Association of General Contractors and TEXO
Complete series of articles on the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and TEXO, featuring an interview with former TEXO President and CEO Raleigh Roussell.
The AGC was organized in 1919 to address problems discovered during World War I. “The original purpose of AGC was to have a mechanism to mobilize the industry in an emergency situation,” said Raleigh Roussell, former President and CEO of TEXO, the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of AGC. “WWI was the first time America was truly called to mobilize on a global scale and some parts of this mobilization just didn’t work well. One of the areas where this was a big problem was the construction industry. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson went to the country’s leading construction firms and asked them to create an organization to address this, and AGC was the result.”
Since then, the AGC has evolved into the primary voice of the construction industry in Washington DC. They coordinate with OSHA, EPA and other government agencies on regulations, lobby politicians to influence legislation and participate in judicial actions that affect the industry. The national organization maintains a staff of 85 people in Alexandria, Virginia to support its 35,000 members nationwide.
The AGC is also represented by 100 local chapters around the United States. The Dallas Chapter, the first AGC Chapter in Texas, was formed in 1924; the Fort Worth Chapter was established one year later. “There was always a need for the local groups, doing mostly labor-oriented activities,” said Roussell. “That’s why there were separate chapters in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston . . . each local chapter was initially just an individualized, community group. Historically, the local organization had a focus on labor issues. The national organization had a focus on dealing with federal agencies and political issues.”
The 1970s Bring Change to Local AGC Chapters
Over the years, the growth of the Metroplex forced the Dallas and Fort Worth Chapters to function together more closely. “In 1970 the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport was the first real cooperative project between Dallas and Fort Worth contractors,” said Roussell. “We quickly realized that we were going to have a difficult time building an airport that was half in Dallas and half in Tarrant, because there were separate unions in each county. So we put together a group called the North Texas Contractors Association (NTCA). Its goal was to bring the unions into a single regional bargaining process rather than doing it for each separate county. This way we’d have common expiration dates, wages, working rules and so forth. That worked very well.”
The creation of the NTCA carved out a large part of the local AGC chapters’ traditional role, allowing them to pursue new avenues of support for the local construction industry.
In 1971 when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed, Dallas was the first AGC chapter in the country to hire a safety expert. “That was sort of a bell cow of services for the industry,” said Roussell, “in terms of helping members manage their safety, do site audits, do OSHA representation when OSHA came out. OSHA and our safety program has become a big part of what we do, and that’s become a predominate service provided by most AGC chapters across the country. It’s a big part of a contractor’s business.”
As environmental matters became more sensitive, the local AGC chapters became involved with that as well, adding an environmentalist to their staff. “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations used to be enforced federally,” said Roussell. “Then they became enforced at a state level, and now they’re locally enforced. All municipalities with over 10,000 residents are now required to administer EPA regulations on stormwater run-off. It used to be one entity interpreting the regs one way. Now, in the Metroplex we have 23 cities that are over 10,000 in population so we have 23 different regulators out there. In Arlington they may look at it one way, then you cross over to Grand Prairie and they look at it another way. We realized that we needed someone on our staff who not only knows environmental regulations but is out there building relationships with people who will be doing the inspections.”
East Texas, Dallas and Fort Worth Come Together
Up until the 1980s, the various local chapters in North and East Texas operated independently; however, economic circumstances and the growing Metroplex market forced changes over the next several years.
In 1988 the East Texas AGC Chapter merged into the Dallas Chapter as a result of the soft economy. This merger expanded the area of responsibility for the Dallas Chapter from the Dallas/Tarrant County line to the Texas/Louisiana border.
Over the next eleven years, the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters met periodically to consider the value of combining into one group, with little success. By 2000, however, the groups’ leaders recognized that viewing Dallas and Fort Worth as separate markets had become an obsolete perspective. “People began to truly realize that this is one market,” said Roussell. “We saw that we could be a stronger political entity if we put the two chapters together.”
Effective January 2001 TEXO was formed to create a single AGC chapter that supports more than 40 counties in North and East Texas. With over 1000 members, a professional staff of 12 and an annual budget of $3.5 million, TEXO has become the leading voice of the construction industry in this part of the country.
Where Did the Name TEXO Come From?
“When we did this merger we had contractors in Dallas, Fort Worth and East Texas,” said Roussell. “Normally, the chapters are described geographically in AGC. But we thought it was unfair to call it the North Texas chapter because then you think only of Dallas and Fort Worth. We couldn’t call it Northeast Texas because then you think of Texarkana and Mt. Pleasant and that area. We certainly didn’t want to say North and East Texas because that just doesn’t roll off the tongue the right way.
“We hired a professional PR firm to come up with a name. As the PR guy was getting ready to meet with the new combined chapter board, I told him, ‘They are not going to go for any off-the-wall names. You better be thinking of terms like Council, Associated, Master Builder, Constructors, words like that.’ He had shown me a bunch of the other ideas and I told him they’d never go for those.
“So we have this first meeting with the consolidated board. He makes his presentation on what I’d call traditional names. Everyone just sat there, didn’t get excited about anything he presented. On a break he came to me and said, ‘Let me give them some of these other names. You said they wouldn’t like them, but I don’t see a lot of energy for what we presented.’ So he presented these off-the-wall names. He said TEXO and explained why he had gotten there.
“It made wonderful sense when we talked about it. It was short and unique and when they saw it they jumped all over it.”
Today’s TEXO and AGC
The local AGC has come a long way from resolving labor disputes for a single community. TEXO 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.”
TEXO’s efforts now focus on three separate areas:
- Governmental Coordination
- OSHA and Environmental Regulatory Compliance
One of TEXO’s primary functions is to work with local governments to resolve disputes and speak on behalf of the construction industry. TEXO works with building officials, fire departments and city councils to address matters and influence legislation. TEXO also participates in the North Central Texas Council of Governments, working to standardize building codes and other regulatory requirements across city lines.
TEXO 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.
TEXO 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 TEXO’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.
TEXO 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.
TEXO 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. TEXO provides scholarships and grants to the schools and serves as advisors to the universities on construction curriculum and programs.
One program TEXO 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. TEXO members help to organize and run this event and provide the cash prizes.
TEXO 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.”
Bob Moore Construction and AGC
Bob Moore Construction is an active member of AGC and in the past year has assumed leadership roles in the organization.
In December 2007 Larry Knox, Vice President of Preconstruction for Bob Moore Construction, was named to a three-year position on TEXO’s board of directors. The board is comprised of 24 senior construction professionals in the area, and provides leadership, oversight and direction to the chapter. Initiatives taken on by the board include representing the industry’s interests in the development of federal, state and local legislation; driving better business practices in the community regarding environmental control, safety and productivity; working with community officials to improve business development opportunities in the region; and expanding the organization’s membership.
For more information about Larry Knox’s selection to TEXO’s Board of Directors, please read the press release from Bob Moore Construction.
In November 2007 Dino Sideris, Safety Director for Bob Moore Construction, was selected as Vice Chairman of TEXO’s Safety Leadership Committee. The Safety Leadership Committee is a select group of TEXO members who drive greater quality and awareness in safety throughout the local AGC community.
Previously, the company has sponsored AGC’s Region V Student Design/Build Competition, where 30 students from five colleges competed for the right to represent their school at a national competition. For more information about the Student Design / Build Competion, please read the press release from Bob Moore Construction.
The company also sponsored an AGC skeet shoot to raise funds for TEXO’s Education and Research Foundation. This foundation provides over $50,000 each year in scholarships and grants for construction management students and runs the annual Region V Student Competition.
Over the past several years, Bob Moore Construction has earned numerous awards through AGC, including the General Contractor of the Year Award from TEXO. Other awards have included a 2007 Summit Award, 2006 Summit Award, and 2007 Outstanding Construction Award, a statewide honor presented by the Texas Building Branch / AGC in Washington DC. Additionally, Dino Sideris has been recognized as part of TEXO’s Safety Leadership Resource Group, which earned national honors an award for Best Individual Public Relations Campaign.
“I have always felt that being a member of AGC sets us apart,” said Larry Knox, Vice President for Bob Moore Construction. “AGC members have tremendous educational programs in a variety of construction-related subjects, from safety to professional development and superintendent training, to LEED Green Building standards. In Texas, TEXO has a tremendous positive impact on our industry, and our communities as well. By joining TEXO you are making a commitment to standards of conduct and ethics that are invaluable to our clients, our employees and the industry. AGC members are seen as better trained and more professional than other companies, and I believe there’s a good reason for that.”
TEXO’s efforts over the years have made a significant impact on the Metroplex and the local construction industry. Their training and the safety/environmental programs have led to better qualified local contractors who are more capable of maintaining safe, legally compliant job sites. Just as importantly, TEXO’s constant involvement with government officials and agencies at all levels has created new opportunities for general contractors, improved relations with minority communities, mitigated the effects of legislation that worked against the industry and helped to standardize regulations throughout the Metroplex.
The impact of TEXO extends beyond Dallas/Fort Worth. Their innovations – like being the first AGC chapter to hire a safety expert and an environmentalist – have been emulated by other chapters, raising the association’s level of support for general contractors around the country. The SafetyNet program, which TEXO is helping to pioneer, has the potential to help general contractors and government agencies all across the United States.
Not surprisingly, the organization has been recognized for their work. In 2002 TEXO received three awards from the National AGC: The Chapter of Year, the Local Chapter Chairman of Year and the Executive of the Year. A testament to the success of TEXO’s safety program, TEXO members have won six AGC National Construction Safety Excellence awards (40% of the total number given for the entire country) since 2001.
“Being in the association business my whole life I understand what associations do,” said Raleigh Roussell. “There’s a real need for an organization like ours. The benefits to a lot of what we do are intangible. But an industry needs a single voice. It needs representation.”