The stimulus for starting the Gulf South Chapter of the International Concrete Repair Institute developed from several key members who had been a part of ICRI chapters in other geographic regions. A lack of familiarity with ICRI standards and accepted best practices was noted by several entities upon their relocating to the Alabama/Mississippi repair market. Networking opportunities often concluded with shared frustrations with balancing the desire to perform high quality work with the need to maintain a competitive pricing structure. Stories of vague owner scopes and poor repair documents typically tipped the frustration iceberg. After some time, several industry experts realized these were the key factors behind the formation of the International Association of Concrete Repair Specialists in 1988. Education, we thought, was the key to addressing these frustrations. Talk soon moved to the potential for forming a local chapter of the International Concrete Repair Institute.
An informal lunch meeting was held on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2010 at Niki’s West in Birmingham Alabama to gauge the interest of various contractors, suppliers, distributors and designers. Fourteen people attended this initial meeting. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Resources were pooled and a list of 78 individuals was assembled who we believed would be interested in the organization.
On March 12, 2010, 29 people met at the Birmingham office of JJ Morley Enterprises to review the requirements for forming a chapter. At that time, the decision was made to undertake forming the chapter, and the initial core group of 15 individuals signed the Charter Petition. Officers and a Board of Directors were elected at that time and the chapter name was approved.
As a small chapter, we solicited local businesses with interest in our chapters to provide meeting rooms for our lunch meetings. Block USA, Alabama Power, Hoar Construction, Brasfield and Gorrie Construction, Brice Construction, and Alagasco were all solicited for use of their facilities. The Board of Directors chose this route primarily for the publicity the chapter received from these respectable organizations. The chapter continues to hold one meeting a year at a host business location solely because of the publicity it gives the chapter.
Our first lunch meeting was held at Block USA in Birmingham Alabama, with Monica Rourke and Peter Craig serving as our very first speakers. The chapter was so cash strapped, we had to await for the initial startup funds from ICRI National to reimburse meeting costs.
Because the chapter covers such a large geographic region, we knew when we started the chapter that all day meetings would be required to warrant the travel of our members. After our first year, we conducted our first all-day meeting in the Alabama Power main auditorium with the theme of “All About Corrosion.”
The next step for the chapter was hosting all-day meetings in other geographic locations to energize membership bases in other areas of our region. An all-day meeting away from our core, however, required the chapter to guarantee revenue to the meeting site and to the host hotel. The chapter was not financially able to accept this risk. While discussing this conundrum internally, one of our distributor members agreed to serve as the meeting sponsor and donated the funding required to pay for the meeting location and the hotel reservations. Coastal Construction Products, out of Pensacola, Florida, became the chapter’s angle investor. Without their backing, it would have taken several more years for the chapter to step out and conduct an all-day meeting. We have conducted two all-day meetings per year since.
The Gulf South Chapter Board of Directors feel all-day meetings help keep the chapter on solid financial ground, help mobilize a more geographically diverse membership, and allow for more beneficial networking opportunities for our members. Presently, the chapter has developed core membership groups in two geographic regions, has cash reserves in excess of $30,000, and is offering two annual $1,500 scholarships to college students in civil and/or construction engineering.
Moving forward, we hope to develop core memberships in two more geographic regions. We have found it takes 2 to 3 years of meetings in each location to develop a critical mass of individuals who know ICRI, know its benefits, are willing to serve as leaders, and are effective at spreading the knowledge such that the critical mass is maintained.
We’ve come a long way from spending more on a lunch meeting than we had in the bank. However, there are plenty of challenges ahead to becoming an even stronger chapter. Only when we are strong enough to assist forming a sister chapter in another geographic region can we reminiscence about where we were and take pride in the journey. Until that day, taking too much pride could lead to a stumble.
We have many people to thank for our growth. However, the biggest thanks must go to the firms whose employees have given of themselves for this chapter. These firms have donated many man-hours to improve the chapter. This chapter is only possible because of the character of these firms and their employees.