It was not that long ago when watching television meant choosing a program from one of five major channels. That is, if you were fortunate enough to have a good antennae. Now there are literally hundreds of program options to choose from.
This explosion of options also has hit our industry. Architects now have an ever-increasing selection of structural systems and claddings to consider when designing a building.
While many want to blame our industry's lack of significant growth on a skilled labor shortage, I'm beginning to think otherwise. The industry just hasn't been as market savvy as our major competing structural systems, such as tilt-up and precast, in getting the attention of our potential customers. And unless we get together quickly, we will lose their attention forever.
At the World of Concrete, Ed Sullivan, Portland Cement Association's chief economist, reported a disturbing trend, as least for mason contractors. There is more cement used on a typical construction project in 2006 than there was in 2005, according to Sullivan. He told the friendly crowd of concrete producers and contractors that this trend was caused by a number of factors, including an increase in commercial projects containing structural concrete elements and building owners recognition of the insulating values associated with concrete cladding.
Sullivan's news should be an encouragement to PCA members. The upward trend means they are selling more cement each year by increasing their market share. But as an observer of the masonry industry, I'm concerned. I think PCA has opted to take the easy path with its support of ICFs, poured wall above grade structures, and the increasingly popular cement siding board.
PCA is quick to point out its support of research, workforce development, and technical publications. PCA suggests that their members can't be the “go to” organization for everyone. They point out that other national organizations should also be involved in promoting masonry systems. And they are correct.
Fortunately there is hope. Several months ago I urged contractors to contact their local and national leaderships to support www.masonrysystems.org. I think they heard the request. At the Mason Contractors Association of America's annual membership meeting in February, President Frank Campitelli made two important announcements. First, he said that MCAA has developed a more formal working relationship with several key local marketing organizations in the development of this important Web site.
But more importantly, President Campitelli announced that MCAA's request to its membership for a special assessment for more marketing funds was successful. The association plans to fund a marketing war chest to recapture your fair share of the construction market.
Do you want to help recapture that market? Challenge our industry's major suppliers to show their commitment to these contractor groups' efforts. Using a grass root plan, personally ask each national masonry organization to match what you and your fellow contractors put into the MCAA marketing and Web site development funds, dollar for dollar.
Here's why I think your efforts might work. These suppliers will benefit from your marketing effort. And a happy customer buys more products.
The fax numbers for several of these national organizations are listed at the end of this editorial. (For a complete listing, visit www.masonryconstruction.com and click on “Associations” under the “Other Resources” section.) Keep your message simple. Write in your name, along with a statement like, “Please support mason contractors by matching our contribution to the industry's marketing fund,” on your company's fax form. Sign and send.
And then you need to do your part. Donate what you can to the MCAA special marketing fund or to www.masonrysystems.org. Funding these important marketing initiatives not only helps your company's immediate future, but you are also laying a base course for our next generation of masons.