The recession has taken a toll on members of the Associated Builders and Contractors and on the “merit shop” group itself, but officials hope recent local victories against union-only construction mandates will push Congress to enact similar changes.

ABC’s new CEO Bellaman addresses group’s more business-focused convention.
Photo: Garvin Smith, Courtesy Of ABC
ABC’s new CEO Bellaman addresses group’s more business-focused convention.

ABC members were updated on markets and initiatives at “BizCon,” a new-format conference for “strategic leaders,” held on Feb. 24 in Orlando, Fla., that attracted about 350 attendees. ABC Chairman Michael Uremovich, president of Great Lakes Energy Consultants LLC, Manhattan, Ill., admitted the format’s “big risk” but said attendance was not off “that dramatically” from projections.

ABC chief economist Anirban Basu offered a mixed outlook. “Less worse is the new excellent,” he said. “Margins are still terrible, but 2012 will be better,” said Uremovich. He acknowledged that ABC membership is now 23,000, down by 2,000 since 2008.

ABC officials appeared energized by anti-project-labor-pact wins in California last November and initiatives gaining steam elsewhere. The group is strongly backing a House bill that would end PLAs on federal projects. “We’ll play offense now,” said Uremovich. Michael Bellaman, who took over on Feb. 1 as ABC president and CEO, said the group “wants a level playing field, with work awarded to the best firm, regardless of labor philosophy.” The former Bovis Lend Lease executive said ABC also is targeting National Labor Relations Board “reform” as well as safety and “freeing up capital.”

Owner speakers urged contractor attendees to embrace design skills and new tools such as building information modeling.