When John Mollenhauer started at the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) over a decade ago he had no idea he would be still around 10 years later for its 150th anniversary — let alone looking forward to the future beyond that.
"When I first joined TCA, I didn't honestly expect I would stay long. I didn't feel like I would be challenged enough," the association's president and CEO commented. "Now, as I have passed 60 and beyond, and many of my friends are beginning to think about retirement, I'm just the opposite. It's too exciting now, I want to be part of it."
While not much has drastically changed in the construction industry since the TCA's inception, in terms of methods and technology, things are now starting to move at a rapid pace and the TCA is looking forward to what's to come, he added.
"In the last couple of years, things are changing very quickly. I call it the 'exponential age,' " Mollenhauer explained. "I think we'll see more new methodologies and technologies in the coming decade than we have seen in the 150 years since TCA was created and I find that very exciting."
The TCA was founded in February 1867 as the General Builders' Society by a group of 58 Canadian construction industry executives. Today it has grown to 1,800 members.
The key to TCA's success in the future is to stay relevant, Mollenhauer added. Although historically the TCA has offered intangible products and services, the association will have to offer more tangible benefits as a member's decision to join or renew with an association is likely to be based on return on investment.
"In order for us to succeed in this exponential age we will have to also morph. We'll have to stay current and that creates a new challenge for us," Mollenhauer said.
"I'm optimistic that if we challenge ourselves internally, aggressively enough then as the industry evolves we'll evolve with it and remain relevant. I think it's vitally important for us that we change our internal culture and constantly challenge the status quo and say how can we ensure that we are serving the actual needs of our members, not the perceived needs.
"I think that approach is what will preserve our longevity in the next 150 years."
TCA will be marking the 150th milestone with an anniversary celebration at Steam Whistle Breweries in Toronto Sept. 7.
"The 150th is obviously a big milestone event in any organization's timeline," said Craig Lesurf, chair of the TCA. "In this case, it means that we were incorporated before Canada was, so for us it's a very big deal. It's going to be a birthday bash of epic proportions and we're expecting a great turnout. It will be the who's who of the construction industry in Toronto."
Lesurf has been a member of the TCA for 25 years and one thing has remained constant, he said.
"We've always been a construction advocate for our members and we are a voice for the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)," explained Lesurf. "We speak often at different events about the industry, about safety, about lien reform and we try to provide services to our members that educate them. Conversely we try and lobby on behalf of all our members for the right things in the industry."
The TCA has always had an active group of committees, he added.
"Committees have always been the foundation for our organization, at least in my lifetime," said Lesurf. "I've been involved in a number of different committees and they've always had good participation and a good mix."
Lesurf said in his tenure with the TCA, the association has been made up of a diverse group with small, medium and large companies from across the industry including trade contractors, suppliers, service professionals, lawyers, architects and engineers.
"That is one of the strengths of the TCA is that we are a mixed trade organization where we have all people from different facets of the construction food chain and we're able to have events and work together on industry initiatives without it being sector specific to the betterment of the industry as a whole," Lesurf noted.
In recent years, the association has been engaging the younger construction crowd even at the college and university level.
"There is a fantastic group in the Young Construction Leaders that are coming out to events in numbers that are staggering," Lesurf stated. "It's extremely pleasing to see that in today's electronic age that people are getting out to talk face to face with each other."
As for the future of the industry, both Lesurf and Mollenhauer said they are pleased to see more public-private partnerships and the notion of planning projects collaboratively with Integrated Project Delivery.
"What hasn't happened is architects, consulting engineers, spec writers, contractors, we all essentially live in our individual silos and what we need to do is collaboratively enlighten buyers of construction so they better understand the benefits for them if we work collaboratively," Mollenhauer said. "I'm hoping that's one of the things that will begin to change going forward."