His goal: To increase the association’s membership and participation
Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Sam Cutruzzola, the 2013-14 chair of the Ontario General Contractors’ Association (OGCA) joined Brampton-based Inzola Construction Inc. in 1979, less than a year after graduating from the construction technology program at George Brown College. He is now that company’s president.
He answered some questions about his life experience and his perceptions about the OGCA and industry issues in an interview with Ontario Construction Report’s Mark Buckshon.
Can you tell me what you think are the major things you wish to achieve as OGCA chair?
We renewed our strategic plan in January this year, and developed a new three year plan. We’re looking at that to continue with the growth and development of the membership.
The plan covers a lot of different things – obviously safety is a major issue. We have a great track record and you can never do enough.
Association members have one of the best safety track records in the industry. The new COR (Certificate of Recognition) program from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association has come to the forefront over the past year. Our members are starting to get involved in that. There are now about 11 totally certified COR members, and 50 or 60 members are in the process of achieving certification. And I’m trying to impress on them the importance of this initiative, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because of the awareness and importance it has to our business – especially since owners such as the Toronto Transit Commission are moving to make COR certification a requirement to bid on projects.
The association and the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO) has been quite concerned about bundling. Do you think there is progress in that issue?
We’ve made a lot of headway over the last eight months. They (Infrastructure Ontario and Infrastructure minister Glen Murray) are starting to listen to us.
We understand that in certain projects, such as the Eglington-Crosstown LRT, that since the RFP has already gone out, and they have gone down that road, things can’t be changed as it would be pretty messy to undo an already-issued RFP, but I’m satisfied that they are going to try to break up certain things that are clear breakups.
There could be different stations and a maintenance yard project, for example. These would be easy enough to pull out and we have to work with them and hopefully something can happen as we move down the road.
What do you think about the Ontario College of Trades?
It’s an ongoing issue. Some days it looks like things are a little better. Other days it looks like we haven’t made any headway. We still don’t see where the value is to the industry and the overall affect to our membership, as we have both union and non-union trades companies.
You’ve been an OGCA member for two decades now. What do you think about the membership? Can it be increased?
Three months ago, we set up a membership task force and committee. The OGCA’s membership has held steady in the 200 range for several years – this membership represents the largest bulk of ICI (industrial, commercial and institutional) construction in Ontario. Most of the members stay on for years and only resign when their businesses are acquired or the owners retire and close their companies. However, we think there are plenty of smaller contractors who could really benefit by joining the association and we will be reaching out to them.
Why should a contractor join the OGCA?
The main thing is that we provide a collective voice for all the industry. If you are on a tender with five or six general contractors, and five of them happen to be OGCA members, and there is a serious problem with the documents, the association raises these issues for everybody, whether you are a member or not, and we work with the owner and architect for clearer or simpler documents and reasonable supplementary conditions.
Of course members save money on things like CCDC documents, and the partnership program, with discounts and savings for things like benefits and services … the savings really add up and the list just goes on and on.
Mostly, though we fight for the industry, and this requires our full-time attention. David Frame, for example, works constantly on issues affecting the industry’s relationship with the government.
Can you tell me what the OGCA has done for you, personally?
I got involved in 1993, 20 years ago. I was (relatively) young, but had 10 to 15 years experience. In the scheme of things, this was really nothing. But I had the opportunity to meet and talk with more senior members, who shared ideas and insights, and I started attending the OGCA conferences on a yearly bases, with an awful lot of learning. I’ve been a board member since 1997 and on the executive since 2009. I think the association helped our business by helping me to understand and be at the forefront of things and be more aware – awareness of the big picture.
Inzola construction was founded in 1967 by Sam’s cousins John Cutruzzola, the company’s current CEO, and brothers Frank and Tony, who have since passed away.
Can you tell me a bit about your business?
We’re a mid-size contractor. We have never needed to be the biggest guy in the town. We do what we do well and financially we do fine. Most of our business is from negotiated, repeat contracts, and this has helped us avoid some of the stress that comes from competition in public tendered work and from bundling.
Where do you see things heading in the future?
Looking forward, as an industry, we’re seeing new challenges every day. Multi-nationals are coming in and taking out big portions of the pie. The bigger the project the less people that can compete and it hurts everyone, if you bundle a huge project, and the larger contractors aren’t successful, then they step down and start picking up the work that would have gone to the middle-size contractors. And the mid-size contractors also step down the rung, and everyone keeps fighting among themselves.
That’s why I’m happy with the progress we’ve made in the bundling issue with the minister and IO, and in the success of events such as the Procurement Day, where government procurement officials and industry leaders communicate and learn from each other, and improve the process as a result.
Would you like to share some final words?
One thing as an association, I can’t overstate how strong our membership is, and how good our membership is in terms of co-operating and getting involved. There are great people on the board of directors, sharing issues and concerns, and I think that alone is a tremendous benefit.
I also am truly impressed with the larger contractors who are members of the association. They make their staff available. It’s great for the industry. I wish we could increase our membership and make more people aware of it.
Sponsors support us year after year, and the annual conference has a great turnout – 110 attended in Scottsdale in September. I think if we could show others the benefits of OGCA membership, they would discover why the association is so important and why, once a business joins, it generally stays for decades. There is real value in OGCA membership.
For more information about the OGCA, visit www.ogca.ca.