Dan Rooney DCA Convention

Recapping DCA’s 2023 Annual Convention

The Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach provided the backdrop for the 62nd annual DCA Convention earlier this year.

Day One kicked off with the Membership Committee, noting that a record 62 convention first-time attendees were in attendance. Much of the discussion at the meeting centered around re-engaging lapsed members via the Strategic Vision Committee’s Membership Reinstatement Project.

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The committee urged more members to take the equipment survey, as the current 41 percent participation rate is inadequate for associate members to predict future equipment needs.

Next, Rob Darden, executive vice president, opened the Town Hall and Business Session with the Treasurer’s and Membership reports, along with a recap of recent DCA activities. DCA President Kevin Parker, Mears Holdings, then recognized retiring members from the Board of Directors, followed by the presentation of the Arthur T. Everham Safety Awards by Bill Colson, Pretec Directional Drilling, and Randy Bunch, Aaron Enterprises, co-chairs of the Safety/Risk Management Committee. 

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Sam Hall, vice president of the Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA) Damage Prevention Institute (DPI), presented on “The Next Generation of Reducing Damages Through Shared Accountability.”  The Town Hall concluded with a panel discussion on PSMS moderated by Ashley Donnini of Lola Link Consulting.  Noting that most of RP 1173’s “shall” statements are aimed more at operators, the panel discussed the differences with PSMS as it relates to contractors, misconceptions about it, and advice for how best to implement it.

The Arthur T. Everham Safety Award
The Arthur T. Everham Safety Award recipients. Accepting the awards for their companies were, from left, Levi Lamp, R&R Pipeline; Steve Balkcom, ARB; Pete Fojtik, Michels Utility Services; and Jim Lagios, Atlas Trenchless.

The Safety/Risk Management Committee delivered the most powerful moment perhaps of the entire week with speaker Eric Giguere’s “The Buried Truth, Uncovered.” Giguere is living, breathing proof of what can happen when companies take little shortcuts on safety to save a few minutes of time here and there.  His story was an unforgettable reminder of why DCA’s relentless focus on safety remains perpetually vital.

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Day Two included a keynote speech from Lt. Col. Dan Rooney who covered many topics, but most importantly his charitable organization, Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to the children of veterans wounded or killed in service to their country. He has given out more than 44,000 scholarships worth over $200 million. Darden presented Rooney with a $50,000 donation to Folds of Honor in the DCA-LMCT Trust’s name.

Dan Rooney DCA Convention
Lt. Col. Dan Rooney introduced the audience to his charitable organization, Folds of Honor.

The day also included an update on DCA’s trenchless initiatives. Dr. Sam Ariaratnam, Arizona State University, opened the Trenchless Committee meeting with an update on his activities as a member of the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee (GPAC) under the Department of Transportation (DOT). GPAC is a statutorily mandated advisory committee that provides recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the DOT Secretary regarding proposed standards for gas and liquid pipelines and facilities.

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GPAC is also currently involved in a lawsuit against OSHA over banning pipe wrenches on directional drilling sites. When asked if the committee felt pressure from the Biden administration to “kill gas,” Ariaratnam answered, “Not directly.”  Grady Bell, Bell Trenchless, introduced the new HDD Association to the audience and Trenchless Committee co-chairs Nate Eastway, Gabe’s Construction Co.; and Alan Goodman, HammerHead Trenchless, reviewed the new HDD guidelines publication and upcoming events in collaboration with AGA, NASTT and more. 

The meeting wrapped up with a meaty question for the group: How can we bring up the standards of non-DCA-member contractors?  The consensus answer was to drive demand for higher standards from the top down, starting with owners, utilities, and the people writing the paychecks.

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 Day Two also included the silent and live auctions, which raised a grand total of $632,000 for industry scholarships, industry events and staff support continuing the auction’s rebound toward pre-pandemic levels.

Day Three opened with breakfast and the announcement of the recipients of the Dale R. Michels and Curtis Allen scholarship awards, which totaled $145,000 this year. It also highlighted the association’s newest honorary member, Gary Lawson, of Ditch Witch.

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Gary Lawson and Rob Darden
Gary Lawson (right) is DCA’s newest Honorary Member. Lawson’s humor and humility were on full display as he accepted the well-deserved honor to a standing ovation.

Eben Wyman kicked off the Government Relations Committee meeting with a recap of 2022 activities and 2023 goals.  The committee’s top priority remains the Pipeline Safety Reauthorization and pushing for criminal penalties for criminal protesting; there has been some debate over including penalties for damage to equipment. The committee continues to push for three things: incentivizing use of GIS mapping, opposing mandates for SMS, and keeping the focus on damage prevention. 

Wyman then yielded the floor to Frank Canavan of the American Gas Association, who spoke on the current status of fuel choice versus gas bans.  Most bans currently affect new construction, but some, such as New York state’s, are trying to expand to sunset old gas appliances as well.

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Despite this, there are lots of exemptions for energy-intensive industries.  Washington state enacted the only total future ban on gas through the building code when legislation was unable to pass, sparking widespread public opposition.  A test case against another sneaky ban, in Eugene, Oregon, is currently in the works.  The New Jersey legislature recently introduced a fuel choice bill to counter executive action from their governor.  Canavan noted that the vast majority of places with gas bans don’t have much new construction anyway, so the bans are mostly symbolic. Ironically, despite California’s well-documented opposition, the state is second behind only Texas for most new gas customers.

The key to gas’s popularity with the public is its reliability, and Canavan stressed that it is important for groups like the DCA to convey to the public that gas versus green does not have to be an all-or-nothing battle.  Brad Heck then gave an update on the OQIP project, promising that data from the pilot programs would be posted soon. 

Day Four included a keynote speech from Jason Dorsey, of the Center for Generational Kinetics and the final business meeting from the Workforce Development Committee.  New co-chairs Stephanie Krabbe, InfraSource, and Matt Dvorak, Groebner, charted out the goals for 2023: to introduce the second BuildWitt video series, encourage engagement with SkillsUSA, participate in the next DCA/AGA panel, and hold a Leadership Development conference. 

Jason Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics
Jason Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics asked the audience to think about the best and worst advice they ever heard, then posed the question: How do you tell the difference between good and bad advice?

For the next SkillsUSA Techspo, June 20-22 in Atlanta, Krabbe has written a guidebook for getting involved locally and has plans to write a participation guide for the event. The committee is still looking for contributors to help develop a heavy equipment operator competition as well. 

Next, the committee detailed the contents of the Leadership Development Program, which will debut with two sessions in October and November targeting employees who are moving up in responsibility.  Session 1 will focus on exploring and leading different behavior styles, while Session 2 concentrates on emotional intelligence, improving performance, driving difficult conversations, and unleashing your potential

After a brief review of the upcoming DCA & AGA Utility Contractor Workshop and the “Success Looks Like This” marketing campaign, the idea was put forth to start a Job & Career Fair Subcommittee.  The subcommittee would be responsible for handling requests for presence at fairs and working with members to make sure DCA is well represented.

Closing out the event, DCA rented the entire LIV nightclub, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite hangouts.  in the only formalities of the evening, Kevin Parker turned over the DCA presidency to Ray Swerdfeger, K.R. Swerdfeger Construction, and then the music kicked into overdrive. 

The DCA will convene next for the Mid Year Meeting at The Lodge at Spruce Creek in Stowe, Vermont, July 24-27.  Next year’s convention will be held in Hawaii.

SOURCE – Distribution Contractors Association

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