New President and Executive Director uncover the chapter’s full potential.
Peel back the surface of the ground across Greater Kansas City and you’ll find all kinds of utility lines criss crossing in every direction. A lot of work goes into coordinating them to build the area’s future and the story is similar for the local chapter of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA).
An energetic new President and a seasoned Executive Director are focused on making one of the Association’s largest chapters into one of the most organized and productive as well.
NUCA of Greater Kansas City Region is only a few years old but has already grown to nearly 70 member companies. Mark One Electric Vice President and new NUCA KC President Tony Privitera is evolving the chapter into an ambitious organization capable of improving construction processes, optimizing key relationships and boosting workforce development. Privitera says he’s eager to help contractors ease the challenges they’re up against.
“Surface and underground utility people have to deal with so much in today's world, everything from the risk of hitting gas or water lines to handling sensitive fiber optic cables. Some of this infrastructure in Kansas City dates back to the 1800s. Every day is like carefully digging through a spider web and there’s a lot at stake. Contractors deserve extraordinary respect and support, and we’re making that happen.”
“Tony is always on the go — energy, energy, energy!” says NUCA KC Executive Director Mac Andrew. “He’s bringing people together and getting things done.”
Andrew is the perfect right-hand man. His long career in the region gives him unrivaled experience in private and public sector work on both sides of the state line. Andrew is well-connected and thrives on facilitating collaboration among all players in the industry from contractors and engineers to government officials.
“We believe NUCA KC can bring people together to improve the big picture and help everyone work better.”
Putting Members First
As an individual contractor, you can expect more from NUCA KC than run-of-the-mill meetings and an occasional happy hour. NUCA KC offers perks including health insurance for non-union workers who need it and invitations to special events like tours of Kansas City Chiefs training camp. Want to give back to your community? Andrew says NUCA KC welcomes your help with endeavors such as the Veterans Community Project.
“Veterans Community Project provided housing to homeless veterans. Our contractors spent about half a million dollars putting in sewers for that property because there were none in that part of Kansas City. KCMO’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee put up $100,000 to help offset that cost but we donated it all to the veterans.”
Privitera sees active members as foundational in the organization's blueprint. He wants you to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, and promises no shortage of opportunities. Privitera has overseen the development of action committees to make a difference in areas like workforce development, social connection and government relations.
“There’s Jefferson City and Topeka, but our group also goes to Washington to talk to congressional delegations about the need to improve infrastructure. It’s something we can all agree on. We can influence thinking at that level and cultivate opportunities that impact the lives of our members.”
The Smart Cities rollout committee is one of the most exciting right now. Smart Cities raises awareness of upcoming construction projects among municipalities and contractors by coordinating contact information and projects process details in a single publication. Privitera says it’s a big step forward for business development.
“The hardest thing about finding work is knowing about the work. As the local NUCA chapter, we want to champion awareness to help all contractors grow their businesses.”
Andrew says he’s working to expand the effort to all cities and counties in the region.
“You’ve got to know where the work is to go and get on the team or be a partner and rub elbows with the right people. Smart Cities keeps you in the know and we want to include as many projects as possible.”
A Voice that Speaks to Solutions
Privitera believes NUCA KC can offer the advantage of a unified voice that promotes discussion about long overdue improvements in specification requirements and blueprint review processes. Both cause enormous inefficiencies and time-consuming delays. Privitera says NUCA KC gives contractors a chance to partner with local governments to develop solutions.
“We're better off going in as a team and saying, hey, look, we have met with all the contractors and we’d like to suggest a better way that helps you and all of us.”
Perhaps the most painful struggle that utility and excavation contractors share is the timing of their role in the construction process. Privitera says the assessment of underground utility lines is often based on outdated or inaccurate documents. When contractors are finally called in to start digging, big surprises lead to big problems.
“The way things usually go, contractors are brought in to dig far too late in the process and they often find unexpected utility lines which can put their safety at risk, delay the project, and tie-up inspectors with unscheduled inspections. It’s a common way lines get ruptured and then you’ve also got emergency resources like police and fire pulled in. If we can assess a site in advance of a project’s design, everything will go smoother, faster and cost less.”
Privitera believes NUCA KC is the collective voice that can change that process. He says local governments want to improve the situation as well.
“Everyone wins. NUCA chapters nationwide are talking about this and NUCA KC is ahead of the game. We’re already talking to engineers and even have engineers as members. We’re collaborating to solve the problem and it’s flat out easier to do it at an organizational level. That’s where NUCA comes in.”
Developing Tomorrow’s Workforce
Demand for utility and excavation workers will only grow in the decades ahead. The NUCA KC leadership team is working to fill the pipeline with talent from families that may not be aware of alternatives to traditional four-year college. Privitera says a different path can be much more appealing.
“Consider that a traditional career path through four years of college can leave a graduate with a small income and a huge amount of debt that he or she may be stuck with for a decade or more. Young people who get into trades can avoid deep debt and often grow their income quickly. It just makes a lot of sense to a lot of families who are trying to point their kids in a good direction.”
About a year ago, Andrew helped coordinate a golfing fundraiser to establish a scholarship at Johnson County Community College. He says community colleges are becoming important partners in carving new paths for students interested in trade work.
“Through NUCA KC, we’ve shown students from Kansas City Kansas Community College around local contractor offices just so they’ll know what’s out there. It’s hard for them to have awareness otherwise. And it’s interesting, what they find is there are many opportunities at these companies beyond the trenches. There’s demand for accountants, graphic artists, administrators and a variety of other positions.”
Privitera believes that ideally, NUCA KC needs to raise awareness about contractor careers before kids get to the community college level and even before high school. He says up-close experiences like NUCA KC’s upcoming Dozer Day event give early exposure to some of the best parts of working in the field.
“It’s a great idea we’re borrowing from other NUCA chapters. Why limit kids to toy bulldozers and dump trucks when they can see the real thing too?”
Andrew is excited to talk about all the planning now going on to make Dozer Day a fun community event.
“It’s going to be held at the Kansas Speedway, how fun is that? More than 12,000 people are expected to come out over the two-day event. We're going to put professional operators on driving equipment with kids ages six to 12 for a hands-on feel of the equipment. There will be remote control vehicles for younger kids and even a zip line.”
Rapid growth marked the introduction of NUCA to the Kansas City area and now the passionate pursuit of meaningful goals is shaping the next era under its new leadership team. Tony Privitera believes the late Jim Kissick, NUCA KC’s pioneering President who launched the chapter, would be proud of where it’s all going.
“This is what Jim would have wanted. I try to carry his inspiration forward in being even more devoted to the hands-on work and collaboration required to create positive change for contractors.”
Learn more about the National Utility Contractors Association of Greater Kansas City Region. Ready to join? Activate your membership now.