In last month's column, I mentioned that I admire John C. Maxwell. He is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker and author who said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way,” and “leadership is influence.”

One reason I like him so much is because his words apply to the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). In the above quotes, he might as well have been speaking about NECA, in particular, about NECA’s leadership regarding sustainable construction and energy independence. Participating in a meeting of the ELECTRI Council of ELECTRI International—The Foundation for Electrical Construction Inc. reinforced this thought.

We council members have four duties: to analyze industry trends and issues, to review project proposals submitted by universities and research institutes, to recommend major initiatives for project funding, and to serve on appropriate task forces to guide each commissioned project from start to finish.

The primary purpose of this particular meeting was to carry out assignments two and three, but the first item on the list is a constant part of everything we do. We selected five projects to be funded for active research this year; three of them pertain to green construction and energy.

There’s more information on them in the NECA Notes section of this magazine (page 113). However, I want to draw your attention to these three because we can look forward to the research findings being turned into informational reports and management education programs, and frankly, I’m excited by the prospect. The foundation has commissioned related studies in the past; I’m sure we’ll have more in the future. But, the 2009 projects are particularly relevant at this time, as our nation struggles to achieve economic stability, domestic security and energy independence.

One of the new projects will help electrical contractors learn how to conduct comprehensive energy audits, which are essential for helping customers make the best choices for controlling and reducing energy use and incorporating alternative energy sources into the operation of their facilities. Another will result in the publication of a strategic guide for renewable energy and distributed generation, revealing markets for electrical contractors that provide energy solutions.

And talk about up-to-the-minute timeliness: the third project deals with the national energy policy under development even as I write this column. It’s called Energy Roadmap Guiding Electrical Contractor Energy Independence Opportunities. It will examine the opportunities our national energy policy will provide for electrical contractors and point out how to take advantage of them.

As I wrote this, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the much-talked-about and much-needed economic stimulus legislation, and NECA was aggressively pushing for a place for electrical contractors in getting the economy back in shape. (You can read about this in NECA Notes, too.)

As previously reported, last fall NECA adopted a policy on energy independence. It calls for increased investment in renewable and alternative energy resources and repairing and expanding the nation’s electric grid, and it emphasizes NECA’s willingness to work with Congress and other organizations toward these objectives. Most importantly, it says electrical contractors who construct and maintain the infrastructure to generate, transmit and distribute electrical power play a key role in the move toward domestic energy independence.

Through the activities I have mentioned in this column, and many more I haven’t, NECA is working hard to prepare contractors to perform this important role. We’re “knowing the way” and “showing the way” through research and education. We’re “going the way” through advocacy and outreach efforts that can actually grow more jobs for contractors. We’re bringing our association’s considerable influence to bear on all these efforts.