The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is America’s oldest and largest construction trade association. This article describes the origins of the AGC and the Dallas / Fort Worth Texas chapter of AGC, and provides more information about what the association does for the construction industry.
The AGC was organized in 1919 to address problems discovered during World War I. “The original purpose of AGC was to have a mechanism to mobilize the industry in an emergency situation,” said Raleigh Roussell, President and CEO of QUOIN, the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of AGC. “WWI was the first time America was truly called to mobilize on a global scale and some parts of this mobilization just didn’t work well. One of the areas where this was a big problem was the construction industry. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson went to the country’s leading construction firms and asked them to create an organization to address this, and AGC was the result.”
Since then, the AGC has evolved into the primary voice of the construction industry in Washington DC. They coordinate with OSHA, EPA and other government agencies on regulations, lobby politicians to influence legislation and participate in judicial actions that affect the industry. The national organization maintains a staff of 85 people in Alexandria, Virginia to support its 35,000 members nationwide.
The AGC is also represented by 100 local chapters around the United States. The Dallas Chapter, the first AGC Chapter in Texas, was formed in 1924; the Fort Worth Chapter was established one year later. “There was always a need for the local groups, doing mostly labor-oriented activities,” said Roussell. “That’s why there were separate chapters in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston . . . each local chapter was initially just an individualized, community group. Historically, the local organization had a focus on labor issues. The national organization had a focus on dealing with federal agencies and political issues.”
The 1970s Bring Change to Local AGC Chapters
Over the years, the growth of the Metroplex forced the Dallas and Fort Worth Chapters to function together more closely. “In 1970 the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport was the first real cooperative project between Dallas and Fort Worth contractors,” said Roussell. “We quickly realized that we were going to have a difficult time building an airport that was half in Dallas and half in Tarrant, because there were separate unions in each county. So we put together a group called the North Texas Contractors Association (NTCA). Its goal was to bring the unions into a single regional bargaining process rather than doing it for each separate county. This way we’d have common expiration dates, wages, working rules and so forth. That worked very well.”
The creation of the NTCA carved out a large part of the local AGC chapters’ traditional role, allowing them to pursue new avenues of support for the local construction industry.
In 1971 when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed, Dallas was the first AGC chapter in the country to hire a safety expert. “That was sort of a bell cow of services for the industry,” said Roussell, “in terms of helping members manage their safety, do site audits, do OSHA representation when OSHA came out. OSHA and our safety program has become a big part of what we do, and that’s become a predominate service provided by most AGC chapters across the country. It’s a big part of a contractor’s business.”
As environmental matters became more sensitive, the local AGC chapters became involved with that as well, adding an environmentalist to their staff. “Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations used to be enforced federally,” said Roussell. “Then they became enforced at a state level, and now they’re locally enforced. All municipalities with over 10,000 residents are now required to administer EPA regulations on stormwater run-off. It used to be one entity interpreting the regs one way. Now, in the Metroplex we have 23 cities that are over 10,000 in population so we have 23 different regulators out there. In Arlington they may look at it one way, then you cross over to Grand Prairie and they look at it another way. We realized that we needed someone on our staff who not only knows environmental regulations but is out there building relationships with people who will be doing the inspections.”