Strength in Numbers Helps Members in South Florida, Southwest Florida Chapters
There is an old adage about eating an elephant. This seemingly impossible task can only be accomplished only one way – one bite at a time. Making a difference in your community can also seem like a daunting task. However, that process usually begins with another simple task – taking the first step.
For utility contractors wanting to make a difference in their community and the industry, the first step of joining NUCA and your local chapter can make a world of difference. Involvement in a local chapter can not only help solve state-level problems, but also in your hometown. Additionally, member benefits include networking opportunities involving all facets of the industry, education, career development, and more.
With a bustling statewide economy, the chapters of NUCA of South Florida and NUCA of Southwest Florida have been particularly active recently. In fact, each chapter is setting the bar higher with numbers of members and participation in events. Each of the chapters works independently within their designated coverage area to recruit members, host events and plan initiatives, but work under the umbrella of NUCA of Florida when it comes to matters that affect the state, particular lobbying at state government in Tallahassee.
NUCA of South Florida
Founded in 1974, NUCA of South Florida covers a densely populated area of the state that includes Broward, Dade, Martin, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. The chapter is approaching its 45th anniversary on a high note, boasting 90 members companies. The chapter has experienced a surge in membership over the past few years, buoyed by the strong economy.
In addition to helping contractors help ensure the flow of clean water and protect the environment, NUCA of South Florida works to promote the utility construction industry at all levels of government. Chapter members routinely travel to the Washington Summit each year to share their interest with elected officials at the national level, while also communicating with politicians at the state level.
In fact, the South Florida chapter was instrumental in helping to establish a one-call locating system that has expanded nationwide. “That has been a major benefit to all our members, and is now nationwide,” said Fred Chesney of owner Centerline Utilities, a long-time member and current Contractor Director of NUCA of South Florida. “We lobbied state government to pass legislation to set up a one-stop shop for utility locations because in those days a contractor had to contact each utility operating in that area separately – it was a nightmare. We wanted a way that was organized and with one point of contact. It took persistence – a matter of a few years – to get it passed, but we were able to get an improved and safer system for everyone.”
Through the state chapter, NUCA members are still working to refine and improve the process in collaboration with Sunshine 811, the statewide 811 service provider. “We need to be involved with the process because every time of our operators puts a bucket in the ground, he is potentially at risk,” said Clark Cryer of Johnson Davis, who serves as Treasurer of NUCA of South Florida.
NUCA of South Florida hosts networking and fund-raising events throughout the year that are popular among members. The highlights of the year include the annual Clay Shoot (held in February), Fishing Tournament (June), Scholarship Golf Tournament (October) and Awards and Holiday Party (December).
The sold-out Fishing Tournament drew a record turnout of more than 500 people in 2018, attracting members and their families for a weekend in the Keys. “The event will mark its 40th anniversary next year, and it continues to grow,” said NUCA of South Florida executive director Johnna Venuti-Piggee.
The Golf Tournament has also been gaining momentum, drawing more than 50 teams and raising $20,000 in scholarships for college students, high school seniors or vocational students. Scholarship amounts ranged from $2,000 to $6,000.
NUCA of Southwest Florida
Founded in 1990, NUCA of Southwest Florida covers Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardy, Hendry, Highlands and Lee counties. The chapter, like NUCA of South Florida, has experienced an upswing in membership recently, upping the ranks to 51 member companies.
Like its counterpart, NUCA of Southwest Florida hosts an annual Fishing Tournament and Golf Tournament that are increasing in popularity too. The Southwest chapter also had they largest turnout for its Fishing Tournament (held in October), attracting 250 people. The annual Golf Tournament (held in May) raised enough money to issue $8,000 in scholarships to six recipients ranging from $750 to $2,500.
Additionally, the chapter hosts the biennial NUCA Southwest Chapter Trade Show that draws in excess of 400 people and 60 exhibitors. “The Trade Show is an opportunity for consulting engineers and municipal representatives to come in and learn about our industry, as well as see the latest technology available on the market,” said Rhonda Cason, NUCA of Southwest Florida executive director.
Raising awareness about the work of NUCA contractors, with a particular eye toward workforce development, has been front and center for NUCA of Southwest Florida. The chapter has been represented at career fairs and has published publicity materials including DVDs and pamphlets to highlight the opportunities that exist for workers in the utility contracting market.
“Contractors are struggling to get work done because they can’t field crews to do the work – even finding people with commercial driver’s licenses is difficult,” Cason said. “We need to find people who want to work with their hands and train them. We have a whole new generation of potential workers who are being encouraged to go to college, and schools aren’t making students aware of other opportunities.”
Building a Brighter Future
NUCA of South Florida and NUCA of Southwest Florida offer many reasons to get involved, including: government and legislative advocacy; safety; publications; networking; education, including opportunities for training; programs and events; a scholarship program; and membership and participation in NUCA.
As mentioned, high on the priority list for NUCA and its chapters is workforce development. “In the short term, we need to reach younger workers – in the range 20-30 years old – and let them know that there are opportunities and high-paying jobs available,” Cryer said. “Longer term, we need to reach the younger kids in high schools or vocational schools and make the aware that utility construction offers career opportunities with good pay and good benefits. There is truly no limit to what you can achieve if you are willing to work hard.”
With a strong member base and a sense of community, NUCA of South Florida and NUCA of Southwest Florida are well positioned to shape a positive future for our industry.
“Being involved in NUCA has allowed me to truly forward my spot in the industry,” Cryer said. “It provides an opportunity to learn about the keystone issues for the entire industry, and keep up to date on the latest developments. And, by attending the events, you are able to not only network with your peers, but also leading suppliers, engineers and municipal owners who are engaged in the industry.”
“Being involved has benefitted me and benefitted my company by making life easier because you are able to get problems resolved by working together,” Chesney said. “There are things you can do with numbers that you simply can’t do by yourself.”
NUCA Chapters Are Here to Help!
Did you know that NUCA has 30 state chapters dedicated to helping utility construction professionals in their state or region? It’s true! Local chapters offer a forum through which companies in your area can address local concerns in the utility construction industry, including government regulations and safety issues. They also provide valuable networking opportunities for your business. Interested in joining? Take a look at the list of current chapters below. For a list of chapters and links, visit www.nuca.com/chapters
Interested in starting up a local chapter in your area? NUCA Director of Chapter Development Kenneth Sommer is available to help facilitate the startup and management of your new chapter. To discuss the possibility of starting a NUCA chapter in your area, contact him at 703.890.7805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida, Suncoast (SUCA)
Kansas City Region
NUCA Annual Convention & Exhibit Coming to Florida!
NUCA’s 2019 Annual Convention & Exhibit is set for March 14-16 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida. The convention will feature keynote speakers Major Dan Rooney, USAF, Ret., speaking on the topic CAVU: Ceiling and Visibility Unrestricted – Your Ascent to Greatness.
In addition to committee and executive meetings and exhibit hall, highlights of the program include the Welcome Reception (sponsored by National Trench Safety (NTS)), Team Building (sponsored by Caterpillar) and Auction and Awards Gala (sponsored by John Deere).
To register or for more information about the NUCA Annual Convention & Exhibit visit www.nuca.com.