President’s Message: Russ Kerr

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My second term – What has changed and what has remained the same?

I initially joined the BCA back in 2000 when Vipond Fire Protection opened a new location in Barrie. By 2001, I had joined the board of directors and in 2004 I first took the helm as president. Except for a very brief period after my last post as president I have continued to be involved with the association over the years and am now pleased to be serving my second term.

I am privileged to be the first in BCA’s history to hold this position twice and recognize it allows me a unique perspective in that, over more than a decade with the association, I have witnessed first-hand all that has changed and all that has remained the same.

I am proud to see the way the BCA has evolved over the years. Where once we were primarily a print shop we have grown to be the hub of construction in our area. The staff, who have always been excellent and engaging and knowledgeable, have developed unique roles and responsibilities that are focused on service and member benefits.

We have a beautiful location with training facilities that, if anyone has not had the opportunity to come and see, really should.

We have a strong board who represent a diverse cross-section of the industry and bring with them a depth, breadth and knowledge that benefits us all. This, historically, has always been one of our strengths. In addition, though now I look around the table and see a mix of experience who are sources of knowledge and answers and fresh eyes who are able to and willing to ask questions, to introduce new thoughts into the mix and who will continue on to carry the association forward.

It is in part due to our board over the past 10 years that we have grown and evolved as we have. Our past president Katherine Van Leeuwen was one of those who recognized we needed to be more member service oriented if we wanted to thrive.

Our executive director, Alison Smith, cultivated the idea for a board retreat with a focus on building a vision for the association and out of which came Constructing Relationships . . . Constructing Solutions, one of the best-attended BCA events in our history.

Over the past decade we’ve done some investing, some rebranding and took on some initiatives that in the end brought people together who hadn’t been before, opening new connections and bridging new opportunities.

It is these opportunities that I would encourage everyone to embrace. Our industry struggles with being both too busy, and too slow, to take advantage of networking and training. Both though are exactly when we need to continue to network, to promote our businesses and to make connections. This is a hurdle we recognize and in putting on the Constructing Relationships…. Constructing Solutions events try to address by connecting one to the next, by constantly evolving and seeking feedback, by engaging and empowering those in attendance to discussion, and by challenging them in the end, to action.

Over the past decade I have also seen technology take on a more significant role in our industry. While construction had not previously been a high tech market we are now seeing this as a solution to meeting the demand of enhanced productivity. I would caution though that we need to balance need against dependency.

At the BCA we have a unique membership which includes some of the most technologically advanced companies in the industry, and some who are very traditional in their operations and methods. The BCA, I think, is doing a great job of engaging both and of introducing those who may be more ‘old school’ to the potential technology offers.

While we embrace the innovation and advances technology brings, I would also suggest it as a way to bridge the gap and to draw in a new and younger workforce. There is a whole new breed of construction professionals who live and breathe technology and who will, if they are encouraged to, find new opportunities and challenges in the field.

The BCA has taken part in several trade shows at which we were encouraged and impressed by the large numbers of youth and parents who stopped to inquire, ask questions and hear about the opportunities. This year, in conjunction with Simcoe County, we will be sponsoring a bus load of students who will visit a job site as part of their curriculum, to see firsthand what is possible and available to them.

BCA’s members continue to support our wider community, whether through the Ride for Cancer, which this year raised almost $13,000, or the golf tournament, where members come out to connect, to raise funds, and to build on the great relationship we have always had with the community as a whole.

While the BCA has grown and evolved and we have seen many changes over the years, there are also things that have not changed. A decade has passed and safety is still a concern in our industry that has yet to be fully addressed. Prompt payment – a concept that at the same time seems simple and yet idealistic – is one we still struggle to get a hold on. We still continue to maintain these issues as our focus, to work with stakeholders to find resolutions and to support initiatives that, we hope, will some day result in the needed changes.

I look forward to the next years of the BCA as an opportunity to continue to see first-hand the ways we continue to improve and to grow in both our stature and services.