Convention Down Under

Mike Taylor / December 2016

Steve Etkin, the executive vice president and CEO of the AWCI headquartered in Virginia, and I recently attended the 71st convention of the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries of Australia and New Zealand in Darwin, Australia, and it was a fantastic and insightful visit. It was my first trip to that part of the world, and I must say the Australian people are warm and inviting. Their country is vast with many different cultures melting into one great place. In the Northern Territory, Darwin is quite different from much of the country, with a tropical climate similar to Southern Florida.
    
Even though Australia is on the other side of the world, many of the challenges its wall and ceiling industry face are similar to our issues here in the United States. Increasing taxes, labor-management union discord and a shortage of skilled labor (too few young Australians choose building trade careers) are examples. And while there is a national health care program, it is not a panacea. Employers buy private health care insurance—if they can afford to. Many can’t.
    
Do these issues sound familiar? Perhaps the biggest difference in the two countries is their use of the English language. While their building practices are similar to ours, their terminology left this American somewhat baffled.
    
When not sharing stories about building practices, a popular topic was the U.S. election campaign. As we face many challenges in our country today, it’s still viewed by people in that part of the world with great curiosity—a country they see to be admired and respected. We are blessed to have allies like Australia, and they feel the same way about us.
    
The AWCI of Australia and New Zealand, while much smaller than our AWCI, is strong, with an excellent executive director and outstanding staff. The conference drew more than 300 delegates of which 145 were contractors, 129 manufacturers and 14 were apprentices. I see many good things in the future for their organization.
    
Back at home, we just finished a divisive election campaign.  Now that the country has selected a new president, it is time to put aside our political polarization and work toward uniting all Americans for a better future.
    
I hope all of you are experiencing heavy workloads and solid backlogs. Hope to see you at AWCI’s Convention & INTEX Expo, March 26–30, 2017, in Las Vegas.

In addition to being 2016–2017 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Taylor is executive vice president of Liddle Bros. Contractors, Inc. in Nashville, Tenn.