Different Country, Same Problems

Burke Nicholson

April 2006

Recently, I traveled with eight AWCI members and our executive vice president to Germany to attend the Bautec Trade Show. Bautec is one of the largest construction trade shows in the world, and it is held in Berlin every other year. Every conceivable new product in our industry was there to see, handle and evaluate. We attended seminars on opportunities for construction in Europe. For me, two of the greatest experiences of the trip were the opportunity to renew old friendships and to make new friends in our industry. If you have an interest in learning about our industry outside our country, you should plan to attend one of these trade shows. The next major trade show is Bau, which will be held in Munich, in January 2007.

I read a book recently about the greatest decisions made by our country’s presidents. In particular, I was most impressed with Lincoln’s decision following the Civil War that there would be no retribution.He told the country’s soldiers that we are all Americans, so "go to your homes and families, and learn to live as one.”

The reunification of Germany in 1990 has followed the same course. The wall has come down and billions of Euros have been spent bringing the East up to a par with the West. It was fascinating to see that parts of the wall remain, only because they are protected by a fence so that the memory is not gone.

The seminar I attended was a lot like home. Their problems are similar to ours: They need a larger skilled work force. They need to improve their transportation system. They have big budget problems. They need to cut the bureaucracy and simplify their building code system. They have drug problems with their youth. However, it is clear that Europe is trying to tackle these problems in unison.

Of all my memories, however, the one that stays with me every day is the friendliness, generosity, warmth and hospitality that was shown to us by everyone we met. People went out of their way to assure us that we were welcomed and looked after. You just do not meet with such generous people every day. I wish I could thank them all again, personally.

So from all of us who made the trip, Thank You!