A voice for the construction community
The Moncton Northeast Construction Association (MNECA) covers a lot of land – from Restigouche county in the north to Albert county in the south. Established in 1942, MNECA represents almost 400 businesses. Initially starting out as a construction association for businesses in the Moncton area, the association expanded its jurisdiction to the rest of the eastern New Brunswick. They provide a variety of benefits for their members. As their website states, the major benefits of joining MNECA can be divided into six major categories: advocacy/voice of the industry community, project information, networking, directory, benefits/discounts, and labour relations.
Not only do members enjoy access to tendering documents and bidder’s lists, they are also able to network with contracting members, who provide industry-specific services.
“That’s sort of the raison d’etre,” explains Bill Dixon, Executive Director of Moncton Northeast Construction Association. “We’re a traditional builder’s exchange and an accredited employer’s organization under the New Brunswick Industrialization Act.”
The association is a member of the Construction Association of New Brunswick and the Canadian Construction Association. Dixon says members also benefit from hotel discounts and goods from Mark’s Work Wearhouse.
“We are also the voice of the industry and for that we maintain relationships with local municipal governments when we’re dealing with local building codes and permits,” says Dixon. From an advocacy perspective, the association provides the government and the public with the views of their members in the construction industry.
Keeping up with the trends
The days of hard copy and paper are waning, as continuous advances in technology provide paper-free and electronic alternatives. Around 10 years ago, the Moncton Northeast Construction Association took note of this trend and began digitizing their documents.
“Probably around 2002, we moved into the electronic age and we now 99 per cent of our services are provided electronically,” Dixon says. Three satellite offices still exist for members to access soft copies of the documents, but Dixon says most members are opting to do their work electronically.
MNECA has an electronic database called the Construction Information Network that it shares with three other construction associations.
A unique facet of the association is that they own and have full control over the software that stores their database.
“We are not beholden to somebody else and we make sure we keep up with technology and software development,” says Dixon.
Members may not be visiting the offices to view documents, but they are flocking to MNECA’s training classes.
“Our members are looking to us for industry-specific training,” says Dixon.
A lot of the training that currently exists for companies is designed for more static operations, such as the appliance and manufacturing industries.
“The construction industry doesn’t work that way,” Dixon explains. “Things are quite dynamic on a construction site.”
To better serve their members’ unique needs, the Moncton Northeastern Construction Association is now looking at developing their own construction superintendent course. In the past, they have offered project management courses and courses in change orders and plan and spec reading, all of which have been overwhelmingly successful.
“When we put those classes out there, they get gobbled up. We’re oversubscribed,” says Dixon.
Luckily, the association has the space to provide the training. The buildings that once stored all the paper documents are now used as training rooms.
“We’re still supplying the tendering documents, but we can do that with a couple of computers and servers sitting in Montreal, so we don’t need a 500 or 600 square foot room for that,” he says.
Challenges and Future Plans
With the current condition of the economy, there is not a lot of money to go around in New Brunswick. Although the association had a good run coming out of the 2007-2008 recession, they have come to a point where the government funding has dried up and the projects are almost completed.
“Government has not been spending a lot on job development lately,” says Dixon.
And this definitely has ramifications in the construction industry, especially in the northern reaches of the province where the economy is mostly dependent on forestry and mining.
However, this could prove to be beneficial for the Greater Moncton Area, which enjoys a diverse economy as a retail and distribution hub. An increasing number of younger people are migrating to Moncton from other parts of the province, revitalizing the local job force.
As for future plans, the association wants to become even more accessible to its members. They are currently restructuring the Construction Association of New Brunswick, which is the federation of geographic and trade associations in the province.
Dixon explains the move: “We felt a restructuring of the Construction Association of New Brunswick was necessary because even our own members didn’t recognize who we were. And those we were trying to influence on the government and industry side didn’t know who we were.”
As of January 1st of this year, the association has rebranded itself the CANB Moncton Northeast, to appear as a more unified body with its sister associations across the province.
Despite the regional and economic challenges, MNECA’s membership numbers grow every year and they maintain the lowest membership fees in the province. By the end of 2011 to date, the association had raised $30 000 that was donated to eight schools in the region. With ongoing revitalization strategies and projects, MNECA will be able to serve its members even better this year. Whether they are providing a voice for local businesses in government and industry talks or offering leading-edge training programs for their members, MNECA is a place of growth for construction businesses and they invite you to join.