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NECA/IBEW In KC “Clearing The Critical Path” To Build New Business

May 05, 2006

05-05-06 – The 70+ electrical contractors in NECA’s Kansas City Chapter and the more than 2100 members of IBEW Local Union 124 who work in construction have solidified their relationship to the point that they recently announced a new name for their partnership -– and a number of new initiatives. The co-branded “NECA/IBEW” is catching the attention of local media, government, and potential clients alike.

When the contractors and union started seeing their market share erode, it was time to take a look at the way labor and management build business together. It was also time to rethink their business tactics from the ground level. Currently they are realigning their business relationships and, in short, clearing the critical path to build new business.

In announcing this new “power partnership,” K.C. Borden, the chapter’s executive director, said, “NECA/IBEW clients are looking for the best return on their investment. This new partnership with business and government will be an economic development tool for the region that will help provide a skilled and diverse workforce for expansion."

IBEW Local 124 Business Manager Jim Beem said the union recognized that changes were needed to try to increase the business of union contractors. He acknowledged that other construction crafts will be watching how this arrangement works “but we didn’t want to wait any longer before proceeding. We’ve built momentum and we’ve got to move on.”

Code of Commitment. The power partnership of NECA/IBEW has developed its first ever Code of Commitment establishing new principles between management and labor. As it lays out, the partners are committed to:         

• A working partnership between management and labor,

• Respect for the customer and the customer´s property,

• Customized solutions to meet project-specific needs,

• Dedication to performance of the highest quality,

• Fair pricing,

• Workplace safety and security,

• Continuing education and training, and

• Community involvement and improvement.

Strategic Marketing. NECA/IBEW has also formulated a strategic marketing program to increase their membership in numbers and diversity and increase the participation of NECA contractors and IBEW members on major construction projects.

As part of this program, NECA/IBEW is partnering with Wayne Cauthen and the Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO) and the Full Employment Council on a Local Labor Management Cooperation Committee Apprenticeship Program for "Project Prepare." The purpose of this program is to build youth interest in the electrical trade. The five-week program held at the group´s Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in south Kansas City offers classes focusing topics ranging from life skills training orientation to the electrical trades, safety training and CPR courses, math, and a math and English review.

The business manager, Jim Beem, has become a member of the Focus Committee Labor-Management Team of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County that is addressing the needs of the Unified Government´s Supplier Diversity Program.

To develop its marketing program, NECA/IBEW turned to a strategic business development company to help analyze its market and build stronger alliances. They developed a targeted program to help NECA/IBEW discover the basic issues that caused loss of market share and the opportunities to create better relationships with their clients.

The program included back-to-back, one-on-one meetings with industry stakeholders such as large and mid-sized general contractors, architects, public officials, engineering firms, owners and developers to get their perspective. From the information a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis was created as well as an on-line survey. From the SWOT and on-line survey, NECA/IBEW was able to pinpoint the main reasons their clients like and dislike working with union employers and what concrete steps are needed to build more business opportunities.

NECA/IBEW Roundtable. "From these initial meetings, we concluded it was time to get all the key labor and management players in a room together to start a dialogue and build a trust level that has never been present before," stated Jim Beem, business manager for IBEW. "Our consultant, along with K. C. Borden and myself, developed the first-ever quarterly Roundtable Meetings for construction companies, owners, developers and NECA contractors. Labor and management are now sitting together at the same table to learn just what critical paths they need to take to be better strategic partners

"The NECA/IBEW roundtable has really opened the eyes of many people in the construction industry," remarked Glenn Moreland, project director for Walton Construction. "Everyone in the building and construction trades needs to look at doing this, not just the electrical union. This process is most valuable to any union´s upper management in looking at ways for the next generation to build their ranks and market share. NECA/IBEW is obviously talking with their members about this significant change in how they develop client relationships and they seem to understand."

Additional Outreach Efforts. Beem and Borden are also meeting one-on-one with targeted key accounts including medium to large general contractors, owners and developers, to get a firsthand understanding of electrical contractors´ and union electricians´ strengths and weaknesses and how to develop opportunities to build more customized strategic business relationships.

NECA/IBEW is partnering with the UMKC Henry Bloch School of Business and Public Administration and the Strategic Business Institute to create an ongoing core curriculum of strategic partnership development classes for their members entitled "Managing Change: How to Think, Plan and Grow in Today´s Market." The first session of classes was held in January.

NECA/IBEW is currently working with a public relations firm to formulate the marketing plan that includes a year-long PR and branding campaign entitled "Clearing the Critical Path" that will highlight the NECA/IBEW commitment to workforce development and diversity. In April, they hosted a Public Officials Reception at the Joint Apprenticeship Training Center. They have also developed a new positioning statement, co-brand logo and tagline, joint website, collateral material and ad campaign.

NECA/IBEW is also developing partnership opportunities with MBE/WBE businesses and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to create training opportunities. They are also recruiting at minority job fairs and actively exploring training programs at local community colleges and universities, such as Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Metropolitan Community College, and at four-year institutions offering construction management and construction science degrees.   

For more information, please visit http://www.thepowerpartners.com/