At the March 14, 2012 convention of the Associated General Contractors of America it was announced that the AGC of Texas had been awarded the Chapter of the Year for 2011. At the same time Past President Bob Lanham was recognized as Chapter President of the Year.
This made me look back over our awards and recognitions from National AGC: in 1969, AGC of Texas was recognized as having the best chapter newsletter, the first award of its kind. We were distinguished with that award again in 1973. In 1976, they began recognizing public relations efforts, infrastructure education efforts, chapter of the year, and chapter president of the year. In 1976, the AGC of Texas won each one of those awards and Zack Burkett was named Chapter President of the Year. In 1988, the chapter again won the award for infrastructure awareness as well as Chapter of the Year and Johnny Weisman was recognized as the Chapter President of the Year.
Needless to say, the chapter is extremely proud of our member participation and the ability we have shown to advocate for a strong market. Even in these hard times, the Texas market is recognized as one of the strongest in the nation. Recently, TxDOT recognized that their forecast of available funds had been extremely conservative and they anticipate having an additional $2 billion to let to contract over the next eighteen months. The commission is in the process of determining what distribution will be made of those funds. Preliminary discussions between the department and State Representative Drew Darby indicate a mix of mobility project and maintaining and expanding our overall existing system. Our leaders recognize that there has been massive deterioration of our highways statewide and a strong maintenance and rehabilitation program is needed in the very near future, or we will begin losing investment in our pavements.
In addition to our highway market, we are also seeing results from the water bond program that was approved by the voters last year. The level of activity by the membership in supporting those bonds was extremely important in their final passage.
The new TxDOT Executive Director, Phil Wilson, has already placed his stamp on the reorganization of the department. Many of the changes he has made will be extremely positive in helping the districts better apply their allocated funds and will also provide the commission with valuable data that will allow them to make positive decisions in the distribution of money.
One of the big changes already in place was the naming of Russell Zapalac as Chief Planning and Project Officer. Under Russell there are three major divisions. The first is Planning and Programming headed by Marc Williams, and it will take available funds as certified by James Bass to develop the Unified Transportation Plan (UTP), which is the project list for lettings and allocations to districts. He will be responsible for setting annual programs with the commission. Second, Lynn Isaak oversees Enterprise Operations, which will serve as statewide resource management for project delivery. In her role she will oversee and recommend to districts the allocation of field staff. The third area is headed by Ed Pensock, who oversees design-build and comprehensive development agreement forms of procurement. In the past, there has not been a specific person in charge of reviewing projects that might be utilizing alternate delivery modes to determine if they should be design build or design build and finance. One of Ed’s roles will be to gather all data and provide it to the commission for their consideration.
If you have not had an opportunity to review the AGC of Texas 2011 annual report, I recommend that you review some of the accomplishments you triggered in 2011. Of the many strong accomplishments, your support of bringing young people into the construction industry through scholarships is perhaps one of the most lasting. The AGC of Texas provides fifty scholarships for young men and women that have parents working for member companies in the industry. These are meaningful scholarships in that they provide $8,000 per student per year—a huge windfall for worthy young industry hopefuls.
The report goes on to discuss wage rate information and accomplishments. Last year, the chapter worked closely with TxDOT to rewrite the Standard Job Classification booklet and to make sure the new wage rates parallel what is actually being paid, instead of an artificial set of numbers. Hats off to TxDOT for another successful partnering project.
The On-the-Job training program continues to be a success, and TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have indicated a strong desire to maintain a partnership in working on the On-the-Job training program.
The big push is to work in the legislative arena to obtain stable, long range funding next year. The $4 billion in additional appropriation given for this biennium did not happen just by chance. It happened because many of you spent a great deal of time educating the members of the legislature about the needs of our road-building program.
When Governor Perry announced his “compact” plan, the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor expressed amenability to parts but could not support the entire program. This bodes ill for the upcoming session, when the Top 3 are already in disagreement. It makes our Highway Funding Task Force strategies all the more important, so keep working on your legislative contacts, coalitions, and PAC initiatives. With those efforts, we will enter the 2013 session with a lot of leverage.