NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry

A Brief History of (Construction) Time, Part 3

Posted on Nov 26, 2007 by John M Grau

Read Part 1 and Part 2 . . .

When The Business Roundtable (TBR)shut down its construction committee in 1990, it left many construction department heads at owner companies wondering what to do. Not too many years before, they had been deeply involved in developing a series of monographs on construction industry issues. These monographs were intended to be prescriptive remedies for the construction industry, focusing on training, safety and productive work practices. They set forth agendas for owners, contractors, contractor associations and unions. They were widely embraced by most elements of the industry, and the individuals who worked so hard to develop them didn’t want all their work to go to waste.

The remnants of the BRT committee gathered to decide their future, and in the summer of 2000, they committed to form a new organization of construction owners. They came up with the name – Construction Users Roundtable, or CURT for short. In forming CURT, they decided on a few important changes.

First they wanted to broaden the scope of their membership. Realizing that the U.S. economy was trending away from heavy industrial manufacturing, they reached out to new big construction consumers like Intel, Disney and Merck. They allowed in some large constructors as associate contractor members and even created a category for the major construction associations.

The new CURT group also reached out to unions. In what has become known as the Tripartite Initiative, CURT formed a committee of owner representatives, construction union presidents, and contractor association leaders. At first the meetings were a bit tentative. But it soon became apparent that the old BRT leadership had moved on, and the new generation knew little of the horrors of the 1960’s. They weren’t necessarily sold on unions, but they weren’t opposed to them either.

And union leaders had evolved as well. Best exemplified by IBEW President Ed Hill, the unions openly admitted past mistakes and readily discussed the need for improved productivity, better attitudes, no absenteeism, no jobsite jurisdictional disputes, and a safe, drug free workforce.

On top of all this, the owners realized that the construction industry was facing a manpower shortage, and the union side of the industry had the best system to recruit and train workers. The relationship between owners, contractors and unions had a new beginning, and we needed to take full advantage of it.

What about CURT today? One more post to go . . .


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NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.


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