It’s a question that’s meant to be sarcastic. People ask it when they know things are bad, and they expect a sarcastic response in return. I’ve heard it asked a lot over the past three years.
So you may be surprised that my response is not sarcastic at all. This may be one of the most exciting, albeit challenging, times I’ve experienced at NECA. And yes, I am having fun.
NECA is making a difference on Capitol Hill. We had two great victories last year in beating back onerous Financial Accounting Standards Board regulations and in repealing a misguided 3% withholding tax on government work. As a result of our impressive PAC and active political agenda, we are being noticed and even sought out by legislators for our opinion. One U.S. senator invited me to breakfast just to talk — and he picked up the check! A congressman excused himself from the House floor to meet me in the cloak room for a discussion on NECA issues. Fun stuff.
NECA is being proactive is developing business for our members. Mostly gone are the days when our LMCCs spent dollars on billboards and baseball hats to promote our industry. Now we are employing business development specialists to find new business opportunities. We’re encouraging our members to bid less and sell more. And the opportunities abound in energy conservation projects as well as new technologies. Exciting stuff.
NECA members have long sought out labor agreements that provide flexibility and competitive conditions. While we can’t claim we’ve reached out goal in this regard, we sure are on the right path. The CW/CE classification is providing the means to increase our labor force and lower overall crew costs. Market initiative agreements are targeting market segments where we traditionally have captured little work. In some areas, labor agreement restrictions have mostly vanished, replaced by a “just do what you need to get the work” attitude. Encouraging stuff.
The “next generation” of NECA members is emerging as leaders in our industry, and we’re welcoming their participation. We’ve engaged our future leaders group in debating industry issues. We have asked young leaders to serve on important industry committees and task forces. Women in NECA (WIN) is a group fostering diversity in both representation and the way we think about our industry. We’re reshaping our communications and meetings to be more relevant to all segments and types of NECA members. Wait until you see what we have planned for an executive leadership conference in 2013. Forward-thinking stuff.
Our apprentice and journeymen training programs are the lifeblood of our industry, and they have always set the standard for electrical craftsmanship. Now we’re developing some of the most progressive teaching methods to make these programs even better. Computer-based training, distance learning, blended instruction — virtual environments are all being employed to put our training programs at the forefront of education today. Futuristic stuff.
Of course, we can also consider underfunded pension plans, out-of-control health care costs, and high industry unemployment. Scary stuff.
But those are just other problems we need to address. And, for some of us, the fun is in finding a solution. So let’s have some fun.