The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton
The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton began as a method of communication for the community of builders in the greater Stockton, California area. As one of more than two dozen builders’ exchanges in the northern region of the state, The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton is part of a network of builders’ exchanges which represent a majority of the medium-size communities. As a local trade association representing contractors, the organization’s mission is to promote ethical and professional business practices in the construction industry.
Incorporated in 1924, the Builders’ Exchange recently celebrated 90 years of providing access to construction-related information. “The word ‘exchange’ in our title simply stands for ‘exchanging information,’ that’s what we’re about.” says executive director Mike Self, who has been with the association since 2006. “We’re involved in the whole spectrum of business that a contractor is involved in. Whether it’s the politics of the industry, or in our plan room which allows our members to bid and get contracts for their various trades. We act as a chamber of commerce for the construction industry.”
Self has been in the construction industry for more than three decades. “I initially got into the industry by default,” claims Self. “My dad was an architect and I thought that was what I would end up doing.” While in college, Self began drafting for various engineering firms and eventually formed his own contracting company. “I was passing through Stockton in ’77 on my way to go to school and met my wife and never got out of dodge.”
Although the association will occasionally cross over into the residential sector, 99 percent of the members are commercial contractors. Self conveys that the Building Industry Association (BIA) represents the larger residential developers, while The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton serves the commercial industry. “That can change dramatically depending on location.” Self explains. “In the more rural areas you may end up with more of a mix of residential guys that will belong to a builder’s exchange. But for us here in Stockton, we basically cover the commercial side of construction.”
Self and his associates still strongly recognize the importance of the face-to-face social encounter. In a world where the state of communications is becoming more and more electronic, the evolution of contractors meeting and conducting business in person has developed into a less frequent occasion. “We see the value in those social situations,” says Self. “So what we do is we host events here at the Builders’ Exchange.”
Every year the company hosts a crab feed that attracts more than 1,300 people and funds a scholarship program. Other yearly events include a golf tournament, a steak and oyster dinner, and even a bocce tournament. All events are fundraisers which contribute to a community cause. “We put on any kind of event that we feel might be appealing to our members so that they want to come and have a good time,” Self explains. “At the same time we provide networking opportunities at those events so you shake hands, you meet somebody and the next thing you know you’re exchanging business cards. Then you get a call to bid on a project.”
One of the many benefits The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton offers to members is a discounted workers’ compensation program. A requirement of the contract is to provide safety services so that members are a low-maintenance with workers’ compensation. “We want to minimize accidents and injuries on job sites,” says Self. “This is not only to fulfill our contract; it’s also because that’s where our heart is at. We don’t want construction workers to have down-time because they’ve been hurt on a job”
The association offers safety classes for a wide range of hazards. Categories include CPR, First Aid, forklift safety and hazardous materials. “Anything that our members need, whether it’s for a requirement or they just choose to do it for best practice, we offer that to our members at a discounted price as one of the benefits of being a part of The Builders’ Exchange.”
In 2012, the city of Stockton, California became the largest municipality to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Self has maintained a positive attitude regarding the economic condition of the city. “It’s an amazing community,” notes Self. “Through all the trials tribulations, this city has pulled together. I meet with a lot of community leaders and we all have each other’s back. We know that what’s good for any of us is good for all of us. Now that the city’s exit strategy out of bankruptcy has been accepted, I see good things happening for the city of Stockton.” While remaining cautiously optimistic, Self says The Builders’ Exchange of Stockton is looking forward to the future and he plans on celebrating the 100th anniversary with the company in 2024.
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