Small World, Big Opportunities

President’s Desk

With an ever-increasing number of businessesinvolved in cross-border trade and the trend toward international harmonization of technology accelerating, the distances between countries and cultures becomes shorter every day. As the world grows smaller, the National Electrical Contractors Association’s global outreach expands in direct proportion, with help from some powerful partners.

For just about a year now, the independent research organization that NECA established in 1989 has been operating under a revised name. “ELECTRI International—The Foundation for Electrical Construction” better fits its mission to offer electrical contractors the opportunity to learn about and grow with the new world economy.

Last month, a major conference held in Melbourne, Australia, focused on just what this new economic order means for our industry. It was the annual conference of the Federation of Asian & Pacific Electrical Contractors Associations (FAPECA), and the theme was “Business Opportunities Across International Borders.” Discussions centered on topics such as meeting technical standards in other nations, labor mobility, dealing with regulatory barriers, dealing with language and cultural barriers, and, of course, the benefits of international networking among electrical contractors.

NECA is affiliated with FAPECA—as well as the International Association of Electrical Contractors (AIE), which represents National Electrical Contractor Associations throughout Europe—through our membership in the International Forum of Electrical Contractors. NECA, FAPECA and AIE jointly established the forum in 1996. However, our involvement with international exchange goes back further.

For one thing, NECA has been sponsoring International Study Missions for years. These organized annual trips bring U.S. contractors into direct contact with the management and work force of electrical contracting firms in other countries to encourage the interchange of ideas, technologies and best practices. The most recent trip was to Russia and Finland this summer.

After welcoming firms from around the globe as individual members for years, NECA began establishing International Chapters about two decades ago. Now, there are 12 of these groups, each of which is a national or provincial trade association for electrical contractors within its own country. These International Chapters extend NECA’s reach throughout Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and now Honduras and El Salvador.

In fact, one of the purposes of this column is to welcome our newest international affiliates. And, while I can’t help showing off how proud I am of all of NECA’s international ventures, I must say I am particularly pleased with what my association is doing to support Spanish-speaking contractors and electrical workers—and the U.S. contractors that work with them.

It’s becoming clear that businesses today must be multilingual and culturally sensitive.NECA is meeting the need by translating our key publications and reference materials for our members and affiliates south of the border. These include an insightful foundation study on “New Business Opportunities for Mexico and U.S. Electrical Contractors.”

In addition, we have provided management education to more than 1,500 of our Latin counterparts thus far. Thanks to seed money from ELECTRI International and the continuing support from NECA’s three chapters in Mexico, our industry has established the Electrical Technology Institute to offer courses for Mexican electricians and managers and for U.S. contractors who are considering Mexico as a potential new market.

And that, in the final analysis, is what NECA’s involvement in international affairs is all about. It’s not just an intellectual pursuit. Rather, it reflects the pursuit of new opportunities for our industry in a brave, new world.

Milner Irvin
President, NECA

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