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Construction challenges are an ongoing battle: Hauck

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by Patricia Williams

KITCHENER, Ont.—As an industry, construction faces its share of challenges, says Kitchener contractor Gary Hauck, retiring chair of the Grand Valley Construction Association (GVCA).
GARY HAUCK
GARY HAUCK

"(This includes) government red tape, governments' commitment to infrastructure planning and spending, competition both locally and foreign, labour shortages, industry best practices, business succession, globalization, capturing and sharing innovation and using technology," he told the association's Feb. 17 annual general meeting.

"This list of challenges is an ongoing battle and could probably be the agenda for every chair of every construction association. It's how we tackle these issues that sets us apart and helps us evolve as an association."

Hauck, a partner in Ball Construction and the company's vice-president of estimating, said the GVCA's focus on innovation and technology saw the introduction of an innovation and technology award. The winning entry has been submitted to the Canadian Construction Association for an award in the innovation category.

Technology and innovation are now the focus of a regular department in the GVCA's magazine, the Journal. Tech firms have expressed interest in becoming regular contributors to the magazine, which Hauck said is "a very positive" development.

"These firms are taking notice of our industry," he said.

The GVCA has moved its electronic plans room to a new software platform with enhanced features to help members define their search activities that align with their business capacity, geography and discipline.

Hauck said GVCA representatives continue to serve on industry committees that maintain liaison with agencies with a stake in infrastructure spending, such as Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Infrastructure Canada.

"At a provincial level, we have lobbied Infrastructure Ontario for fair vendor evaluation so that opportunities to bid on IO projects are open to our qualified bidders."

On another front, Hauck said the industry needs to continue to work on development of best practices, "not just in the GVCA area but right across Ontario and Canada.

"We are doing that by reaching out to all industry stakeholders to help with the development of a document of best practices in the industry," he said.

Hauck said attracting young people to the industry "can be a challenge.

"But once we get them involved in our industry, they quickly realize how exciting it is. Investment in technology will help to improve efficiencies in our companies and keep young people interested."

Business succession is a topic that arises often in the industry, Hauck said. To this end, the GVCA has developed an entrepreneurial leadership program in conjunction with Conestoga College. The inaugural group completed the program the day of the AGM.

"We need to continue to work together as an industry not just with our membership and with the mixed trade associations but also with the public and private buyers, consultants, financiers, risk management firms, governments and labour to address the challenges ahead," he said.

For her part, GVCA president Martha George said "the winds of change are blowing" throughout the industry as is the value proposition for membership.

She said the association has been "nimble" in adapting to these demands "by altering, refining and playing close attention to members' needs.

"While most associations report a decline in membership, GVCA held its own," she said noting that the industry last year saw mergers, shutdowns and start-ups.

"Retention of those eligible for membership was about 89 per cent but we did attract new members and maintained our numbers. The largest growth was from existing members joining the electronic plans room."

Also at the event, the association recognized the achievements and contributions of a number of member companies that are celebrating 25 years in the industry.

As well architect Roger Farwell was inducted into the GVCA Hall of Fame.

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