BY WARREN FREY - The open shop sector is going Hawaiian. American and Canadian open-shop associations and members will attend Bizcon 2014 and the 8th International Open Shop Conference, which have been combined at the Grand Wailea hotel in Maui, Hawaii from Feb 10. to Feb. 13.
"It's all about enhancing the contractor learning experience by putting together a larger platform of speakers," said Stephen Kushner, president of Merit Contractors Association of Alberta. “We’ve taken the major role, along with the ICBA (Independent Contractors and Businesses Association), in organizing and hosting the event, and bringing together the major topics of discussion. We’ve done this before, taking on the lion’s share of other conferences.”
The conference marks the first time Canadian open-shop associations and the US.-based Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) have come together for a joint event.
ABC has sent delegations to past IOSC events held in Canada, but neither organization has previously attempted to combine the two organizations on such a scale.
The combined nature of this conference, Kushner said, added a layer of complication.
“It was a year-long process from the idea to pulling it off,” Kushner said, adding that the conference has a very different format from previous outings.
IOSC8 combines American and Canadian content for two days before focusing completely on Canadian issues for the last day.
He emphasized that the conference is focused on giving its delegates a broader strategic view, with the international focus giving them a different context with which to view the latest trends and opportunities.
“Delegates will come away with new ways of thinking about executing construction projects and it also provides an interesting networking opportunity,” Kushner said.
Contractors will also be able to hear the issues and challenges facing others doing similar work in different jurisdictions.
“A unique part of the conference is the ability for the Canadian contingent to rub shoulders with their U.S. counterparts. It’s a chance to trade information and expertise that happens very rarely and will have lasting impacts for those attending,” said ICBA president Philip Hochstein.
“British Columbia in particular is becoming a much more international marketplace, with our resources going around the world and building projects here for foreign owners. We need to develop an international perspective.”
Sessions include a talk on leadership by Cmdr Kirk Leopold, the retired commander of the USS Cole, as well as Catherine Swift from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on unions and public services.
Reed Construction Data Canada vice president and general manager Mark Casaletto will present an economic outlook session at Bizcon in conjunction with ABC’s chief economist, Anirban Basu.
Hochstein also highlighted an IOSC session presented by Stephen Bauld about dispelling the myths about project bundling.
“It’s a big issue in B.C., getting bigger in Saskatchewan and Alberta,” he said.
“It’s a huge issue in any jurisdiction.”
Kushner also pointed to sessions focusing on lean construction and the increased importance of energy markets to the construction sector as part of the “big thinking” focus of the conference.
The conference will include all eight provincial Merit Associations, as well as Merit Canada.
The conference is also an opportunity for both Merit and ABC executives to hold board meetings and collaborate, Kushner said.
They had previously established a joint taskforce to see how they could work together.
Hawaii wasn’t just a randomly selected location.
“It’s not just the speakers, it’s also an attractive venue,” Hochstein added. “You shouldn’t underestimate the draw of the location.”
The Journal of Commerce will live-blog, produce video and tweet from the conference, which can be followed on Twitter with the #bizcon14 and #iosc8 hashtags or at www.journalofcommerce.com.