Serving contractors in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore and western Maryland, the Maryland chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) is working to help its members gain a competitive advantage through industry advocacy, ongoing education, business development and promoting the next generation of skilled tradespeople. Maryland NECA’s membership runs the gamut from small shops to larger contractors, signatory to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 24 and Local No. 307.
The hallmark of a NECA-IBEW contractor is a superior skill set and the utmost professionalism. Maryland NECA’s members are some of the most experienced, skilled contractors in the industry. They uphold excellent quality, value and timely delivery in all construction projects.
Maryland NECA helps members find more highly skilled labor by negotiating the industry’s local collective bargaining agreements and serving as the management representatives to the NECA Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.
With well-trained electricians members can move quickly on new projects and better serve customers. “We work together with the local unions to resolve labor issues and help plan for the future,” says JT Thomas, chapter manager of Maryland NECA. “We have 30-plus members from smaller shops to large companies and everything in between. For our members, excellence is the standard they pledge to uphold everyday as NECA-IBEW contractors.”
Getting a leg up
Thomas joined Maryland NECA in 2009 after working as an assistant director for the Southeastern Line Chapter in Georgia where he worked with outside distribution and transmission line contractors throughout the Southeast. Before that, Thomas was a staff associate with NECA National.
He continues to follow his passion in serving contractors at Maryland NECA. “What I enjoy most is the opportunity to build meaningful relationships — with our contractors and with the IBEW. We get to problem-solve and look at new solutions to issues that hinder our members’ business. Our goal is to help contractors be more competitive and stay ahead of the curve,” he says.
Thomas admits this job has been tough in the last several years: “Things have been pretty stagnant in our market and there are a lot of nonunion competitors, which hinders our member contractors as they try to grow their businesses.”
Despite stiff nonunion competition, Maryland NECA contractors maintain a good portion of the market share and have landed some major government-funded projects in recent years. “Our contractors have been able to showcase their ability to tackle the full electrical scope in a more turnkey solution than nonunion contractors,” says Thomas. “We promote the level of manpower and the quality of work they perform.”
There are a handful of large projects coming down the pipeline in Maryland and surrounding areas. “One is a massive Proctor & Gamble job which will be one of the largest on the East Coast at more than 1 million square feet,” says Thomas. “I’m working with the West Virginia NECA chapter manager to get involved in project talks early on and get our members in front of the owners.” Another landmark project one of Maryland NECA’s members is involved in is Exelon’s corporate headquarters in Baltimore.
Continuing education and close communication
Helping members connect with major customers is one step; helping them maintain and train a skilled workforce and stay abreast with industry changes is another. Maryland NECA offers a broad spectrum of educational offerings to help members stay up to date on educational requirements and training. “Last year we offered an estimating course and, more recently, the chapter had an attorney attend a membership meeting and discuss change orders and how to navigate them in contracts. We have also hosted productivity seminars on how to run jobs efficiently,” says Thomas.
Maryland NECA is in close contact with its members, whether it’s informing them of new regulations that might affect their business or just a friendly check in. “We have a lot of communication with our members. We put out bimonthly newsletters to bring certain issues to light and talk about recent chapter activities,” says Thomas.
With new proposed blanket legislation that will make a set amount of sick leave and paid time off (PTO) mandatory, Maryland NECA is pushing back before the bill gets signed into law. “This type of legislation is sweeping the nation in progressive cities,” says Thomas. “Our contractors already take care of their employees. They offer the best wages, pensions, heath care and benefits in the industry. This legislation goes around our collective bargaining agreements with the unions and hurts business in this industry.”
“When a mechanic misses work and gives little/no notice in construction it affects the whole crew and job progress,” says Thomas. “With the transient nature of our work, this would only cause more of a headache for our industry.”
Valuable face-to-face connections
Thomas says one of the most valuable pieces Maryland NECA offers is face-to-face connections and networking among electrical contractors. “You’d be surprised at how much help comes out of just sitting down for a drink and talking about jobs and shared challenges,” says Thomas.
Thomas emphasizes the importance of relationship building. “The ability to network with other contractors — local or across the country is huge. When our members are traveling for a job they turn to the NECA network to find qualified labor and other contractors to partner with. These connections are very important,” he says.
Maryland NECA hosts several annual events that allow members to come out and talk with one another. “We have a summer meeting on the Eastern Shore; this is something all of our contractors really look forward to,” says Thomas. “We invite contractors, union reps, JATC staff, benefit administration reps and vendor participants. It allows for important face-to-face time. We also host a chapter dinner in the fall. This is a fun social event that also helps contractors network.”
Members come together to find common ground in shared labor struggles, business development challenges and staying ahead in a highly competitive industry. Year after year Maryland NECA helps members draw these connections with ongoing support.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in US Builders Review” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing