MCAA Communities Update

Words: Cass Stern

Words: Cassandra Stern 
Photos: MASONRY Magazine

We’ve recently written about our website’s MCAA Communities section (if you missed it, check them out on the MCAA communities page) In this update, we take a different approach to this valuable networking opportunity offered through the MCAA. While in-person events have traditionally held an important and unique place in our community, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, MCAA members have had to adjust accordingly. The MCAA Communities board has seen a noticeable increase in membership activity over the past year and an influx of first-time users. This is undoubtedly due in no small part to the pandemic, but this digital service has proved its worth even under the stress of heavier user traffic. 

For those unfamiliar, the MCAA Communities board is a user-driven forum composed solely of MCAA members. The MCAA Community offers masonry industry professionals from all walks of life and ability levels the opportunity to ask questions and engage in open discussions on a variety of topics. Everything from inquiries about new machinery to recommendations or solicitations for advice on using a new product or approach to a unique issue has had their consideration on the MCAA Community boards. Users have only been gaining strength and confidence as we work our way through 2021. 

There have been several thought-provoking and informative discussions this year already, that engaged dozens of members. For example, in January of this year, Matt DiBara of DiBara Masonry in Los Angeles, CA, started a thread in which he inquired about educational ideas and opportunities for his employees. 

“I am looking for a few things I can share with my team to enhance their skills,” writes DiBara. “I appreciate any suggestions, including Blueprint Reading classes. Open to online courses or someone that may be able to teach in-person in the LA area or books on masonry technical skills. Thank you in advance!” 

This post is an excellent example of a typical inquiry on the MCAA Community board and a perfect opportunity for members to share their experiences and any helpful resources or suggestions. In a short time, the request received six responses from members with useful information. User Bonnie O’Connor replied with a recommendation for resources available through the NCCER, while two other users offered their positive feedback on Planswif’s educational resources. Another user provided a suggestion of a book that significantly improved performance for him and his team. Overall, this one question incited a great discussion that benefitted the original poster and any member with a similar inquiry seeking out additional information. 

Another great thread to check out on the MCAA Community board is a long history that members have been keeping alive and well. Initially opened in 2019 by a former MCAA administrator, the “Introduce Yourself!” thread has continued to see excellent engagement and activity over the past two years. MCAA member Paul Cantarella of Cantarella and Son, Inc. has been instrumental in keeping this board active, often replying to new submissions with warm welcomes for new members. 

Most recently, Jeff Porter of Christy Industrial Services Co., LLC in Saint Louis, Missouri, dropped into the thread to introduce himself. In his post, he offers a kind greeting, some personal background, and a company history before going on to add that his company “joined MCAA when we were renewing our Tennessee contractors license. They offered a reduced bond for members of the MCAA, which prompted me to look into what MCAA offered.  I was pleasantly surprised by their offering in the form of training, education, and networking and decided to join. Looking forward to meeting some of you.”

Jeff received speedy replies from both Paul Cantarella and Kent Bounds. Bounds, President of Brazos Masonry Inc. in Waco, Texas, also serves on the MCAA’s membership committee and is never afraid to offer a hearty hello to any member. In his reply, Bounds writes that “we are thrilled for you joining and look forward to meeting you at our next opportunity.  As with any association, the more you put in, the more you will receive.” He goes on to share that “the benefits are endless with MCAA.  Personally, for me, networking is the best feature.  I have made some lifetime friends, and through those friendships, I have been able to absorb the many different failures and accomplishments of those who are very successful within the masonry industry.” Bounds conclude by sharing more of his own positive experiences with MCAA membership and an offer to answer any questions if they arise. This positive interaction only further serves to underscore the significance of how valuable the MCAA Community can be. 

Finally, although we are happily moving towards a warmer spring season, another recent popular post queried fellow MCAA Community members for their experience and advice on how they deal with an issue that plagues mason contractors every snowy season- especially those in the more northern states. “I was wondering what other companies do on wintertime,” writes Luis Becerra of Lang Masonry & Restoration Contractors, Inc. in Waterford, Ohio. “Dealing with wet cutting to get rid of silica issues but creating another issue with freezing temperatures creating slippery issues. Any ideas or what tools can help with those issues?” The post generated a wide range of responses, each focusing on a different solution or approach. 

The first to respond, Mike Schepers of Schepers Masonry, LLC in Leroy, Michigan, offered that “we use dust collection systems” at his mason contracting company, recommending https://iqpowertools.com/tools-parts/ as their equipment of choice. This suggestion was quickly followed by a potentially more inexpensive solution from Jeff Staver, President of Corner Stone Construction in Janesville, Wisconsin. His advice? To “cut wet with windshield wiper fluid in lieu of water, therefore keeping things from freezing up in colder temperatures. Not too long after this exchange, Rich Swanson of Otto Baum Company, Inc. in Morton, Illinois, entered the thread with another potential solution and unique perspective to the original inquiry regarding cold weather operations. 

“About three years ago, we were going through the same issues on how we can continue to wet cut in the wintertime,” wrote Swanson. “I researched and found "Dowfrost'' (Barsol A-3541). There is a table on the engineer’s guide that will give you freeze points for percent of glycol. I used this because it’s a clear liquid, so no staining. I purchase 55-gallon drums and transfer them to 5-gallon pails. As an additional helpful measure, Swanson attached photographs and documents to provide further information about his recommendations. This response is an excellent example of how the MCAA Community board serves as a real-time crowd-sourced hub of resources and knowledge backed by years of masonry industry experience. 

The thread then rounds out to an amicable conclusion with a final innovative (and inexpensive) tip to help with the poster’s problem. Paul Cantarella Jr., President of Cantarella & Son Inc. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, writes that in his experience, the best way to combat the cold is to simply “enclose the saw area and run heat.” While this may not always be a feasible solution, it is a great suggestion when possible. Overall, this thread generated a tremendous amount of interest and engagement from some top MCAA Community members who were able to help try and solve a litany of other mason’s problems- and access to this thriving community is entirely free with MCAA membership. 

If you haven’t yet, there’s never been a better time to venture over to the MCAA Community and see what’s new. You never know what you’ll discover: from weather-related problems and solutions to machinery and equipment questions, personnel hiring/firing queries, and everything in between. The chances are, if you’re a professional in the masonry industry and you’ve wondered about it, someone else in your position has as well. Why not head to the MCAA Community and see if other like-minded individuals have already crafted the perfect solution for your needs? There’s only one way to find out! Visit https://community.masoncontractors.org/ and be sure to “Introduce Yourself!” 

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