Chairman's Message: Round Up The Usual Suspects

Words: Dick Dentinger

There’s a fabulous scene in the climax of the film CASABLANCA starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In the scene, Claude Reins, the French Police Captain during German occupation, arrives at the airport hanger only to find Bogart had just expired a Nazi Major.  Reins exchanges eye contact with Bogey and then directs his underlings to “round up the usual suspects!” It’s a great line from a great movie.

In my travels representing the MCAA, I am fortunate to be able to spend time with some of the most inspiring and dedicated folks in our industry. Recently, in a matter of a few weeks, I went to three different industry meetings giving me three different perches on which to view stakeholders of our industry churning away in efforts on behalf of us all. It’s amazing to witness.  These people have no shortage of responsibilities in their professional and personal lives yet still choose to show up and steward the masonry industry. They are the usual suspects. They carry the water and do the heavy lifting for the benefit of everyone else.

The first of the three meetings I attended was the Minnesota Concrete and Masonry Contractors Association annual meeting. MCMCA is my home state’s contractor group. Our company has been active members since we opened our doors. Anchored by contractors I would put up against any others in the country, the group is also lucky to have top shelf vendors and suppliers who do much of the sales and marketing work of the MCMCA, while contractors work to handle all things labor related. Because our area happens to have a significant union footprint, this local association spends much of its energy working to build a healthy mutually beneficial relationship with the local unions. The usual suspects of MCMCA show up to these meetings and participate in its efforts to the benefit of every MCMCA member.

Weeks later, I crashed a regional CMU Check-Off meeting in Minneapolis. I witnessed a crowded room of folks from all over the Midwest whose companies purchased plane tickets, hotel rooms, and sent key team members to spend several days volunteering on the region’s check-off board to ensure a successful launch. It was inspiring to notice each of the usual suspects in that large room were fully engaged and serious in their efforts to mold this new and important program.

I especially enjoyed seeing the energy in the room as I recalled a similar meeting held more than a dozen years earlier. It was at an MCAA annual meeting back when the Check-Off program was first pitched to MCAA members by a cowboy hat-wearing mason contractor from Texas. The giant of a man looked and sounded like a cross between a staunch preacher and a powerful rancher from an old movie as he stood up and challenged the room of contractors and suppliers to set a goal to support efforts to create a CMU Check-Off program. It would serve as a counterpunch to the competing products which had similarly organized and used their war-chest of funding to replace our masonry walls while we were asleep at the wheel. He offered to volunteer his time and in fact volunteered each of us in the room to stand up and fight for our industry rather than lose more of our walls to precast and lumber. He was a Usual Suspect - with a capital U and a capital S. Everyone who bothered to show up at the meetings that day which included MCAA contractors, producers, and suppliers from all over the country were wrapped up in the promising idea of taking back our masonry walls.

The CMU Check-Off was hardly a slam dunk and took more than a decade of work involving trips to Washington, DC, regular planning meetings throughout the country, countless conference calls, and then more trips to Washington, DC. The usual suspects from the concrete block association (CMHA) carried the ball and usual suspects from MCAA pushed wheel-barrels full of effort alongside as the idea inched towards the end zone. Since the idea was pitched, we all endured more than a dozen years of challenges, we all watched twelve Superbowl’s, and voted in multiple presidential elections. The usual suspects never gave up and eventually the industry and the politicians came together, and the CMU Check-Off dream became reality.  Everyone in the masonry industry will benefit - thanks to the team of usual suspects.

Next, I traveled to the annual meeting of the North Carolina Mason Contractors Association as they celebrated their 50th year as an association. I enjoy every chance to spend time networking and visiting with anyone associated with the NCMCA. They are a special group.  Hardworking, driven, kind, and definitely packed full of leaders. The North Carolina Mason Contractors group wasted no time in their fifty years as advocates for masonry in the Carolinas and in fact are driving the bus at a national level too. They are more organized than any other group I’ve come across and have loaned their brightest to MCAA for decades. Like many of the North Carolina college basketball programs, NCMCA is a powerhouse in our industry and has never declined when asked to support national efforts. I was asked to address the group during the banquet on behalf of MCAA. It was an honor to share in their celebration. NCMCA sets the bar for the industry because of the room full of usual suspects who, while proud of what they do, probably are too humble to realize the impact they have had on our masonry industry.

Every market has their group of usual suspects. The ones who, while no less, busy than every other stakeholder in our industry, always volunteer whenever called upon. Their work benefits everyone, including those who choose not to participate in the effort. If you know someone who is still not active in our multiple levels of volunteers, locally, regionally, or nationally, and you think could help our army of usual suspects, challenge them to show up, to contribute time and talent. We will always need a group of usual suspects to round up if we wish to continue to shore up our masonry industry.

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