Bill Caldwell Talks Construction in the Carolinas
By: Gregory L. Shelton
Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, PA
It’s been a busy time for me in Lawyerland, but I would not be able to enjoy my weekend if I failed to update my blog today.
And what an update it is, folks.
Several weeks ago, I attended the ABC of the Carolina’s annual conference in Charleston. It was great to see all of the familiar faces and catch up with the industry “goings-on.” During the conference, I managed to score an interview with Bill Caldwell about the state of the construction industry. Bill has served as Chairman of ABC of the Carolinas for the past year, and did a great job keeping ABC members updated on issues and events by regular email blasts.
But first some background on Mr. Caldwell. Bill is President of Waldrop, Inc., an established mechanical contractor headquartered in Spartanburg, SC. Bill has been involved in the construction industry for nearly four decades, and over that time has held various executive operations and sales management positions in both the general contracting and mechanical contracting fields. Bill joined Waldrop’s management team in 2004 as Vice President of Operations, and assumed the role of President in 2009. While at Waldrop, Bill spearheaded a strategic initiative to expand Waldrop’s services, market sectors, and geographic footprint. Under Bill’s leadership, Waldrop became the first mechanical contractor in South Carolina to implement a registered apprenticeship program for its employees. Bill graduated from USC in 1974 with a degree in business administration (accounting).
I could go on and on about Bill’s experience and accomplishments, but you get the idea. Bill is the consummate professional, and he went above and beyond the call of duty in answering my questions.
Shelton: What have you learned over the past year in your role as Chairman of ABC of the Carolinas?
Caldwell: My time as Chairman of the ABC of the Carolinas has reinforced to me that our industry and everyone who works in and/or supports construction at every level have enormous challenges ahead. We must not be afraid to take action to prompt needed change for our industry. We must be vigilant by confronting an array of issues head on. Such current critical issues are as follows:
- Overwhelming government regulation impacting our business
- The need for tax reform
- Maintaining the right to work environment in the Carolinas
- Financial institutions making working capital virtually inaccessible to our members
- A skilled workforce that will be shrinking as baby boomers begin to retire
- A lack of in-house training at every level by many in our industry
- The shortage of young people currently entering the construction field
- Continuing our fight for free enterprise and the merit ship philosophy
- The increasing number of industry business failures coupled with many others who are currently operating on the edge
These issues threaten our very businesses and the livelihoods of all construction employees. As the leading construction industry association, we must lead the way in working together as a united membership to enact the needed change for the good of our industry. Our very business survival depends on it!
S: What are the greatest threats to the merit shop philosophy right now?
C: One significant threat to our merit shop philosophy is the owner implementation and requirement of project labor agreements (PLAs) on future projects. The use of PLAs would eliminate the opportunity for any open shop contractor to compete for any project work package; thus eliminating the principles of free enterprise and open competition.
Another threat is the pending card check legislation in the Congress. If that were to become law, the ability of a union to organize a company’s workers would be made much easier without a secret ballot. If such an event were to happen, a federal arbitrator would deliver the news of the union’s successful card check effort and give the business owner 60 days to negotiate labor agreements for the respective trades. Having to deal with an arbitrator and become a closed shop organization could cause many open shop contractors to close their businesses rather than to have to deal with the government and union.
S: Why are political involvement and training top priorities for ABC of the Carolinas?
C: The political world we live in today is nothing short of chaotic. If we are going to have a chance in prompting positive change for our industry, it is essential that we have elected officials in office who support our cause. As a chapter, we need our members to get involved in the political scene at the local, state, and national levels. We need to take action to personally call upon our elected officials to inform them of the issues we have and gather their support for legislation that will make things better. Much more personal contact with elected officials and those running in the 2012 elections is needed if we are to have candidates who can prompt the needed positive change. We must also have our members step up with financial support for those candidates who support our initiatives. By joining the ABC political action committee (PAC), we can accumulate financial support for worthy candidates in their campaigns. With the 2012 elections right around the corner, now is the time to build the financial resources through our PAC for this effort. Now more than ever, we need our members to get involved both personally and financially with our association’s political efforts.
On the training front, I continue to be mesmerized by the fact that so many of our members recognize the need for internal training at all levels of their company; but so few really do anything about it. It seems that training is one of the first things to get cut during a slow economic period; while during the good times, many firms cannot make the time to train employees as the employees are all busy with their work generating revenue. This dilemma has existed in our industry for many years due to the apathy of many business owners. That apathy toward training must change. With baby boomers beginning to retire and fewer younger people entering the trades, our workforce is becoming smaller. We cannot expect our businesses to prosper when the economy turns around if we do not have an adequate number of skilled workers in our employ. Skilled worker and business management succession can only be accomplished if we invest in our both our current and future employees with the appropriate training. Without it, we risk the long term continuity of our respective businesses.
S: Why should someone join ABC of the Carolinas?
C: I get asked that question a lot by prospects considering our association. The answer is really quite simple. By becoming an active member of our association, one will have the opportunity in a variety of ways to support our efforts for free enterprise and continuity of the merit shop philosophy. These two causes are the very lifeblood of ABC on a national and local level. Becoming engaged on a government affairs or training committee will not only help our organization but also the member’s firm by making them better prepared for the future. Also, an active member will get the opportunity to work with representatives from prospective client/peer firms and develop long lasting professional relationships that can support one’s business development activities.
I encourage any prospect to get actively involved in ABC and one will easily see a positive return on their investment. After all, our industry is all about developing and working both personal and professional relationships. There is no better place to establish and maintain those types of relationships than by working with those individuals on things that will make our industry better.
S: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.
C: It’s been my pleasure. Enjoy the conference.