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January 2007

Guest Columnist

An Open Letter to the
Masonry Industry

Imagine a website that inspires and teaches your customers to design their next building with masonry. Not material that looks like masonry; not precast, not tilt-up, not metal, not synthetic stucco or manufactured stone. That's right, we're talking about genuine brick, block and stone — total masonry construction. The website of which I speak is MasonrySystems.org.

MasonrySystems.org is the brainchild of the Masonry Executives Council (MEC), a coalition of professionals from more than two dozen mason contractor associations. Our group believes that it's high time to bring our industry together and to provide a unified source of information and promotion for the total masonry wall system.

We're frustrated that our competitors' "turnkey" building systems approach is eating the masonry industry alive. We're confused by our own industry's promotion efforts, where brick, block, stone and labor are all promoted as separate components. We want to make it easy for architects, engineers, developers, school boards and city officials to choose masonry for their buildings. And most importantly, we want to significantly increase the amount of masonry used in the marketplace.

During the past year, our Council has worked with professional web developers to create the infrastructure and design for a comprehensive Internet site. The finished site will have three major components:

Inspiration
If a picture's worth a thousand words, just imagine how hundreds of pictures of outstanding masonry architecture will inspire your designers and developers. Visit our online gallery to view the best in masonry design from all across North America. Discover the beauty and versatility of brick, block and stone by browsing our Masonry Showcase. Learn about the people and challenges behind our viewers' favorite work by clicking on our Featured Project of the Month. Think your own work might inspire others? Submit your project to our editors and become part of our growing collection of great work.

Information
Your customers will get smart here. They'll learn why masonry structures outlast and outperform every other building system. They'll discover which masonry wall system is right for their next building and what it will cost. They'll even discover how to detail their structure for maximum durability and beauty. Find data, articles, presentations and videos about every aspect of masonry design and construction, from fire ratings to moisture control, cost-cutting strategies to cleaning practices.

Interaction
Ask for a second opinion, or contribute one. This section of the website provides instant access to your colleagues in the masonry community. Post and read messages, ask questions, or submit industry announcements on the electronic bulletin board. Contribute articles for inclusion in our online magazine. This is an active platform for discussion about new ideas and building techniques, and the best place to find out what's new in the masonry marketplace.

As we all know, the vast majority of our customers use the Internet as their primary research tool. MasonrySystems.org will become our customers' destination of choice, the gateway to all the industry resources and information they need to design and build a high-performance masonry structure. And the easier it is for them to understand our products and systems, the more our customers will specify them. We all win.

How You Can Help
As you can imagine, building the "Library of Congress" of masonry websites is a massive job. Yes, our Council will continue to dedicate hundreds of volunteer hours to the project. Yes, we will seek permission from other masonry websites and publications to feature their well-researched information on MasonrySystems.org. But it will take much more than that to craft a superb site and to market it effectively. It will take the expertise of our professional website developers and a full-time site editor to get the job done.

Our first year's budget for creating, testing, launching and aggressively marketing the MasonrySystems.org website is $250,000. In year two, we will add a major print advertising campaign to the mix, for a total annual budget of $475,000. In years three through five, we anticipate that revenue derived by advertising on the website will offset our expenses by as much as 50 percent.

This would be a huge investment for a single company or organization to make in marketing its products. But it's not a lot of money for an entire industry to invest in itself. We invite you and your company to join us in making MasonrySystems.org a reality. Please consider contributing $500, $1,000 or more this year toward the development and launch of MasonrySystems.org. All companies that contribute $500 or more will be listed for one year in our masonry sponsors' directory on the website. Also, we will keep you updated on our progress every step of the way.

Together, we can compel our customers to choose masonry over non-masonry systems by showing them the best in masonry design and giving them the objective information for which they're looking. We can build masonry's market share — and our bottom lines — by making it easier for our customers to design and build with our products. Please visit www.MasonrySystems.org today for more information about all the exciting features of our new site and how you can become a part of it.

Thank you very much for your consideration,

Masonry Executive Council Members:






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