As a CCIA member, you have joined your voice with like-minded businesspeople from around the state, all working together to promote a strong and prosperous construction industry. Formed over 30 years ago, CCIA is an association of eight associations, representing the many facets and disciplines of the construction industry in Connecticut. Through its individual divisions, all sectors of the industry have both an individual identity and a united forum to advance and promote the industry and quality of life for Connecticut’s residents.
But that’s just one part of the picture. The CCIA also maintains strong ties with the associations dedicated to ensuring the voice of the construction industry is heard on a national level. From the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), and from the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) to the Associated General Contractors (AGC) to the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), each represents your voice, and thousand of other voices, in Washington, D.C.
For example, the ARTBA, celebrating its 100th anniversary, boasts 5,000 members in the transportation construction industry. The ARTBA mission as advocates for a strong federal investment in transportation infrastructure continues today, when meeting the public and business demand for safe and efficient travel is even more crucial. Also celebrating a long history of advocacy, the AGC was established in 1918 after a request by President Woodrow Wilson. Even then, Wilson recognized the construction industry’s national importance and desired a partner with which the government could discuss and plan for the advancement of the nation. The AGC mission remains: to improve the construction industry daily by educating the industry to employ the finest skills, to promote the use of the latest technology and to build the best quality projects for public and private owners.
Second to advocating at the federal level, educating the public is unquestionably another of the key roles of industry associations. Question your average citizen, and he probably would be quite unaware that about 10 tons per person of aggregate are used annually in America. Raising the level of awareness is a key mission for the NSSGA, since, to date, consumers aren’t directly purchasing crushed stone, sand and gravel at their local Wal-Mart. But, every lane mile of interstate uses 38,000 tons of aggregate and about 400 tons of aggregate used in the construction of the average home, not to mention their use in the manufacture of glass, paper, paint, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, chewing gum, household cleansers and many other consumer goods. These products do in fact touch every segment of daily life in America. Providing the perfect compliment to local membership, these national groups afford their members unique opportunities to build relationships and champion issues.
One local family can testify first-hand about the advantages to both local and national involvement. The Suzio York Hill Companies, currently operating with the third generation of Suzios at the helm, have prospered for more than 100 years, and the family’s involvement in industry and community associations has grown along with the business. Leonardo Suzio started the L. Suzio Construction Company in 1898, and built roads and buildings all over the state for the next 50 years. In 1945, Leonardo’s son Frank took over the helm, but after only two years, a serious illness required him to turn over the business to a trusted business partner, Henry Altobello. At that time, the company got out of the road-building business and concentrated solely on the production of aggregates and materials. By 1954, Leonardo’s younger two sons, Leonardo and Lorenzo, were old enough to join the company, and made their mark by constantly seeking to improve operations and introduce the latest technology. Today, five of Leonardo’s children are handling the day-to-day operations: Len handles all the facets of human resources; Scott is in charge of day-to-day operations; Cheryl is safety director; Ric oversees sales and service; and Linda handles dispatch and administration.
But handling the company operations is not the only family tradition the third generation of Suzios continues. Leonardo Sr. and Jr. and Henry Altobello were active in industry and community groups from the onset of the business, and the Suzios, particularly Len, Cheryl and Ric, continue to be strong advocates in their areas of interest. Says Ric, “because we are a smaller, family-owned company in the large pool of huge conglomerates and multinational producers, we have always felt that it was important to have our voice heard. My grandfather started our involvement, showing that opportunities are there for you if you do get involved with the associations. My brother Len has testified in front of Congress for funding on the national level for the highway bills and my sister has had some great opportunities to really get involved on safety issues. These opportunities have in turn shed a good light on us and our business.”
As the Suzio siblings have divided their duties at work along the lines of their interests, so have they joined up in their extracurricular activities. The three are active members in the CCIA, Len focusing his efforts on government affairs and labor, Cheryl on safety and health, and Ric on operations and public relations. It would be virtually impossible to list all of the siblings’ affiliations, but here’s the short list: Len is on the boards of the CCIA, the CT Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the NRMCA and the NSSGA. Cheryl is the chair of the Safety and Health Committee for the NSSGA, and was the past chair of the Safety and Health Committee for the NSSGA, and was the past chair for the National Safety Council’s cement, quarry and mineral aggregates section, the first woman to hold these positions. She is also an active CCIA Safety Committee member. Ric serves as president of the CT Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and was the past chair of the NSSGA Young Leaders Council, and the CT Concrete Promotion Council.
How, it would be fair to ask, do they maintain this level of involvement and run a thriving business of 100 employees? It isn’t easy, they all agree with a laugh. But, says Len, “When you get involved, you get more involved, no matter what it is. With the PTA or whatever, once you get involved, it’s like a snowball, and it just builds.” Luckily for Len, Cheryl and Ric, Scott and Linda happily cover for them when association duties beckon.
The Suzios all agree, that although it can be a challenge balancing the demands of work, industry and home and family, the payoff is extraordinary. Cheryl says, “We joke about it, because these people are almost like family as well. I’ve been active in the associations since 1986, and I’ve worked with a lot of the same people. I’ve gotten to know their families, met their spouses and watched their kids grow up. In addition to developing professionally, you also develop friendships. And although I represent the little guy at these national meetings, because most of the members represent much bigger companies, I know these are good people and I can call on them anytime I have a problem with something.”
And that’s one of the advantages of having ties both locally and nationally, say the siblings. Local representation makes a difference in day-to-day operations, and provides a forum throughout the community and the state. The educational opportunities at the local level are vital as well. Sometimes, however, there is the matter of competition: your fellow members are also your competitors. This is where the relationships built on a national level can really help, says Ric. “With people on the national level, you can talk to somebody about, say, the trouble recruiting drivers and retaining them, and they’ll give you their perspective. We can be more relaxed, knowing the guy is not going to run off with any trade secrets.”
And it’s not just a one-way street, contend the Suzios. Involvement in the national associations benefits not only the members themselves, but the association as well. After all, a group is only as strong as its individual members. Continues Ric, “I think we are a benefit to the national associations. They like to be able to have businesspeople come in, with 100 employees who are relying on them, to say ‘look, this isn’t about just a company or a place or an issue, this is about 100 people, who support heir families and the businesses down the road and the churches and the little league.’ Sometimes people need to be reminded out there that we need to support our communities and the national associations encourage that.”
When all is said and done, it does simply come down to people. Building relationships and giving back are the cornerstones of success, regardless of the type of business or its size. Concludes Len, “It’s the exchange of ideas, whether it’s locally or nationally. Business totally comes down to people, and when it comes down to it, if there’s a person that can help you solve the problem, you’ll have a closer relationship when you’ve worked on something together. Knowing that maybe you can solve a problem for somebody, and then they can turn around and solve a problem for someone else, that’s what it’s all about.” For more information about local and national associations, visit the CCIA website at www.ctconstruction.org or call the association at (860) 529-6855.
By Vicki Gervicaks - Connstruction Magazine