January 2016 Vol. 71 No. 1


DCA Continues To Expand Influence

DCA CEO Rob DardenMembers of the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA) will gather in Naples, FL, Feb. 15 – 20 for the association’s 55th Annual Convention. DCA Chief Executive Officer Rob Darden expects more than 400 members and spouses will attend the annual convention at the Naples Grande Beach Resort situated on 23 waterfront acres in Southwest Florida. A full agenda of events is scheduled including several DCA committee meetings, motivational keynote addresses and informative business sessions, as well as a variety of social venues, cultural tours and sophisticated dining offerings.

“The annual convention brings together several hundred contractor and associate members in a relaxed yet business-oriented environment,” says Darden. “In addition to being the major DCA governance meeting of the year, it also includes a full spectrum of committee meetings where we will plan the future direction of DCA. Yet, after putting in full days of meetings and strategizing, DCA members, spouses and families will have the opportunity to relax and soak up the sun and culture of the Naples area.”

The Naples Grande Beach Resort is a sanctuary of beachfront sophistication with spectacular oceans views and several world-
class amenities including a luxurious spa, 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts and delectable dining venues. “For many of our members who are from northern regions, Naples is an ideal and much welcomed retreat from frigid cold and winter surroundings,” Darden says. “But regardless of where they may reside, Naples is an great location for all DCA members to continue the successful DCA tradition of mixing business with pleasure while renewing longtime friendships and business relationships.”

Expanding influence

DCA Frank PattersonOutgoing DCA President Frank Patterson looks back on 2015 as a very productive year for DCA as the association continued expanding its influence in the natural gas and pipeline industry.

“Serving as DCA President during 2015 has been a very rewarding and gratifying experience for me,” Patterson says. “DCA is a very special organization composed of many progressive and forward-thinking underground construction industry leaders who take off their company hats and work together for the betterment of our industry. It has been an honor for me to serve DCA and I look forward to continuing to help advance the interests of the industry on behalf of our members in future years.”

Currently the president of Patterson & Wilder Construction Co. Inc., Birmingham, AL, Patterson began his career in the business as a teenager working for his family’s construction business. He attended the University of Alabama where he earned a business administration degree and also completed several engineering courses. Patterson played football for the famed coach Paul Bryant as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Patterson returned to the family business after graduation where he worked his way through the ranks, beginning as a general laborer. Experience and hard work served Patterson well as he assumed subsequent responsibilities over the years as an equipment operator, superintendent, estimator and project supervisor before earning a position as a member of the company’s executive leadership team.

“I started with a pick and a shovel for a dollar an hour and just kept working my way up,” Patterson says. “My dad taught us the value and pride associated with hard work and family. I feel especially proud of the friends, business associates and contacts I’ve made along the way – especially this past year serving the DCA family as president.”

Patterson is very pleased with the progress DCA has made in leading several proactive association initiatives. “DCA members are fully engaged and out in front of all the major issues,” Patterson says. “We made significant strides on many fronts by opening up lines of communication and sharing honest dialogue with regulatory agencies and legislators specific to the issues that affect the industry. By taking a leadership position and building partner coalitions, we are making great headway in effectively communicating our positions and demonstrating how specific regulations can adversely affect the industry. The more united we are as industry partners, the more successful we will be.”

Who will do the work?

According to Patterson, the most pressing of the many challenges facing DCA and the construction industry is workforce volatility as pipeline operators, construction contractors, equipment manufacturers and other stake-holders struggle to recruit and retain high-quality employees.

“The biggest issue facing our industry today centers on workforce issues,” Patterson says. “In 2014, DCA, along with the American Gas Association (AGA), held the first joint Utility Contractor Workshop. Our primary focus was on the construction workload facing the industry and compliance with operator qualification (OQ) requirements. But the brisk discussion quickly led to talks specific to the larger challenge of workforce capacity.

“It became clear during the meeting that the rising demand for qualified labor is among the industry’s greatest challenges and prompted DCA to assemble a multi-industry coalition titled ‘Who Will Do the Work?’ Currently our major initiative, the coalition will aggressively evaluate the workforce problems facing the energy construction industry over the next decade.”

The oil and gas industry is projected to invest significant resources in gas distribution and pipeline infrastructure, from $45 billion in 2014 to $65 billion in 2020 and up to $80 billion in 2028. While this should be considered a good problem for the industry to have, ensuring a full-bodied and qualified field, supervisory, and management staff is of primary concern and considered a top priority.

Recognizing the long-term nature of this challenge and that is was in part driven by demographic issues and sometimes unfair perceptions of this industry, a leadership team was formed to begin the process of building an industry coalition to pool resources and work on building the future workforce over the next decade of 2015 to 2025.

The group is evaluating geographic “hot spots” where labor markets are particularly challenging as well as pinpointing the types of labor needed. The effort will include a definition of the challenges faced around workforce and field leadership availability at a national (Canada and United States) and regional level.

Among the many proactive DCA initiatives now being implemented to help address workforce volatility and attract new talent to the industry was the first DCA Job Fair held this past April in Bloomington, MN.

As a follow-up to the first Labor Round Table implemented at the 2014 Annual Convention in Cancun where DCA met with leaders of the three unions DCA has collective bargaining agreements with – the UA, LIUNA and IUOE – and the signatory contractors, DCA followed with the second round table at the 2015 convention in New Orleans. Present were the general presidents of two of the unions (LIUNA and IUOE).

The Cross Bore Safety Association (CBSA) defines a crossbore as: “An intersection of an existing underground utility or underground structure by a second utility resulting in direct contact between the transactions of the utilities that compromises the integrity of either utility or underground structure.” However, municipalities are exempt from One-Call requirements in some states, significantly compromising damage prevention and the shared responsibility of protecting underground infrastructure.

Continued research reveals that the density of crossbores is greater than previously thought. Without accurate and timely locates provided by all facility operators, including municipalities, the risk for new crossbores remains a threat – and primary concern – for DCA members.

To that end, DCA’s Cross Bore Task Team, established in 2014 to develop a multi-tiered effort to raise awareness about the enduring problem, produced a position paper in 2015 that addresses how crossbores should be addressed. DCA’s rightful position outlined in the paper is that, like other underground facility operators, municipalities derive revenue from sewer mains and laterals and therefore have a significant interest in preserving them. Hence, municipalities should bear responsibility for locating those laterals.

“The bottom line is that this is an industry-wide issue, even for municipalities,” Darden says. “We feel strongly that federal dollars should be restricted from state programs that exempt municipalities from One-Call notification and membership requirements. Crossbores are our collective problem and responsibility, and installation contractors should not bear the sole responsibility for unintended intersection damage of an unmarked utility line by trenchless construction. DCA feels state laws should be adjusted to require municipalities to locate and mark their sewer service lines.”

“Including both One-Call notification and membership as part of eligibility for federal damage prevention grants promotes shared responsibility and reduces the threat of potentially catastrophic consequences resulting from unmarked underground facilities,” says Eben Wyman, principal at Wyman Associates, Washington, D.C., and lead DCA lobbyist.

“States that don’t require municipalities to fully participate in the One-Call process need to reevaluate. Ambiguous language should be adjusted to require municipal facilities to be located and marked, just as required for other underground facilities. Anything less compromises damage prevention and the shared responsibility so many claim to support,” Wyman says.

DCA goes to Washington

In November 2015, several DCA advocates and industry allies met with key stakeholder organizations and took to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress and government entities about several priority issues on the association’s legislative and regulatory agenda. During the “fly-in” visit, DCA spent an entire day in the halls of the U.S. House and Senate, discussing DCA’s cross bore initiative and pushing for language in pending pipeline safety legislation that would restrict federal grant dollars to state damage prevention programs that exempt municipalities from One-Call membership requirements.

Fly-in participants also discussed DCA’s support for comprehensive energy legislation with key staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, specifically with regard to pipeline permitting and workforce development.

“Sometimes these conversations can be intense and even uncomfortable, but they are absolutely necessary,” says Darden. “We need to continue the dialogue to make sure regulators, legislators and other industry interests understand the implications to our members and the industry in general. We remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure that the voice of our industry is heard and fairly considered.”

For more information:
DCA, www.dcaweb.org

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