The Associated General Contractors (AGC)’s three Florida chapters have reported impressive state-wide advocacy success, as they develop programs and events to serve their own communities.
“AGC in Florida, through the AGC Florida Council, leads the legislative fight for Florida’s general contractors by standing behind the position of the Florida general contractor 100 percent of the time,” said Michelle Anaya DePotter, executive director of the Florida East Coast chapter in West Palm Beach. “We encourage sound business methods tending to raise the general standing of contractors in the business community and promote better relations between private organizations and public bodies, their architects or engineers and the general contractors.”
Members of the three chapters pool resources for a Tallahassee lobbyist and benefit from the national AGC advocacy initiatives in the Washington, DC, area.
Brian Turmail, AGC’s national senior executive director of public affairs, said Florida contractors have reported serious labor shortage challenges as the state has transitioned in the past two years from the recession bust to a boom economy.
“There’s a lot of demand for construction work in Florida now,” he said. However, “after things contracted quite a bit (during the recession), there weren’t as many unemployed construction workers waiting for the phone to ring. There’s a significant shortage of qualified workers to meet the demand.”
Turmail says the association has been coordinating a “workforce development plan” – a series of measures at the federal, state and local level to create resources to set up technical education programs and make it easier to establish and coordinate local training programs. There are challenges under existing laws in coordinating these programs, as “unless you bring the union and collective bargaining process, it is illegal for you and other firms to join together to create a single training program.”
Certainly some AGC members are unionized, but many others are not, and the association believes that unionization decisions are matters for individual employers and workers.
The solution to providing non-union training may be revising the anti-trust laws, or encouraging the establishment of construction-focus charter schools, Turmail said
He also said there is a need for immigration reform, “to address the immediate (labor) shortage and we revitalize the pipeline for recruiting domestic workers.”
At the state level, Ron Wrobel, membership director of the AGC of Greater Florida, based in Orlando, provided an extensive list of legislative wins in Tallahassee including, among others:
Preserving “pay-when-paid” clauses
“AGC has successfully fought off numerous attempts to abolish ‘pay-when-paid’ clauses, which would ultimately require the contractor to guarantee the payment of all subs, suppliers, etc., regardless of whether the owner ever pays the contract.
Reducing the “statute of repose”
“In the recent past, contractors could be sued for up to 15 years after a Florida construction project was completed. AGC successfully passed legislation to reduce Florida’s 15-year liability period down to 10-years, and efforts are now under way to reduce this period even further.
“AGC has repeatedly fended off efforts to place statutory caps on retainage or force ‘line-item’ release of retainage.”
These political initiatives combine with training and educational resources, notably the association’s partnership with the BIMForum (see separate stories).
However, Anaya DePotter in West Palm Beach believes the greatest membership value relates to business development.
“We have a multitude of ways for our members to connect and network and stay visible to one another through the years to strengthen their existing relationships with one another or build new ones,” she said. “There is great value in that, which is consistently conveyed back to me through testimonials.”
Local speakers and events combine the education and advocacy opportunities with some entertainment and social opportunities.
“We currently have a speaker scheduled to discuss the I-4 Improvement in Project in Orlando, ACE Mentoring in Jacksonville, and Robert Bishop, the dean of the College of Engineering for the University of South Florida (USF) will be speaking to our group in Tampa,” said Wrobel. Other events are happening in the East Coast and South Florida chapters, and you can learn more at their respective websites.
For more information, you can connect with the relevant Florida AGC chapter:
AGC of Greater Florida – A Division of AGCA
Phone: (407) 439-0336
Florida East Coast Chapter-AGC
West Palm Beach, FL
Phone: (561) 833-3609
Fax: (561) 833-6024
South Florida Chapter-AGC
Phone: (954) 693-9322
Fax: (954) 382-5748
See more at: www.agc.org/connect/chapters