Construction White Papers and Articles
Today's QUOIN and AGC in Dallas and Fort Worth Texas
Part Three of a series of articles on the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and QUOIN, featuring an interview with QUOIN President and CEO Raleigh Roussell.
Today's QUOIN and AGC
The local AGC has come a long way from resolving labor disputes for a single community. QUOIN now provides support in several key arenas to develop its members as better general contractors and to expand and improve the market.
"Our vision is to build the best contractor community in the world," said Roussell. "All the things we do make better contractors. In my opinion, we have the best qualified general contractor community in the country. What's good for the owner is that we have so many good contractors that we probably aren't getting paid what we should be getting paid for what we do. It's very competitive. It's an attractive market.
"I serve on an economic development group. We've been on 3 corporate recruiting trips where I can represent the construction community to an owner. I'm not representing a contractor; I'm representing the capability of our industry to owners. We're involved in those things as part of a complete community effort to attract industry to our market. We try to make sure our members are differentiated and recognized as the best."
QUOIN's efforts now focus on three separate areas:
- Governmental Coordination
- OSHA and Environmental Regulatory Compliance
One of QUOIN's primary functions is to work with local governments to resolve disputes and speak on behalf of the construction industry. QUOIN works with building officials, fire departments and city councils to address matters and influence legislation. QUOIN also participates in the North Central Texas Council of Governments, working to standardize building codes and other regulatory requirements across city lines.
QUOIN is active in developing market opportunities with local governments as well. "We have been involved with the $1.4 billion Dallas Independent School District (DISD) construction program," Roussell said. "We've met every Monday afternoon for the past 18 months, working out procedures and how it's going to be handled. Our lawyer spent a lot of time and money, rewriting the general conditions with their lawyer, to make sure this was $1.4 billion of work that our members would be interested in pursuing. So far DISD has budgeted about $300 million of that work, and every single project has gone to one of our members. In some cases it went to companies that never touched school work before. What we set out to do, we accomplished. We created a market for our members, particularly at a time when that was a lot of the only work out there to pursue."
The association has engaged in similar efforts with the Fort Worth Independent School District.
QUOIN also works with the minority community to help build minority contractor capacity. Recently, the University of North Texas sought the organization's help to ensure minority representation on their new $350 million campus project in South Dallas. "Today I'm meeting with minority chambers of commerce, minority contractors and UNT," said Roussell. "We're bringing all the entities together so we can work out a solution that's good for everyone."
At the state level, AGC maintains an office of four full-time lobbyists in Austin. This group works with the Texas Legislature and develops relationships with state-level government agencies like the University of Texas system and the Comptroller's Office.
OSHA and Environmental Regulatory Compliance
OSHA and EPA regulatory compliance has become a cornerstone of QUOIN's support to its members. The group helps to develop safety programs for its members and provides training classes to ensure that local general contractors have the knowledge and procedures in place to adhere to government requirements. The AGC works closely with OSHA and the EPA at all levels to resolve disputes and develop safety policies that protect the workers and environment while not prohibiting general contractors from doing their work in a cost-effective manner.
QUOIN coordinated with various federal agencies to develop the SafetyNet program, an application to track safety and environmental programs at job sites with handheld personal information manager devices. "We've tried to stay ahead of the curve in terms of providing services that are innovative, and take some risks in moving those programs forward," Roussell said. "In the long run it pays off."
"We're recognized for our relationships with OSHA," Roussell said. "We just created a partnering agreement with OSHA where, based on our member's program and our recommendations, they'll sign a partnering agreement where they won't visit that member's job site more than once. They'll leave it up to us to monitor that contractor thru our audits.
"It's the same with EPA. We have worked out an agreement with EPA where they'll accept the reports generated by SafetyNet as official job reports. We were able to accomplish that only because we had EPA at the table helping us build this program. All of those relationships in the long run benefit the industry and our members."
Training and Education
Prior to 1995, the local AGC chapters provided extensive training opportunities to craftsmen in the construction industry. These efforts were duplicated by other trade organizations as well. In 1996, The Construction Education Foundation (CEF) was created through an alliance of the members of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), North Texas Chapter; the AGC, Dallas Chapter; Associated General Contractors (AGC), Fort Worth Chapter and The American Subcontractors Association (ASA), North Texas Chapter. The purpose of the CEF was to consolidate the craftsman-oriented training into one organization.
Since then, AGC's training efforts have focused on safety education, professional development for middle- and upper-management professionals and site superintendent training.
QUOIN is very active in developing aspiring construction industry professionals. The group works with nine universities: The University of Oklahoma; Oklahoma State; Texas A&M; Texas Tech, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; John Brown University; North East Louisiana State in Monroe; and Louisiana Tech in Rustin. QUOIN provides scholarships and grants to the schools and serves as advisors to the universities on construction curriculum and programs.
One program QUOIN supports is the annual Region V Student Competition. Student teams from area colleges participate in one of three competitions: Commercial Building, Design/Build and Heavy-Civil. In each competition, the student teams are presented with an assignment that replicates a real world project. The teams develop proposals for the project, which are judged by local real estate developers or other experts. Winners of the competitions earn cash awards for their schools and the right to move on to the National Competition. QUOIN members help to organize and run this event and provide the cash prizes.
QUOIN also works to bring the best graduates to the Metroplex once they complete their studies. "We sponsor an interview event for the students and local contractors," said Roussell. "Instead of our members having to go to all the universities, we bring all the students here. We'll coordinate about 1,000 interviews for 150 students with the contractors."