IMI's Regional Focus
The IMI hybrid approach customizes national programs to benefit BAC members at every level – local, regional, and national. This second in a series of articles takes a look at how these programs benefit members regionally.
ne of the reasons for IMI’s success and growth has been its ability to develop programs nationally that can be delivered at the regional and local levels,” says BAC President and IMI Co-Chair John J. Flynn. “Contractors and owners are looking for craftworkers with consistent, high-quality skills, whether they receive their training in Chicago or Las Vegas. That’s where IMI’s system of standardized training delivered throughout the BAC regions brings in contractors and jobs. It’s our ability to respond to the demand for training when and where it’s needed that gives our Union, our members, and our contractors an advantage.”
At a Mason Contractors Association of America meeting last year, an IMI training/marketing team working an informational booth met a non-union contractor with a big problem. Mackie Bounds, owner of Brazos Masonry, one of the biggest masonry contractors in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, had a crew of approximately 150 bricklayers. But the busy firm lacked the time and expertise to recruit and train apprentices and had a serious shortage of qualified foremen. When Bounds heard a presentation by IMI’s President Joan Calambokidis about the BAC/IMI approach to training, he wanted to learn more. IMI Regional Training Director Pat Murphy followed up with a detailed explanation of IMI’s training portfolio and expertise in apprentice, foreman, and instructor training. Murphy then put him in touch with BAC Local 5 Oklahoma/Arkansas/Texas President Ed Navarro.
In short order, the firm, which had operated without a collective bargaining agreement for 15 years, became one of the biggest signatory contractors in the region, and a happy one. “I can’t say enough about the quality of their work and their work ethic,” says Bounds. “Training,” notes Navarro, “is the way we can keep our members and contractors competitive and working.”
IMI Skills that Win Jobs
IMI’s structure enables it to quickly adapt nationally developed programs to meet regional needs. In Ohio, for example, where there are two Administrative District Coucils covering 25 BAC Locals, hundreds of BAC members have taken advantage of IMI’s grout certification classes in recent months. That’s already translating into jobs for members in Ohio, where architects, who trust IMI’s technical expertise, are specifying IMI grout training certification in their bid documents.
Those specifications provide serious ammunition for winning work. IMI Ohio Market Development/ Technical Services Director Tom Nagy’s participation in design meetings for Cleveland’s $28 million Shaw High School project led to such specifications, which in turn led to a BAC contractor winning a masonry contract expected to be in the $3 million range. And, since the designers were from URS – No. 1 on ENR’s list of top design firms with 2004 revenues of $2.8 billion – the IMI connection gives BAC members an edge far beyond the Ohio state borders. An information packet detailing good and bad grout jobs in Ohio is now being used across the country to alert school boards and other owners to the advantages of IMI grout training. “You’ve got to have the certification,” says Northern Ohio Administrative District Council Director Bob Fozio. “That’s where the Union excels. The architects understand that.”
A cornerstone of IMI’s regionally delivered programs is efficiency. In Cleveland, for example, grout classes were part of an intensive week that included AAC certification, foreman training and Contractor College for BAC signatory contractors. Local 5 Ohio President Joe Coreno thinks it accomplished a lot. “The certifications provide our members with the additional skills being demanded by building owners and designers. IMI training and education will help our BAC members and contractors maintain and increase our market share.”
Efficient Delivery of Certifications
Other IMI certification programs that lend themselves well to regional delivery include ACI, OSHA, and Jahn restoration mortars.
IMI’s ACI certification process for cement finishers is particularly timely, as federal, state and local governments and major construction owners like Lowe’s increasingly demand it for their sizeable building programs. While it gives BAC contractors an edge in marketing and at bid times, it puts non-union workers who have to pay anywhere from $400 to $1,000 for certification at a disadvantage.
IMI delivers the certification programs whenever regions and Locals need it, which this year, will include training in Regions 1, 2, and 5.
In Northern Wisconsin , it’s a big hit with members, says Wisconsin District Council Business Agent/Organizer Wynn Jones. “It definitely translates into more skills.” He says members appreciate being armed with the facts on the jobsite, and BAC contractors appreciate the flexibility of having an IMI-certified ACI examiner delivering the tests efficiently all over the state, for groups of all sizes. John Zellner, the ADC Apprenticeship and Training instructor for Fox Valley and Lakeshore, says his examiner status is keeping him busy. Zellner is authorized to deliver the service to members in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Most recently, he certified 90 members just in time for a Lowe’s store in Manitowoc.
The IMI advantage doesn’t stop there, says Jones. “The more certifications we get, the better we can use IMI marketing to push even more BAC contractors to take advantage of it.”
In Michigan , where more than 100 BAC Local 9 cement masons have been ACI-certified through IMI, Field Representative Greg Lobodzinski says members and contractors are happy because it is helping them get jobs. And since he was trained by IMI as a proctor, he is able to help out in other areas. “If they call us today, we can be certifying them tomorrow.”
It’s that fast, says BAC Local 16 Ohio apprentice instructor John Pfouts, who called Lobodzinski when several “big box” wholesale store projects were starting around Akron and required ACI certified finishers familiar with colored cement. “I got in touch with IMI and we were able to supply the craftworkers right away” for the jobs, some of which involved 150,000 square feet on interiors alone. “It was great timing.”
Industry Trends and New Products
Having a regional training network allows IMI to respond quickly to changing industry trends and products. The tile industry, for example, has seen a return to traditional mortar installations in many parts of the country. BAC/IMI training centers in California, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Seattle, as well as the BAC/IMI National Training Center, have mockups and instructors teaching mortar methods, and IMI can quickly deploy additional training as requested.
IMI and BAC are also targeting new products that can be linked with BAC craftsmanship even before they hit the market. For a new terrazzo product, Terratop™, IMI and BAC worked closely with the manufacturer to field test it and develop custom training and certification programs for both apprentices and journey-level members. In return, MAPEI’s specifications and distributor agreement call for BAC/IMI trained mechanics and finishers. Terratop™ is now being introduced in the Northeast, with more regions expected by 2006. “It’s giving all of our members another opportunity for jobs,” says BAC Executive Vice President Gerard Scarano. Thanks to IMI seminars and events held around New York and New Jersey, “the architects are getting to see it more. It is a great material for us.”
To promote new products like Terratop™ and AAC block and coatings in New York state, IMI has held an ongoing series of seminars to introduce it to designers, contractors, and owners, along with the certification advantage enjoyed by BAC members. At one seminar in Albany, a terrazzo contractor was so impressed that he soon lobbied planners of a local project to take terrazzo off their wish list and put it on the bid list because of the product’s affordability. That will likely lead to work for some Local 2 members, plus a lot more jobs ahead, says Local 2 NY President and Region 2 Director Al Catalano. “It’s going to create a tremendous amount of work-hours for us. For a long time we were just reacting to new products. Now we have an aggressive way to get that work, and the environmental benefits of products like AAC and Terratop™ will play right into that,” says Catalano. IMI helps BAC prepare for the projected demand by certifying instructors in the products.
Reaching Out to Construction Managers
Another strategic IMI initiative is reaching out to construction managers (CM), who make an increasing share of jobsite decisions, from materials to manpower. That reach has extended to one of the largest CM firms in the Northeast, Gilbane Building Co., where IMI’s custom Building Envelope seminar generated even more interest in masonry construction. At the university level, Construction Management programs are proliferating, but the specialized curricula often fail to cover construction materials and systems. IMI is helping bridge the gap through the University Professors’ Masonry Workshop. This year, IMI added a CM track to dissemi nate masonry education to a much broader audience, while at the same time reminding them of the value of skilled BAC craftsmanship. The 2005 session, for example, showcased the BAC Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota Training Center.
Regional TMT Expos
Prominent industry events, like the IMI Tile/ Marble/ Terrazzo Expos series launched last year, do a lot more than show off the beautiful materials – they shine the spotlight, and deservedly so, on skilled BAC craftworkers. And thanks to IMI’s reputation as a quality provider of continuing education, the Expos in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh drew large numbers of designers, building owners, specification writers, developers, public officials, and contractors from those regions, who took away an appreciation for the materials, and for union masonry.
At the Chicago area Expo last year, designer Maurya Cohan from the city’s largest architectural firm, OWP/P Architects, Inc., liked what she learned about American International’s TerraGreen recycled glass tile and its high LEED rating so much that the firm used it in their prototype design for a series of Chicago district police stations. All the work, including about 4,000 square feet of TerraGreen tile in the bathrooms of each station, was installed by BAC craftworkers.
Brad Trostrud, Vice President of Trostrud Tile & Mosaic in Wood Dale, IL and a fourth generation tile contractor, says, unlike some occasional promotional efforts in the past, “we feel it’s great working with IMI.” He believes that the TMT Expo in Chicago, which includes design awards that attract designers, “is a wise way to go. We expect it to be very successful in getting the work.”