Indiana Subcontractors Association Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Overcoming Adversity and Changing with the Times are Keys to Longevity and Industry Relevance
The Indiana Subcontractors Association (ISA) was founded in 1968 as a chapter of the American Subcontractors Association (ASA) with a primary focus on protecting their subcontractor members from what was then viewed as overreaching and unscrupulous general contractors.
In addition, ISA was like a pit bull to general contractors, alerting their members of general contractors that were deemed to have been following bad business practices and even filing numerous law suits against general contractors.
Each member meeting included a members only Business Practices Interchange at which members provided what was supposed to be factual information about work performed for general contractors that the presenter deemed unfair.
ISA also offered a very high-value member service providing its members with lower-than-market health insurance programs. The program also benefited the association as the fees helped to subsidize funding for the ISA.
The combination of the approach to general contractors and the insurance program along with member services such as regular membership meetings resulted in boom years for the association, with chapters of ISA throughout Indiana from Gary to Evansville, South Bend and Fort Wayne.
It was the largest construction association in Indiana.
The boom times began to come to a close with a 1982 lawsuit filed against the Board of Directors, individually and as a board, for breach of contract and other claims initiated by the group’s founding executive director and board secretary, Earl Cox.
Fighting the lawsuit was a protracted affair lasting for several years and draining the association of its funds and ultimately its energies.
By 1991 ISA had only 13 members and $5,000 left in the bank.
Gary Price had served successfully as the Executive Director of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana (ABC) and had recently formed an association management and consulting firm. In 1991, the ISA Board entertained a proposal from Price to become their contracted Executive Director and to provide additional staff support.
At that meeting, ISA’s only 3-time president, Jerry Reynolds of Garage Door Mart noted the group’s dire straights and said that it was time to “roll the dice” and gamble that the agreement could revive the group.
Within a month over 20 new members joined, mostly companies that had worked with Price at ABC.
However, the “business practices interchange” continued though ISA never contacted any general contractors alleging unfair practices and no lawsuits were filed or even discussed.
Membership at that point largely consisted of smaller though very loyal subcontractors.
Through the ensuing years the association grew slowly and to the consternation of some of its members, it continued to pay half of its dues income to continue membership in the ASA.
A basic concern was that ASA had evolved, too, but in ways that did not significantly assist Indiana members. ASA was based in Virginia and grew to be primarily concerned with serving members that were doing business with the federal government. At that time, one would be hard pressed to find a single sub in the ISA membership that was routinely or even occasionally doing federal work.
To many it seemed time to roll the dice again.
During a fractious board meeting around the turn of the century, a very close vote was taken to disassociate with ASA.
Despite concerns to the contrary, only a couple of members quit ISA as a result of the decision. And, from a very practical standpoint, the group was able to virtually double its budget since it no longer had to send half of its dues to ASA.
In addition, the new ISA was committed to treating general contractors and owners as customers to please rather than as the “enemy.” The board determined that developing positive relationships would help in building a productive Indiana construction climate.
Concurrent with the decision to split from ASA was another decision to reach out to larger subcontractors who had largely stayed on the sidelines when it came to ISA.
Price’s former company, The Mattison Corporation, had grown, too, with clients such as (at the time) the Metro Indianapolis Coalition for Construction Safety (MICCS) and the Indiana Construction Roundtable (ICR) under its care. The result was the staff was working intimately with larger subcontractors but as members of these groups and not ISA.
One of the first outreaches was to Darrell Gossett of ERMCO who quickly agreed to join the “new” ISA and became a passionate supporter that was involved in every major decision the group made until his untimely death in 2017. Gossett was able to utilize his connections in the industry to bring many leaders together to form a powerful board.
One of the first new programs introduced during that early era was a “General Contractor of the Year” award program. In its first year, less than 30 people attended the awards presentation. RL Turner won the award that year…with 13 votes.
While it was a small start, it served as a clear indication that ISA had dramatically changed direction and now wanted to work positively with general contractors and the rest of the construction industry.
Throughout the next decade and a half, membership began to dramatically grow through ISA hosting networking and educational forums such as GC Receptions and Project Rollouts. Most every major general contractor in Indiana has held a reception with ISA, in addition to most large projects presented by ISA.
The membership growth was further fueled by the ISA board, under the leadership of Ryan Fireprotection’s Mark Riffey, to roll the dice again and announce the creation of “the construction networking event of the year.” This was announced in November 2006 and was held in February 2007. In the first year, 55 exhibitors and several hundred attendees showed up for what has become a wildly successful event. It was a trade show that featured not only booths, but also “networking pavilions” that included structured time with construction consumers (“owners”), general contractors, developers and design professionals.
The event has become the largest such event in the state. Each trade show is capped off with the GC of the Year awards program. In 2018, 1100 professionals attended.
In 2006, Price stepped down as Executive Director and was replaced by Scott Grimes. Price stayed involved with the organization in oversight and advisory responsibilities until retiring in 2011 after the sale of The Mattison Corporation.
Other past presidents such as Kent Burget, Andy Imes, Kevin Blankenship, Chip Parsley, Randy Adams, and hundreds of volunteers led the creation of what is now one of the largest construction associations in Indiana and certainly one of the most active.
ISA is Committed to the Following Brand Promise
- Connection – Creating opportunities for subcontractors to connect with general contractors, owners, design professionals, suppliers and affiliates in a meaningful way on a frequent basis.
- Dialogue – Represent a trusted and respected voice of the subcontractor industry. This position provides the ISA with the opportunity to have meaningful dialogue with the general contractors, design professionals and owners throughout the year.
- Innovation – Committed to identifying, clarifying and promoting trends that will help provide our members with a competitive advantage.
The ISA does this by promoting Indiana subcontractors, providing education, networking and developing partnerships.
The ISA is a nonpartisan, inclusive organization focused on excellence in the industry.ISA has evolved with the industry and as a result has grown in numbers, service and influence. If history is the best indicator of the future those who celebrate its 100th anniversary will have a rich story to tell.