2024: A Busy Year Ahead

I expect 2024 to be a busy year for SMACNA members. 

Aaron Hilger

I expect 2024 to be a busy year for SMACNA members. 

Regionally, record levels of work driven by mega projects are a tremendous opportunity for our industry. There are many challenges to meeting the opportunities, from the availability of skilled labor to, perhaps more challenging, finding project managers and field supervision. One of the best ways SMACNA can serve our members is to work with SMART to fill labor needs. Our joint megaprojects task force meets regularly on these issues. I also recognize that supervision and project management shortages limit contractors’ abilities to bid and manage projects. At the end of 2023, we reorganized our education staff to align with our industry committees. We set up the right structure to increase offerings. This group will assist all departments in developing more programming for our members. It will also bring new project management and supervisory programs forward in 2024.

During the first quarter, there are a lot of opportunities for SMACNA members to engage with labor, prepare for labor negotiations and learn about technology. Once again, Partners in Progress is going to be well attended. This is one of my favorite meetings because we can collaborate to improve market share. We also have two labor programs — the Collective Bargaining Orientation and a joint Mutual Gains Bargaining. Technology-focused members found robust offerings at the SMACNA/NECA/MCAA MEP Innovation Conference in January. This was another meeting that encouraged contractors to think outside of the box and embrace technology. We also have our Association Leadership Meeting. SMACNA is deeply committed to building a stronger association, and the Association Leadership Meeting focuses on association governance and topics you can bring back to your chapter to help it grow and prosper. Chapter executives also participated in our Chapter Executive Institute in late January. This is the best program for Chapter Executives to attend with focused education to help them do outstanding jobs. 

Living full-time in Virginia makes it challenging to ignore the daily drama in Washington and on the campaign trail. Simply put, neither party can govern in the current climate and with a small majority. We are seeing the chaos play out in real-time amidst all the budget fighting, inability to act on border security and failure to move aid for our allies. None of this is made easier because both sides are jockeying for electoral positions. I am reminded of a comment one of my political science professors made in class around 1994: “We get the leadership we deserve — they are the ones we vote for.” Perhaps if more people voted, especially in primaries, democracy would function better. Most voters fall into the middle on most issues. Their collective inaction allows the extremes of either party too much influence.

Meanwhile,  SMACNA is generating tangible progress within the regulatory process. The new independent contractor rules are great for SMACNA members. SMACNA members play by the rules and are harmed when competitors unfairly classify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and benefits. SMACNA’s government relations and regulatory teams, led by Stan Kolbe and Jason Watson, have been constantly engaged in the rule-making process. Their work led to our positions being incorporated into the final text of this and several other rules. I could not be happier with SMACNA’s work on this front.

Since all politics is local, a brief look at state issues is warranted. SMACNA will continue to advance state-level Ventilation Verification legislation. NEMIC has been a great partner in this effort, and we expect several more states to pass legislation in 2024. This creates excellent opportunities for members by getting contractors in the door to do service and projects in public facilities. We will also assist chapters with state and local issues, especially around training chapter executives and members on how to be effective advocates. We can also help if there are issues accessing federal funding and/or tax credits for projects.

I hope 2024 is a productive year for you, your company and your family. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help and support on any issue. The sooner we know about it, the sooner we can help. 
Aaron Hilger is CEO of SMACNA, bringing more than two decades of executive association leadership to this role. Hilger is focused on building a stronger, more competitive environment for all SMACNA contractors.