The Virtues of Voluntary Masonry Check-Off Programs

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EDITORIAL NOTE: Voluntary concrete masonry check-off programs are viewed as a beneficial initiative that producers can undertake to support the industry. As there is currently a focus being placed on national initiatives, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight two important state check-off programs. We would like to sincerely thank the Arizona Masonry Council and Florida Concrete Masonry Education Council for their time and information helping us turn around such a quick deadline on this article. 

Arizona Masonry Council Check-Off 

The AMC Check-Off started as a vision created by a group of industry professionals and suppliers in the Arizona Masonry Council. The goals of AMC Check-Off is to focus on education and promotion, workforce development, government relations, and codes and standards. “It was a grassroots effort and vision encompassing the entire industry, from the producers to contractors to associates, and the ability to control our destiny,” Mike Sutter, AMC Treasurer, explains. Out of the nine concrete block manufacturers in Arizona, seven manufacturers participate in the voluntary check-off program. 

The voluntary check-off program took approximately two years to bring to fruition. A small cross-section of members that included block manufacturers, mason contractors, and associate members was the driving force behind this grassroots effort. They dedicated numerous hours throughout the two years meeting with industry members one on one to explain the need for a check-off program and the long-term positive impact it could have on the Arizona masonry industry. 

Throughout this process, the industry held several strategic planning sessions to provide industry members with the opportunity to share their vision, ideas, projects, and initiatives to implement with the funds generated from the voluntary check-off program. These initiatives were then classified into short-term (1 to 3 years) and long-term (3 to 5 years) goals. 

The AMC Check-Off Program was officially launched in December of 2017.  

According to Dawn Rogers, the Executive Director of the Arizona Masonry Council, strategic planning sessions continue to be held annually and provide members with the opportunity to voice their feedback on the critical programs in which the organization will invest its resources in the coming 1 to 5 years. Also, members are updated on the status of projects & programs currently in motion to ensure they still align with the industry's needs. 

Over the last two years, the voluntary check-off program has had a significant impact on the industry. The funds generated from the program have enabled AMC to increase its staff from 1 staff person to 3 full-time staff and over ten part-time instructors to support its registered apprenticeship programs and high-school outreach programs at Career & Technical Education programs throughout the state. In addition to increasing its staff, the funds have been used to purchase equipment, materials, and rent space for training programs. Funds will also be used to provide architects and structural engineers with the latest masonry technical resources such as EleMasonry Design Software, Structural Design Software, along with implementing a new social media campaign. The Arizona Masonry industry has a long history of being actively involved in codes & standards through its involvement in organizations like the Masonry Alliance for Codes & Standards (MACS). Funds from the check-off program will allow AMC to remain active in these organizations and increase their financial support for the vital work these organizations perform. 

AMC also contracted the services of a local government relations firm to ensure the membership's interests on critical legislative issues impacting the industry are represented at the city and state level. After visiting other training centers across the country, AMC determined one of its key long-term goals was to establish its own training center in the next 2 to 3 years.  

The development, implementation, and ongoing operation and oversight of a voluntary check-off program is a massive undertaking that will require an enormous amount of volunteer hours and financial resources for legal guidance to get off the ground. 

Once established, industry members should maintain realistic expectations on how quickly it will begin to see a return on their investment. It may take up to two years of operation to put the correct infrastructure in place (staff) and planning (program development & execution) before results can be measured. But based on the success of the Arizona voluntary check-off program, the investment has been worth the wait. 

Florida Concrete Masonry Education Council

The Florida Concrete Masonry Education Council (FCMEC – www.floridamasonrycouncil.org) was created by State law in 2014, operates as a non-profit corporation, and serves as a Direct Support Organization to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. As a Direct Support Organization, FCMEC operates under Florida’s robust public meeting requirements. Detailed reports and an independent financial audit are regularly provided to State government officials. 

The FCMEC’s mission includes educating the public about the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of concrete masonry homes, thereby saving lives and reducing property loss; making masonry a top 10 preferred career option for Florida's technical and vocational students; making masonry the top choice for building single and multi-family homes throughout Florida; maintaining the industry’s ‘materials of choice’ standing for commercial and industrial buildings; retaining the masonry workforce through economic ebbs; and supporting a statewide program to inform everyone about the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of building with concrete block. Financial support of FCMEC’s mission comes from voluntary contributions by concrete block producers in Florida, which ensures that Florida contributions are used to benefit Florida.  

The FCMEC didn’t happen all at once. Industry volunteers worked tirelessly to get the law establishing the FCMEC passed, built relationships with other industry organizations, and ensured that FCMEC’s mission and goals were relevant and accepted. FCMEC is involved with workforce boards, the Florida Department of Corrections, and craft training programs in high schools, community colleges, and other industry training organizations. Recently, using grant funds provided by the MCAA Foundation, FCMEC, and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) Foundation, FCMEC is working with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) to develop an industry-recognized online masonry education curriculum.  

The FCMEC’s Board of Directors are appointed by the Governor and represent Florida’s concrete block producers, masonry contractors, a representative of a major industry building association, a representative with expertise in apprenticeship and workforce education, and a stakeholder in the masonry industry. “The FCMEC promotes masonry in Florida to residential, commercial, and industrial consumers, masonry producers, masonry contractors, architects, and engineers,” Jim Painter, Executive Director of the FCMEC explains. A promotional driving force is www.blockstrong.com. This website describes the numerous benefits of building with concrete block, natural disaster/weather protection, fire safety, mold, mildew, and termite prevention. In addition to the website, television spots run statewide informing viewers of the many benefits of building with concrete masonry. “It has been a market-driven resource for the consumers, concrete block producers, and the masonry contractors in Florida,” Painter concludes. 

Based on research conducted by the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management at the University of Florida, FCMEC’s efforts have led to an increase in masonry construction market share over the past several years. 

Together FCMEC is building a safe, strong, sustainable, and resilient Florida with Florida resource and Florida manpower, one block at a time.

For more information on either of these councils be sure to go to https://azmasonry.org/ and https://www.floridamasonrycouncil.org/

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