January 2015, Vol. 70, No. 1


2014 Year of ‘Firsts’ For Distribution Contractors Association

Members of the Distribution Contractors Association (DCA) will gather in New Orleans from Feb. 7-12, for the association’s 54th Annual Convention.

DCA Executive Vice President Rob Darden expects more than 400 DCA members and spouses will be present in the luxurious environment of New Orleans’ historic Roosevelt Hotel. The packed agenda of events includes several DCA committee meetings, inspirational keynote messages and business session presentations from an impressive lineup of speakers, as well as a variety of social and cultural tour offerings.

“We’re switching things up a bit this year with the New Orleans venue,” says Darden, “but the Crescent City is rich in culture, entertainment, history and intriguing tourist excursions that make it an ideal location for the meeting. We have found that our members enjoy mixing business with pleasure, which is a hallmark of New Orleans, and one of the many reasons the DCA Annual Convention is so popular.

“We will be in New Orleans just a few days before the peak of the Mardi Gras season and our members are excited about having the opportunity to experience such a rich cultural tradition,” Darden adds. “Few events generate the glamour, celebration and extravagance of Mardi Gras. Although the weather isn’t a guarantee, the excitement and educational experience certainly is. Selecting New Orleans as a meeting destination, we feel, is also a vote of support for a city so ravaged by the destruction of Hurricane Katina in 2005. The determined, ‘can do’ and prideful spirit of New Orleans’ residents is very appropriate given that it is a reflection of the perseverance, dedication and resilient work ethic of our members. It’s a great fit in all regards.”

2014 accomplishments

Outgoing DCA President Grady Bell, Laney Directional Drilling, Spring, TX, reflected on the previous year as a humble, rewarding and gratifying experience, having served this progressive, forward-thinking collection of underground construction industry leaders. Bell is proud of the association’s many accomplishments and proactive initiatives, but he admits there is still a lot of ongoing work remaining.

“We had several ‘firsts’ this year which we hope will expand and grow over the coming years,” Bell says. “At the 2014 convention in Cancun, we had our first Labor Roundtable with leaders of the three unions DCA has collective bargaining agreements with – the UA, LIUNA and IUOE – and the signatory contractors. Issues of common concern such as the Affordable Care Act, operator qualification, workforce development and pension reform were discussed in depth. This is the first time all three trade associations and contractors sat down as a group to discuss common issues. We will continue this dialog with another roundtable in New Orleans.”

“Another first occurred in April with a joint workshop with the American Gas Association (AGA),” says Bell. “Over 150 attendees representing contractors, utilities and unions came together for a day-and-a-half workshop covering a variety of topics. Another workshop is scheduled in Chicago in late April. Finally, we inducted our first Safety Person of the Year Award at the annual Safety Congress. While we have always had such an award given specifically to Safety Directors by their peers, this year we broadened the scope by looking for a person or persons who made a significant impact on safety in their company or in the industry at large. Add to that our growing involvement in advocacy on Capitol Hill, our three annual meetings and attendance at several industry events, and it has been a very busy and productive year – but a lot of work.”

Although a lot more work than he initially anticipated when first elected as 2014 DCA president at the Cancun meeting, Bell looked back over the past year as a very rewarding experience.

“Being the ‘leader’ of so many other individual company leaders was an interesting challenge,” Bell says. “However, DCA is a unique organization in that the individual members of the association, while certainly having their own company interests in mind, are all able to drop their specific company hats, if you will, for the overall betterment and interests of the industry. Regardless of what industry faction they represent, they all come together with the ability to see the forest instead of their individual trees. We have contractors, vendors, manufacturers and academia alike that compete with each other in the real world. Yet, no competition is evident when they gather in a committee meeting to formulate an initiative that will ultimately better the industry overall. That is what makes DCA unique.

Special group

“I’m involved in many associations and industry organizations,” Bell related, “but there’s something special about the DCA ‘family’ that really isn’t the same within the other groups. It is a very special collection of proactive, dedicated, bright and knowledgeable leaders. It has been a pleasure to serve, and a responsibility that I’ve taken very seriously.”

A native of New Orleans and son of an oilfield service technician, Bell earned a degree in general engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1985. After a demanding job required the Bell family to travel to all corners of the world, from Aberdeen to Bangladesh and Dubai, Bell immediately returned to his oilfield roots. The economic times in the oilfield pipeline industry were challenging at the time, so the then-recently married and new father made the move to the newly developing underground construction methodology of horizontal directional drilling. Most recently, Bell has spent the past 12 years with Laney Directional Drilling, headquartered in Spring, TX.

“I took the knowledge I’d acquired from the oilfield and oil well drilling and applied it to directional drilling,” Bell says. “It’s been a very rewarding and gratifying career and the opportunities are plentiful. Yet attracting young, new talent into the industry remains one of the most challenging issues facing DCA and our member companies. That is why the association has formed a subcommittee to implement various initiatives designed to attract more young, skilled and talented individuals to our workforce. The opportunities are there; we just need more good people to replace what is becoming an aging workforce.”
Distribution Contractors Association, (972) 680-0261, www.dcaweb.org

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