Looking Back ... and Moving Forward

The end of my term as NECA’s president is fast approaching. It’s going to take a couple months to say goodbye.

I’d like to leave you with the same message on which I started: I feel tremendously blessed and very grateful for the opportunity to serve an organization and industry I believe in and respect.

Outgoing officers like to reflect on their tenure as a time of stability and strength for the organization they have been chosen to represent. However, those weren’t the circumstances when I came into office. Instead, we’ve endured an economic recession and painfully slow recovery. Just as the entire construction industry has felt the full force of this ailing economy, so has NECA and every other entity that serves the industry.

But I believe that adversity is just another word for opportunity and that wisdom comes from learning how to reallocate resources, make tough decisions and move out of the comfort zone. Sometimes, it comes down to a case of “adapt or die.” It is very satisfying that so many electrical contractors have taken this challenge to heart and are busy adapting to both the changing structure of our national economy and our industry.

NECA, too, has had to choose its battles wisely and concentrate its efforts as an organization on the areas where the most change for the better could be achieved. I’d like to think I had some influence on the choices NECA made, and I am extremely proud of my association going all out to identify and develop new market opportunities for electrical contractors during this time of financial turmoil and forced frugality.
In particular, I’m thinking of how far we’ve come since I assembled the NECA Energy Solutions Task Force in 2009. Its purpose is to address specific market opportunities in sustainable, green construction; energy efficiency; and renewable and alternative-energy sources.

NECA also has been very involved in the electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure market since June 2010. In their excitement to announce the rollout of the new EVs, it seems the automakers initially failed to recognize that electrical contractors must be a critical link in the supply chain. NECA set them straight by becoming engaged in the development of installation standards for EV charging systems and interacting with a broad coalition of EV market stakeholders. And, working through the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program, NECA is ensuring that there are electrical industry professionals in every state who are trained and certified in installing and maintaining electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).

Through these activities, our association has become a respected resource for the EV industry. The EV manufacturers and dealers now know they can count on their customers having access to the services they need to keep their vehicles running—and in demand. So, NECA has not only developed a new market for electrical contracting services; our association’s enthusiastic response to the needs of the auto and EVSE manufacturers has enabled NECA to assume a leadership position in the sector.

I also am extremely pleased to have presided when NECA reconfirmed its leadership as the electrical contracting industry’s chief advocate for safety by adopting a national standing policy that makes it clear that implementing safe work practices is not optional but is a responsibility that employers, employees and customers must share. It stresses that, to achieve zero injuries in the workplace, contractors must strive for zero-energy work environments as the normal and best practice, whenever achievable, in accordance with NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

In fact, Sept. 12, 2009, when NECA’s Board of Governors voted in that policy, was one of my proudest days in this office because I take it personally. You see, striving for zero injuries is ingrained in my mind because it’s part of my companies’ corporate culture. Because we care about our employees and our customers and their families, job site safety is always our No. 1 priority. I hope it’s yours, too.

Well, these are just two examples of recent progress that convince me that NECA and the electrical contracting industry are moving in the right direction. Another is the election of Dennis Quebe, the chairman of Chapel Electric in Dayton, Ohio, as NECA’s next president. Dennis is both a good friend and colleague, and I’m enthusiastic about the leadership he will bring to the association and our industry.

Of course, there’s much more to relate about progress and challenges—and the many, many opportunities that lie ahead. I’ll address some of them in my next, and final, letter.

About the Author

Rex A. Ferry

NECA President
Rex Ferry was president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) from 2009 through 2011 and contributed the President's Desk column monthly.

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