Charlie Wilson

While working on what to write for my incoming board chair message, I looked back at what some of my predecessors wrote. It was interesting to see how things completely changed from what they said, and I was amazed at how well we all adapted and overcame the obstacles of the last few years.

On January 1, 2020, of what became the beginning of Casey Schwager’s COVID-extended, two-year term as board chair, he wrote about the upcoming November 2020 CAGC Centennial Celebration, the 100+ meetings planned for the year, the Summer Summit in Hilton Head and all the other events we had planned.  As we all know now, all these “live, face-to-face” events were canceled or postponed or made into Zoom meetings, and we were in for two years we could have never expected.  But, as members of the construction industry, we have always found a way to adapt to changes and we, as businesses and an organization, went to work and overcame the obstacles.

Much to their credit, the CAGC staff quickly went to work setting up a COVID Facebook page to keep us informed and provide the latest information to help us continue to do our work while protecting our employees and navigating the ever-changing COVID restrictions.

Our lobbyists—Betsy Bailey, Leslie Clark and Victor Barbour—jumped into action and made sure our industry was deemed essential so we could all keep doing the important work we do in the construction industry in the Carolinas.  Leslie is also leading the charge for badly needed tort reform in South Carolina as chair of an important related taskforce. Betsy secured millions of dollars in North Carolina grant money for COVID training and safety, and CAGC was able to distribute this funding from our foundation to our industry to help cover the costs of the new COVID requirements.

Lawson Pope, Jacob Garmon and Mike Austell never slowed down and, in a time, when it seemed like we would lose a lot of members and sponsors, this excellent CAGC membership team worked hard and maintained strong membership numbers. Our retention rate is running around 95 percent these days and many new members are joining our CAGC family.

We now have Sharrell Janvier, a fulltime Grants and Training director, who is working hard to secure more grant funding in North and South Carolina. That dovetails nicely with Betsy also leading efforts last year to get $5.5 million in the NC State budget for workforce development and to create a HUB academy to train and recruit more minority participation in the construction industry.

Chelsea Andujar did a remarkable job in moving ahead with our meetings and events, with assistance from Sharon Walters and Katie Freseman who quickly pivoted from live events to ZOOM meetings and online info. This team effort provided terrific value to our members virtually as well as teaching Dave Simpson how to look straight into the camera and unmute himself—which was no small feat...  No doubt, Chelsea worked her magic canceling, rescheduling, and planning all our conventions and conferences—all while continuing her efforts to turn the Young Leaders group into a thriving program that is training the future of our industry.

Carolinas AGC Staff

Also, I’m happy to report, we are moving away from virtual events and luncheons to provide the excellent resources we all rely on from CAGC. Now, we are back on track in 2022, with 100+ meetings and events planned.

Dave Simpson, Pat Mixon and all the staff did an amazing job reducing expenses and adding value to keep CAGC in excellent financial shape. Dave’s leadership during the last seven years has allowed us to emerge from some tough financial times and return to a financially strong organization.

Victor Barbour advocated for our NC highway members when the NC DOT budget was a billion dollars in the hole and made sure DOT funding was restored.

Bill Stricker has advocated for our utility division and provided excellent training opportunities to help all of us become better companies.

Lori McGovern has kept all the work CAGC is doing in the news as well as keeping us all informed. And I also must commend our other staffers who are doing a fine job in keeping us on the top of our game, including Cindy Phelps and Melanie Etters. Click here to see a look at our staff and their roles.

Most importantly, we all owe Casey Schwager a big thank you for his excellent leadership during these times. Being a board chair for one year is a lot of work and to do it for two years is an amazing accomplishment. He continued to implement the organization’s strategic plan and kept our board focused on making sure CAGC came out of this ready to grow and serve our members. Thanks to his—and past board chairs’—leadership, we have emerged as a stronger organization.

In 2021, we were able to finally have the CAGC Centennial celebration (325 attendees), resume in-person training and meetings (including 525 attendees at our 2021 Summer Summit), and enjoy seeing each other again. With the new federal infrastructure bill and increased construction funding in both North Carolina and South Carolina, the future looks very good for our industry. While we are grateful for the politicians’ approval of increased funding, our hats are off to the staff and lobbyists of CAGC for helping make this happen, along with our DC partners AGC of America and ARTBA.

Also in 2021, CAGC won the AGC national Chapter Public Relations award for our efforts to support the construction industry by getting a $3.75 million Construction Pandemic Mitigation and Education grant from the state of North Carolina and won the Chapter Workforce Development Award for all the work we are doing to increase our workforce. We were the only chapter last year to win two awards demonstrating the amazing work our CAGC staff does.

All the recent board chairs have picked a theme song for their term. I searched the internet and found “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk 3. The lyrics don’t make a lot of sense, but the title seems perfect for where we are heading. I am honored to be able to serve as the next CAGC board chair and look forward to 2022. I’m sure there will be more COVID challenges, but we are a better organization for all we have been through and I am excited about where we will go from here.