There’s strength in numbers, and the founding members of the Utility Contractors Association of Connecticut (UCAC) certainly knew that. Incorporated in April 1970, UCAC was started so Connecticut contractors would have a voice at the national level and be represented by an association that would speak for them and help address the challenges they faced.
“We wanted to have an association that would stand up for contractors when a problem arose, as well as be a part of an organization with clout,” says William Dufford, a past president of UCAC and early member of the association.
With that mindset, UCAC’s founding members, Newell Stamm, Linwood Mather and John Olender, established initial goals for the chapter which included:
- Dealing with common problems of management within the utility contracting industry;
- Cooperating with other industries and organizations;
- Providing members with a unified approach to collective bargaining with certain labor organizations representing members’ employees; and
- Negotiating collective bargaining agreements with certain labor organizations representing members’ employees, administering the agreements and protecting and enforcing members’ rights collectively and individually under the agreements.
Thanks to a clear vision and determined leadership, the chapter grew rather quickly from the beginning. According to John Barrasso, an early member of UCAC, who later served as president and executive director of the organization, there was a great deal of demand among smaller contractors to belong to the association and participate at the state level. Membership drives were successful and led to many new members joining the association.
Today, UCAC currently has 40 members and continues to offer numerous benefits, including: government and legislative advocacy; safety programs; publications; networking; education, including opportunities for training; programs and events; a scholarship program; and membership and participation in NUCA.
“The organization provides educational, networking and programming opportunities for its members that contractors cannot find elsewhere,” says Matthew Hallisey, executive director of UCAC. “By joining UCAC and participating in programs and events and utilizing its services, contractors can stay informed about issues affecting the industry, have the opportunity to shape public policy and remain competitive in the industry.”
Since day one, UCAC has been dedicated to representing its members on the legislative front — giving contractors a voice at all levels of government. Today, this representation continues to be one of the chapter’s biggest perks.
“One of UCAC’s most important benefits is legislative lobbying and government relations,” says Hallisey. “At the federal level, NUCA often engages in significant public policy initiatives affecting UCAC members. UCAC participates at a grassroots level by contacting lawmakers, often at the behest of NUCA, while coordinating with its fine government relations staff. Additionally, UCAC participates at the state level on public policy issues affecting the organization and its members, including infrastructure funding and laws and regulations concerning the underground damage prevention program.”
On top of that, UCAC works on behalf of its members with the gas pipeline safety unit of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. UCAC also partners with Call Before You Dig (CBYD) where its serves as an associate member of its board.
Membership in UCAC is much more than just signing up and paying dues. The chapter provides various ways members can get involved — from attending programs and events to participating at a leadership level, such as volunteering for committees or the board of directors. Of course, participation in chapter activities opens up doors for valuable networking opportunities.
“Networking and peer-to-peer relationships help develop new members and retain existing members,” says Victor M. Serrambana Jr., P.E., UCAC president and president of VMS Construction Co. “It also helps members build and grow their own businesses through referrals of work opportunities or as a source of knowledge and experience to address a particular challenge confronting their business.”
For example, excavators recently participated in a review and revision of regulations concerning the underground damage prevention program. This support and participation helps improve the industry, enhances public safety, provides a resource to state officials and builds goodwill with the public, explains Hallisey.
UCAC also looks to include the families of its members at chapter events. For example, one of UCAC’s most popular events is its annual scholarship auction. Scheduled this year for Nov. 12, 2016, this premier event brings together members, including contractors, associates, vendors and others, along with their families, colleagues, employees and friends.
“While the evening is fun and many generously donate to and participate in the auction, the purpose is a very worthy one: to help raise funds for scholarships that are awarded to eligible students who are attending college in the fall,” says Hallisey. “An event like the auction — like so many others UCAC offers — is valuable for member camaraderie and support of an important organization-wide initiative. It is one way to help the children or grandchildren of members and their employees with the ever-increasing cost of a college education. The event, along with the scholarship dinner where the scholarships are awarded the following summer, recognizes exceptional students who have achieved academically and in extracurricular activities. A shared goal with a common purpose among members fosters and encourages loyalty and dedication to the organization’s goals.”
As always, UCAC will remain focused on growing and developing its dynamic membership. To succeed, the chapter plans to continue providing quality educational programs and services at a level members expect. The chapter has addressed several budget and administrative challenges in recent years and is moving forward to attract new members to the organization. Hallisey explains that the support and cooperation of an engaged, dedicated group of officers and board of directors has helped make this possible.
“UCAC expects to grow its membership base and expand its footprint by drawing members from across the state,” says Hallisey. “The chapter is playing a more active role in NUCA, and is fortunate to have a member — David Stavens of Barber Utilities LLC — who was recently appointed to its board of directors. He can help shape policy at the national level, while bringing the perspective of a smaller state and organization to NUCA’s leadership and administrative staff.”
In addition, UCAC plans to continue to collaborate with other like-minded industry organizations, such as commercial construction and transportation, to help build the state’s infrastructure and grow the construction industry and the state’s economy. Hallisey notes that UCAC is exploring an alliance with OSHA in order to remain committed to worker safety and health and to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
“UCAC plans to offer more valuable programs and services to its members, especially in the areas of best practices, safety, labor and employment and human resources and succession planning,” says Hallisey.
And although UCAC is backed by a rich history, dedicated leadership and armed with a detailed game plan for its future, its success boils down to the chapter’s active membership that not only supports it, but each other. Hallisey agrees, “UCAC is comprised of a dedicated, loyal group of members that not only have a common interest in promoting the utility contracting and construction industry, but in supporting their fellow members.”
Pam Kleineke is managing editor of Utility Contractor.