Building Strength through Members
AGC Georgia is one of ninety-two chapters of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) which has been a leading voice for the construction industry since 1918 and has 26,000 member firms. AGC Georgia was established in 1928 with headquarters in Atlanta. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) corporation with a mission to provide a voice at the local, state and national level for the commercial construction industry.
There is strength in numbers according to the adage familiar to most of us. Shared ideologies, responsibilities, interests and the ability to exchange knowledge and principles of professionalism among members are central to an association’s reason for being. It is certainly the reason for the existence of The Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC Georgia).
It was originally referred to as Georgia Branch, Associated General Contractors of America, and the name AGC Georgia was adopted in 2012. All member firms of AGC Georgia are also members AGC of America.
AGC Georgia’s membership is comprised of general and specialty contractors, construction managers, design builders and industry suppliers and professional services. All applications for membership are approved by a board of directors and are based on, “firms who demonstrate skill, integrity and responsibility,” says Mike Dunham, AGC Georgia’s chief executive officer.
The marketplace is well represented by both large and small contractor members who are engaged in public or private projects and basically, “members throughout the state of Georgia from every major city and from every corner of the state.” This strong representation of general contractors enables a unique perspective of the marketplace and industry specific issues that need to be addressed so that, “when we need to go to the Capitol and be an advocate for the industry, we can do so and speak as a voice of our industry,” adds Mike. AGC Georgia’s Political Action Committee (PAC) operates as a support group for state candidates who are aligned with construction industry concerns.
AGC Georgia serves the needs of the industry through networking, education and training and a complete understanding of members needs such as health and safety issues. It puts in place, “anything from your basic CPR & First Aid all the way up to advance leadership academies,” explains Mike.
AGC Georgia, a non-profit organization, helps shape the leaders of tomorrow’s construction industry through numerous programs in professional development such as relationship building, stress and time management, and motivation and communication skills. Its Young Leadership Program (YLP), established in 1996, is one of AGC Georgia’s most valuable services and one of the longest running young professionals programs in the AGC of America organization.
The YLP is designed, “to help people move their careers forward and become better at what they do – to be more productive [and] better employees,” explains Mike. “The core areas of focus for YLP are professional and leadership development, charitable service, and networking with and mentoring young professionals.”
The program’s strong charitable history is a key part of learning leadership skills. The networking aspect of the program helps build relationships that will last throughout a career. “We knew we needed to dive deeper into the participating member companies and engage their employees at a much younger age … We’ve been a pioneer in a lot of areas,” says Mike, noting the YLP is one, “that a lot of chapters have modeled after.”
AGC Georgia partners with educational facilities to further promote the industry and member concerns. At the university level, the association has members and staff who serve on advisory boards of a number of institutions to advance interests in construction programs and the construction industry.
AGC Georgia is actively engaged with promoting programs at the state’s technical colleges as well as middle schools and high schools through educational materials, financial support and speaker visits. “Workforce development is clearly the number one initiative and number one issue on everyone’s mind today,” says Mike. “We have really intensified our efforts in demonstrating to young men and women a career path to construction.”
AGC Georgia’s workforce development initiative has been recognized by AGC of America as a national public relations award winner in 2016. This initiative “was a modeled campaign to help engage the industry in making a difference in workforce development … clearly, workforce development is everyone’s challenge.”
Safety is of paramount importance not only to AGC Georgia but the clients who hire commercial contractors. Clients need to know all projects will be carried out with the utmost in safety precautions and procedures in mind. AGC Georgia believes member firms have to be proactive and diligent in safety practices, which is why its Stand Down Program, supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and CompTrust AGC Mutual Captive Insurance Company (MCIC), was developed by AGC Georgia’s safety committee and initiated in 2008.
The Stand Down Program was created as a result of a crane accident in New York City and another in Miami a short time later. “We stopped everything we were doing, and we brought in the crane representatives, the riggers [and] the contractors who currently had cranes,” says Mike. “We assembled a group of people and reviewed best practices for cranes. We developed a quick list of the things everybody should do immediately to inspect their cranes to make sure they were safe.”
Since then, the Stand Down Program has become a regular part of the association’s safety awareness activities. “Stand Down came out of the need to address an issue that had developed. But we took it from there to a routine program we offer in an effort just to bring awareness to safety and related safety issues,” explains Mike. “Safety has been and will continue to be an upfront and center issue in our industry. Every contractor wants all their employees to go home safe, every day.” The association provides plenty of opportunities for contractor training in all issues related to safety to ensure all employees are educated about OSHA regulations.
“We have a very, very active safety committee,” he adds. Safety professionals from our member firms lead this group and always embrace the participation of representatives from Georgia’s regional OSHA offices. “For our industry, [safety] is everything. I’m proud to say our members do a very good job with it.”
The discussion of diversity is an important initiative that AGC Georgia is addressing as a means to encourage minorities, individuals with varying cultural backgrounds and women to join the construction industry. “The more diverse the group, the better the outcomes can be,” states Mike. “For us, diversity is extraordinarily important. We’re going around the state and engaging our members … We need our industry to include everyone if we are to grow our workforce.”
Ever-evolving technologies have changed the way general contractors involved in commercial construction now approach new projects. Traditional practices are being replaced with those that enable the construction of well-designed, resilient and environmentally friendly structures utilizing applications such as design and customer service software to better serve clients.
“In our industry, every single day is a learning process,” affirms Mike. “We’ve seen the use of lean techniques in the construction industry and of course sustainability … We have contractors that are totally paperless on the job site … Technology is advancing the industry.” AGC Georgia has developed some certification programs for building information modeling and lean construction, so as an association, it has, “certainly been an educator and a supporter of sustainability practices and productivity improvements.”
Mike explains that another change in the past decade or two is that of the project delivery system. The market used to be one in which the bidding process usually awarded the project to the lowest bidder. Now, with an increasing shift to the design-build approach and CM at risk, contractor selection has changed as has the way in which contractors approach their business marketing and relationships with clients and owners. “A lot of things have changed,” confirms Mike. “I feel AGC Georgia has been on the forefront of helping our members stay abreast of these changes.”
And, of course, one of the greatest assets in becoming a member of AGC Georgia is the networking and camaraderie throughout the organization and the positive image portrayed to clients. By taking advantage of the many opportunities presented by the association, member firms have a greater potential for learning, which subsequently leads to success. Active member participation means “you’re learning best practices. You’ve attended workshops and programs giving you a competitive edge in a very tight market,” adds Mike.
As for the future of AGC Georgia, Mike would like to see the continued promotion of the industry in the schools, investment in workforce development, advocating for safety, ongoing diversity discussions, and keeping abreast of evolving technological changes.
“The more engaged you become, the more opportunity you have. Being a member of an organization means you have resources. The members share so much by being members.”