By Oliver Klinger, Publisher
Over 300 attendees braved the economy to attend the Distribution Contractors Association’s 49th Annual Convention held at the Fiesta Americana Grand in Los Cabos, Mexico, Feb. 23-28.
In addition to association business and activities, delegates moved to high ground on Saturday to watch for a possible tsunami after the massive Chilean earthquake, but nothing materialized.
Outgoing DCA President Shepard Poole, president and COO, The Hallen Construction Company Inc., Island Park, NY, had a busy year. As president, he had to deal with the effects of the lingering recession on the association as well as the transition in leadership with the retirement of long-time Executive Vice President Dennis Kennedy, and the successful hiring of his replacement, Rob Darden. Poole commented that he feels Darden will continue to build and improve upon the fantastic work Kennedy carried out over the years, with the goal of making DCA the premier association among its peers and the one association people want to belong to.
In spite of the economic downturn, the DCA managed to grow in 2009, adding regular and associate members, and had a large number of first-time attendees at the convention. Poole noted that “while problems caused by the economic conditions certainly are not over, by the end of 2009, the pain had lessened. The economic situation made it necessary for most members to review their business plans, evaluating operational efficiencies and how to sustain business when opportunities for growth are restricted.”
Going forward, he added that “the economy and how it affects utility markets will be a primary concern of DCA and its members.” Under Poole, work on a new strategic plan has started.
New officers elected for 2010 are: President Kevin Miller, Miller Pipeline Corporation, Indianapolis, IN; Vice President Gregory S. Dahl, vice president, ARB Inc. Lake Forest, CA; and Treasurer Kevin P. Michels, vice president – equipment division, Michels Corporation, Brownsville, WI. Rob Darden is the new executive vice president of the DCA which is headquartered in Richardson, TX. Poole will continue to serve on the board as immediate past president.
Directors for 2010 are: Timothy Bell, president, Midwestern Contractors, West Chicago, IL; Frank Patterson, president, Patterson & Wilder Construction Co. Inc. Pelham, AL; H. Grady Bell, vice president, Laney Directional Drilling Company, Humble, TX; Jim Brotherton, president and CEO, Brotherton Pipeline Inc., Gold Hill, OR; Thomas R. Clapper, national division manager, H.L. Chapman Pipeline Construction Inc., Leander, TX; and Jay P. Osborn, president of Q3 Contracting in Little Canada, MN. Kenneth M. Gabrielse, executive vice president, Gabe’s Construction Co. Inc., Sheboygan, WI, was named director-at-large. DCA’s past presidents also elected Michael D. Murphy, CEO, Midwest Underground, East Moline, IL, to represent them on the board.
The associate member directors are Gary Lawson, global accounts manager, Ditch Witch, Perry, OK, and the alternate director is John Weaver, corporate business manager, Deere & Company, Moline, IL.
The 2009 Arthur T. Everham Safety Award winners by category were:
Under 350,000 hours: 1st place: H&H Enterprises, Andover, OH; 2nd place (tie) – Mid America Underground, Aurora, IL, and Patterson & Wilder Construction Co. Inc., Pelham, AL . In the 351,000 to 699,000 hours: 1st place: H.L. Chapman Pipeline Construction Inc., Leander, TX; 2nd place: Laney Directional Drilling Co., Humble, TX. In the over 700,000 hours: 1st place – Minnesota Limited Inc., Big Lake, MN; 2nd place – Contracting & Material Company, McCook, IL.
DCA Honorary Members
The association also inducted past Executive Vice President Dennis Kennedy as an Honorary Member. A special, surprise “roast” was also held for Kennedy during the Ditch Witch breakfast. Numerous members got up to recount stories on both Kennedy and his wife, Regan, which occurred at various meetings over the past 20 years.
New DCA Executive Vice President Rob Darden offered a state of the industry talk in which he said 2009 was a year of challenges. “Great recession, unprecedented pressures on markets, investors were nervous, major corporations faltering, consumer confidence low and contractor man-hours were down nearly 20 percent.” In spite of these industry woes, DCA membership, both regular and associate, grew in 2009. Meetings were at near or above record levels.
The association’s member purchasing survey showed regular members spent $309 million in 2009 on new equipment and supplies, and plan to spend $350 million in 2010. The association also conducted a massive member satisfaction survey to determine “who we are and where we want to go.” The survey showed a very strong loyalty and commitment to the association. The survey also indicated the association should improve networking opportunities, educational opportunities and industry and government relations. Darden promised that the DCA staff would do everything to make the association even stronger than it already is. The DCA has active participation in its committees and will continue to work for improved safety, industry education, HDD issues and government affairs.
Also addressing the delegates was Vincent Giblin, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). His union represents 400,000 members in the heavy construction and commercial building maintenance industries.
Giblin remarked that “we are in the most challenging times for your industry and our organization. With that said, our elected leaders have lost their sense of direction. All of us agree that the number one priority, is putting America back to work.
“Rest assured we pride ourselves on partnering with your organization on Capitol Hill on lobbying for our mutual interests . . . the culture has changed in our organization and it is no longer business as usual. Our relationship is a partnership and I have zero tolerance for non-productive employees,” he added.
Highlighting the coalitions’ legislative activities of the past year, Giblin noted that they now sit on the executive board of American’s for Transportation Mobility Commission along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and numerous other associations. They have also entered into a strategic alliance with API to monitor legislation that affects this industry. Although they are involved with many transportation and construction organizations, Giblin assured the DCA that our “association with you, the distribution contractors, is just as important. If everyone in the industry were like you, believe me we’d have no problems. The key goal of the coalition is to influence legislation that benefits our industry.”
Regarding health care legislation, Giblin remarked “this is one organization that has not been involved and will not get involved because there is one thing I sincerely believe in that government intervention in trying to provide health insurance is not going to work for each and every one of us.” He spent 15 years as chairman of the largest health care insurance company in New Jersey, and does not support the public option. Giblin noted that something must be done, but hopes everyone realizes it can’t be done overnight, and that there is “no free lunch.”
Giblin also reported that the Central Pension Fund is in the green zone, and that participating contractors are not facing huge unfunded pension liabilities. The union supports legislation that would allow Taft-Hartley pension funds to amortize their recent losses over the next 30 years.
Under Giblin’s leadership, training for every segment of the union’s jurisdiction has been consolidated at the international level. If this is truly a partnership, then Giblin feels the union must do its share. Through a monthly member assessment, the union now contributes over $2 million annually to the national training fund. The union has also implemented a strong ethics policy which is administered by a former Supreme Court Justice of New Jersey.
“I want to assure you that the days of intimidation by local unions are over in this organization. I assure you that we have an open door policy. I pride myself on a dialogue with you to understand what the local union issues are that place you in an un-competitive position.”
Giblin closed with an assurance that the future will be a partnership, and no longer “our way or the highway.”
The 2011 convention will held at the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico, Feb. 1-6. The 2010 mid-year meeting will be held in Carlsbad, CA, at the La Costa Resort & Spa and the Safety Congress will be at the Gaylord Texan Resort, Grapevine, TX, April 19-21, 2010.