When I walked into the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) reception at Caesar's Palace during the World of Masonry in Las Vegas, the place was rocking. The music was loud. The hundreds of conversations were boisterous, probably still talking about the Bricklayer 500 competition held earlier that day. But the true sign of a successful event was that refreshment lines were long, and no one was complaining. All the signs of a great gathering.

I was pleased. In fact, I just walked around the room and spoke to a few friends. When I left, I had one of the best feelings of accomplishment I had experienced in a long time.

For years I had been advocating the union of the MCAA annual convention with World of Masonry. And thanks to the hard work of MCAA's new executive director, as directed by the association's member leadership, it finally happened.

When I first brought up the subject in an editorial, several association members vilified me as an enemy. I have been involved in literally hundreds of conversations in which I've had to defend Hanley Wood. Most of these conversations centered on why Hanley Wood had not been more supportive of the association. My only answer was, give us a chance and we will show you what we can do together.

I realize that it's only one show, yet I think even my strongest naysayers are convinced that our industry will benefit from MCAA's involvement in World of Masonry. And just as importantly, MCAA will benefit by its exposure to the thousands of masons who attend World of Concrete/World of Masonry each year.

On the morning after the party, I met two longtime MCAA members in the South Hall near the MCAA office. Both men looked a little tired. They were quick to attribute their fatigue to walking the many exhibitor aisles they had visited, and not to any dance floor activity.

While they both enjoyed the reception, and the enthusiasm of the crowd, they had a worry. What's next? “We are going to have to work hard to convert our guests into members,” said the mason from St. Louis. The other contractor agreed. Both men thought some new contractors had joined. “But there were so many new people there, I'm sure we missed some,” said the contractor. “We need to follow-up.”

This year must be the one for MCAA's leadership to follow-up and take this well-respected organization to the next level. For all practical purposes, the funding crisis from previous years has been solved. There's been the exposure to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential members in Las Vegas. And finally, there's now a well-respected place to regather next February at the World of Masonry.

Unfortunately, this recruitment challenge comes at a time when our industry is facing some of its toughest challenges. Insurance requirements are testing the solvency of many respected firms. Work is getting tight. The scarcity of skilled craftspersons is about to hit most businesses.

But all is not lost. I discovered a key element of potential recruitment success in that reception on Wednesday evening. It was something that's been missing from a lot of previous MCAA events. Youth. Hundreds of future leaders were intermingling with the old timers. And for the most part, all enjoyed the same music.

MCAA leadership needs to focus its recruiting efforts on the exuberance that youth, plus pride, brings to our industry. With youth comes energy, dreams, and a sense of future purpose.

Congratulations to MCAA for their work at World of Masonry. As I have always promised, MASONRY CONSTRUCTION magazine and Hanley Wood stand ready to help, again.

Rick Yelton
Editor in Chief