industry." That sounds pretty good, but what does that really mean to a local erector struggling to survive the continued down economy or a contractor still waiting for public projects to get financed?

Sure the economy is tough, but survival goes to the fittest! What makes a company fit today? Education, training, knowledge and networking, which is exactly where the MBCEA and its sister organization, the Metal Buildings Institute (MBI) come in.

I have always believed the strength of the MBCEA was in the chapters. Each MBCEA chapter brings together contractors, erectors and industry representatives at the local level. At this friendlier, more accessible level, networks are strengthened and needs better addressed. For instance, everyone on the job needs at least their OSHA-10 certification. Most also need rigging and fall protection training. It is so much more efficient to organize training and certification for a group of companies than for each company to orchestrate on its own. This past year, my local chapter, the Mid-Atlantic Division (MAD) offered training on Rigging 1, Rigging 11, 30 hour OSHA requirements and several others. These classes were offered at a very low cost to members, thanks to subsidies from the MBCEA.

The MAD members had access to all these vital, subsidized sessions, plus legal seminars and quite a few socials and golf games, as well. I believe the companies that participated are stronger and fitter as a result. They have forged business relationships; they have educated their team; they have socialized with the competition and they have rubbed elbows with perhaps a decision maker for their next contract. This is the power of the MBCEA.

I want to do a lot of things in my new role. My enthusiasm is endless, but I firmly believe it all starts at the local level. My commitment to you is to aggressively assist in the formation of new chapters and to put all the power behind my position to ensure the chapters have the tools and funds they need to address the local needs of contractors, erectors and industry.

I view my job as a facilitator. I will help organize and promote at the grass roots level. I will beat the bushes and help get chapters up and running. If we know something is working in one place, I will make sure we share it with the other chapters. I know there are tons of good ideas out there-ideas for recruiting and training, ideas for working smarter and working safer-and I view it as my job to seek out these ideas and share what's working with the rest of membership.

Later this year, I hope to survey the industry. It is time to take the pulse of contractors, erectors and industry and find out what is important to you. Obviously, we cannot turn around the economy or free up public funding but there are things we can do. We can work more closely with the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), the insulated panel manufacturers, etc. We can expand our Craftsmen series, and standardize our training and education modules. In short, we can continue to offer more services and more benefits to members.

I am honored and humbled to be chosen to lead this fine organization that has been serving the industry since 1968. I salute the many fine men who came before me. I am committed to the mission of the MBCEA and I look forward to serving. Also, I can promise you I ain't shy or quiet.

Gary T. Smith is president of Thomas Phoenix International Inc., Eastampton, N.J., and an outspoken supporter of apprenticeship, training, safety and education for the Metal Buildings Institute. He is one of the original founders of the MBCEA-MAD and trustee of the MBI. He can be reached at gtsmith@thomasphoenixintl.com.