By Benjamin Joe
On Dec. 5, the Niagara Regional Construction Alliance recognized William Ross with the 2019 United Rentals Light Tower Award. Inaugurated in 2018, the award seeks to honor individuals whose service has shined a positive light on, and brought powerful leadership to, the construction industry.
This year, United Rentals was a sponsor to help the NRCA promote and present the award. Fittingly, United Rentals provides light towers to contractors.
“The Light Tower Award was something that came up last year. We instituted it and it was a new thing for us,” said George Lodick, president of the NRCA. “We’re always looking for ways to promote the industry and promote our members. Last year, Kenny Tompkins had gotten involved when a contractor had left and abandoned a building project that he was doing for a veteran. He left the building unfinished, he took his money and ran and left the guy with an unfinished project and no money to complete it.
“Kenny got very involved with that and he put together about 30 different businesses and some trade organizations to help finish that project for the veteran. When I saw that, I just said to myself, ‘These are the kinds of people that give us a bad name.’ People who start a project, walk away, take the money, and yet, Kenny Tompkins, who has been in construction all his life as a career, he stood up, he did the best of what we should do. … I wanted to honor him, because I think he really did a great job for improving the name of our industry.”
“It was an honor,” Tompkins said later. “It was 42 businesses and contractors who all stepped up. It was a mix of everybody; everybody did a little, no one did a ton. … It was the right thing to do and it was extremely heartwarming for everybody.”
Lodick explained, “In construction, a light tower is used for night work. It’s a big power plant, so it has a big light that you can beam down onto your construction area, but it’s alpower plantator. You can actually plug in tools and things to it. It serves multiple purposes. I realized that the light tower is the perfect example of what we think this award should be. It shines a bright light onto our industry in a positive way, and it’s powerful. It creates energy. It’s a great point to start a leadership award. We want a powerful light and positive leadership.”
Lodick said Ross has been a friend to the organization for many years, as far back as when it was called the Niagara County Builders Association, while he was a Niagara County legislator. Lodick described Ross as a “Niagara County legend.”
“For decades, Bill was the guy who came to our annual meetings in December and swore in everybody,” Lodick said. “Bill was always active and always supportive to us when he was a town councilmember in Wheatfield and as a county legislator he was always pro-development; he really cared. …
“He’s currently on the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board of directors; he’s one of the trustees for NCCC – an educational area we want to do better to address. All these things came together in our minds to say, ‘Bill’s been a friend of ours and he’s the best example of servant leadership that I’ve ever seen! That’s why he was the honoree this year.”
The NRCA is a local, state and national organization, which has been working for the past 75 years to represent the building trades. This includes homebuilders, suppliers and sub-contractors, as well as service vendors such as attorneys, engineers and architects.
“Our goal is for us to improve the business climate for construction in WNY, but Niagara County, in particular,” Lodick said. “Home building and its related services are a huge economic driver. People need a place to live and we want to make sure that our members and everybody builds good, quality homes; provides the best values for folks; and we’re able to address the climate for building. What’s the legislation, the laws that affect building on a national level? What are the state laws, and then what happens on an individual, municipality level?”
Lodick said, “We travel to Albany, in particular, to meet with our state representatives. We talk about different issues, legislation that’s pending, and express the concerns of our members. Many of our members are business owners. It’s not just making construction better, they have to work in that climate and New York’s not a tremendously business-friendly climate.”
“Those are the kind of things we, as an association, do,” Lodick said. “We also look at ways to market our members locally, because when you join our organization there’s a code of ethics. We want our members to be reputable, professional members of the building community, so there’s a little bit of policing. If I recommend somebody, I want to recommend somebody who’s going to deliver. Unfortunately, in the construction industry, anybody that has a pick-up truck, and a hammer, thinks they can be a contractor.”
The NRCA encourages its members to do business “the right way, “Lodick said, and the members do get something in return.
“It’s a standard membership organization,” he said. “You can buy from preferred vendors – you get discounts – there’s ways to leverage pricing on all of your purchases on a national level. We have deals with Chrysler, GM, Lowes. Various suppliers to provide us with some premium benefits. On a state level, we actually offer our contractor members, whether they’re specialty contract builders or builders themselves, we offer them a rebate program where we say, ‘We don’t care where you buy your product, but if you use these brands, the brand will supply you a rebate.’ It’s a way to help leverage their money a little bit.”
Lodick also said the organization follows trends in the business and provides advice on where things are going.
“What are the impacts of laws and how those laws might affect your business? We’re actually able to engage in legislation as it is happening to try to support our community. Industry information, we provide that,” he said. “Any of the things a standard business would need to know, we have that access to a lot of information and a lot of businesses. So, anything we can do to help you run your business better, we’re looking to do.”