Mike Dunham has been with AGC Georgia for 27 of his 41 year career as an executive with an AGC chapter. The Shreveport, La.-native grew up on a farm where he and his family raised cotton and soybeans along with being catfish farming pioneers.
He first worked with the AGC chapter in Monroe, La., before moving to Florida to work with the AGC chapter in Jacksonville.
During his career he’s always been an active volunteer with AGC of America and recently completed a two year term chairing the national association’s Executive Leadership Council which also afforded him a position on the AGC of America’s Board of Directors.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- About AGC Georgia
- What are the skills challenges
- How is the construction industry in Georgia
- The winning chapter of the year
- Improving the health of the industry in Georgia and their workforce
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by On pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on the Land of Business Radio, we have Mike Dunham, and he is with Associated General Contractors of Georgia. Welcome, Mike.
Mike Dunham: [00:00:45] Glad to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:46] I am so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about AGC Georgia. How you serving folks?
Mike Dunham: [00:00:54] Well, AGC Georgia is a statewide construction trade association serving the commercial construction industry. We’ve been around since 1928, and our members are the very large contractors. People would see downtown Atlanta with the tower cranes, but we also have family owned businesses, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters across the state representing the commercial industry. They’re the folks that build your schools, your churches, your hospitals, and some do nothing but public works. And some of them only build your grocery stores and your corner CVS pharmacy.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:28] So what’s your backstory? How’d you get into this line of work?
Mike Dunham: [00:01:31] I was just lucky. I actually had a job working for my university back in Louisiana, where I grew up and went to school and a placement service said, hey, we have an interview with this organization called AGC, and I almost didn’t go. And by luck, my boss at the time pushed me out the door. And I went in and I sat down and talked to three contractors, and they took a risk on a kid and gave him a job in 1981, running a small chapter in Louisiana. And I’ve been with the organization now 43 years, first in Louisiana, spent eight years there and then went down to Jacksonville for six. But I’ve been here in Georgia since 1995.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:10] Now, what are some of the benefits for the members to being a part of an association like AGC?
Mike Dunham: [00:02:15] Well, Lee, I try to make it simple for folks and tell them we’re here to help contractors be the best contractor they can be, and we’re also here to help build a better industry. So we do that in a lot of ways. Right now, everybody’s big issue is workforce. We need more people. So we spend a lot of time building a better industry and helping contractors by working in the area of workforce. Construction is a very regulated industry. All the governmental agencies have a permit, a fine dollar they have to extract from the construction industry. So we work very hard in our governmental affairs operation, representing the industry and contractors both at the Capitol and in every governmental agency that does that work. Safety is a big element of our industry. That’s very important and has been always. And then we do all the fun things. We know we have the golf tournaments and the barbecues and the and the conventions so that people can get to know each other and do business together.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:14] Now, you mentioned kind of some of the challenges regarding talent, how what are those challenges and how does your association help alleviate them?
Mike Dunham: [00:03:24] Well, we’re as a as a country. We’re just seeing a declining birth rates so there’s fewer people to work. So everybody’s in the challenge of looking for talent. And what we found many years ago is you can’t wait to a student gets in the ninth grade and say, have you thought about construction? So we’ve moved that, uh, initiative down as far as the second grade, fifth grade middle school. They introduce a career path for young people to see construction as a viable, uh, job opportunity. And we spent way too long saying, everyone has to go to college. Everyone needs to go to college. Well, it’s just not true. People can make a very good living being an electrician or a plumber or a mason, or working a, uh, as a carpenter. So we try to help young people know the industry, see the opportunities, we try to educate their parents and all those folks that influence a young person’s life. Um, we start bringing that attention. In addition, we’ve got three really good construction programs here, uh, in the state of Georgia Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. So if a young person does want to go on to college and get a degree in construction management and go on to be a superintendent or project manager or even a company owner, uh, we have that opportunity. So our association and our membership work real hard supporting these high school programs and these university programs to show a career path.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:56] Um, I’m with you 100% in, uh, to give a young person kind of all the information so they can make their own judgment of what to do with their life and their career. Um, can you share maybe how the construction industry of today is different than it was maybe when you got started, you know, 30, 40 years ago?
Mike Dunham: [00:05:16] And that’s pretty easy. Uh, construction is a very technology based, uh, uh, industry. Um, when I started, everything was a hard bid process of turning a number. The low number got the job today. Construction is very dynamic. And how it market, the companies market themselves and how the the projects delivery systems have changed. And technology. Uh, I saw a gentleman do a roof take off using a slide rule. And today there’s not very many people that have ever even seen one, much less understand how they operate today. Computerization. We’ve got projects that don’t even have paper on the job. Everything’s off a tablet. And so communications is driven, uh, change. Technology’s driven change. Um, so, um, it’s it’s quite a dynamic, uh, industry. We’ve seen a lot of changes in actual just construction itself, modularization and components of delivery, where, uh, it’s, um, you know, done in, uh, uh, in a way so that it’s, uh, pre fabricated, which is really changed things up.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:28] Now is the, um, the person that is a, uh, in the construction industry today similar like, do they have to be big and strong? Is it kind of that stereotype of what a construction worker looks like in terms of size and strength, or is it because there’s so much technology involved? You don’t have to be the biggest and strongest person to be successful.
Mike Dunham: [00:06:51] Well, you’ve heard it, you know. Don’t work harder, work smarter. Uh, I industries learn to adapt and use the technology to help deliver the product. Uh, we are constantly encouraging young women to look at our industry as a career path. They can be very successful. In fact, a lot of people know that women tend to be more detail oriented. And in their roles, uh, uh, can fill a big need in our industry and our blueprint reading, uh, competition that we do annually around the state. Uh, most of the time women are very successful and win those things because they are so attention, uh, have so much attention to detail. So, yeah, I was one of those big guys, though, when it was a wheelbarrow to be pushed. I was your man.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:38] But it sounds like things are changing, that there is technology and help, and maybe with some robotics that can help a person, that you don’t have to be the biggest person anymore to go down this path. If you have an interest or a desire to learn about it, this might be a good career path for you. Even though you may not be the the biggest kid in the on the playground.
Mike Dunham: [00:07:57] Well, absolutely. We have a tool. It’s called youth Science that, uh, high school students have access to. And when they take the tool, it gives them an idea of what their interest, where their interest might lie and with their aptitudes. And what we’re finding through that youth science tool is that there’s a very large population of students that not only would have an interest in our industry, but would be very good at it based on their, their, uh, aptitude. So, um, it’s an exposure. Uh, they’ve not grown up into a family of construction or been around it. They may just have never thought about it. And that’s what our job is, is to introduce that opportunity. Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:37] And I think that, um, people don’t really appreciate when you’re in the, in the construction industry, there is so much reward in the sense that at the end of the day or the end of the project, you can see what you’ve been working on and that it exists now and that lives on beyond you. Um, and, and you don’t get that kind of satisfaction in a lot of other industries or jobs.
Mike Dunham: [00:09:01] That’s true. That’s a true statement. I’m sure that everyone that worked on the Mercedes Benz Stadium, that goes to an event there, they probably don’t go to that, that venue or leave it without telling somebody, hey, I built this or look up in that ceiling. I put those bolts in. And every day you drive down the, uh, the road, you see projects that you can point to, and you can have this success of saying, you know, I built that, um, and this state’s got a lot going for it. You know, we’ve been recognized as the best place to do business between our port, our airport, the growth of our car plants and the businesses and industries that have been brought here, there’s just going to be a tremendous opportunity for anyone in the business for many years to come.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:46] So speaking of many years to come, what’s if you look in your crystal ball, are you bullish about what’s happening in Georgia regarding construction and some of the work being done and is continuing to being done?
Mike Dunham: [00:09:59] Well, it have to be careful because I’m extraordinarily optimistic on everything I do. And so when I look at Georgia, I just think it’s going to be the best place in the entire South to be it working. We just recently had a presentation on the expansion plans of our port. Uh, they’re they’re even working on, uh, shortening or, uh, lengthening the bridge so that it’s taller for more bigger ships to go under. Uh, the growth of our, uh, industries that we brought here, the economy, quality of life. Um, there’s, you know, it’s just going to be a really great place to live. And I think our school systems bode well for the future of our state. So the economy is very bright in Georgia.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:44] I think one of our, um, part of the secret sauce of Georgia is just the diversity of industries. We have so many different industries, uh, clustered here that if one industry is down, some some other industry is up, and there’s always something to do. I think that that’s really a competitive advantage for Georgia.
Mike Dunham: [00:11:03] You know, we lead uh, I think we’re third in the country on fortune 500 headquarters, New York City, Houston, because of the oil industry. And Atlanta, we have more fortune 500 headquarters here, excuse me than any place in the country. And so with that kind of leadership and people seeing that this is where they want to relocate their headquarters, we’ve certainly brought the, the, uh, movie industry here. And I think we’re the second largest behind California now with our movie industry, uh, the two big car plants, Rivian and Hyundai and the growth around that. Um, so it’s very encouraging for what we see, uh, in the way of attracting businesses and headquarters here. So, um. Exciting times.
Mike Dunham: [00:11:52] Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:52] And then you couple that with the, you know, the airport and then the ports that you were saying is that we, we touch so many different industries and have so many needs from a job and career standpoint. It’s attracting people from all over the country because, you know, the quality of life here a lot of times is better here than it is elsewhere.
Mike Dunham: [00:12:14] I absolutely believe that’s true. Um, and so, um, uh, you know, if we have challenges, it’ll be keeping up with the growth potential. Uh, one of the issues, and you see it a lot discussed, uh, affordable housing, making sure that our, our communities grow in such a way that it’s it’s there for everyone. When a single plant can say, we got 8500 new jobs, it’s going to be a lot of demand for new housing around that. New housing means we’re going to have to have a new elementary school. It’ll it’ll be a demand for a new grocery store in that community. And you can see where this just all adds to construction. Every time I hear the word economic development, the first word you have to think about is construction. And that’s the reason we put so much emphasis in workforce development to keep up with that construction. We like to say that good workforce development makes for good economic development, and the two just go hand in hand.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:11] Well, tell us a little bit about winning chapter of the year. Um, congratulations number one. But, uh, what’s the secrets? What are some, uh, tips for the other people out there that are vying for it next year?
Mike Dunham: [00:13:25] You have to have a very engaged membership. Uh, we we’re very fortunate to have the kind of leadership at our chapter board of directors. We have the membership that takes advantage and engages with what we have to offer. Um, but that success really lies with having a great team. Uh, the staff here at AGC, Georgia is one of the best. Uh, besides myself, uh, there’s three other people that have been at the chapter for for 25, 27 and 30 something years apiece, plus myself at 30 something years or almost 30 years now. So there’s a lot of talent, a lot of energy. But the best ingredients there is passion. They enjoy what they do. They enjoy servicing and working with our members. So, um, it was a very strong year all the way around. And what we did with workforce and down at the Capitol and advocacy. So when AGC of America got to looking at the chapters that submitted for chapter of the year. Uh, we were very, very proud to be selected.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:26] So what do you need more of? How can we help?
Mike Dunham: [00:14:29] Oh, as in the nonprofit organization, like, uh, like we are, we always like to, uh, recruit new members. You know, we love to grow our organization. We love to bring new members in. We love to introduce them to our industry. Uh, so there’s that opportunity. Um, I tell everybody, all I need is another couple of million dollars and some more staff we take on the world. So you’re challenged by your limitations and budget and size to address issues. But I think we do a very, very good job of it. So we’re constantly saying if you’re interested in helping build a better company, if you want a stronger, uh, construction business or if you have an interest in making a better industry, AGC is where you need to be.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:16] So if somebody wanted to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team. What’s the website?
Mike Dunham: [00:15:23] It’s w w w a d c g a. Dot org.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:28] Well Mike, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Mike Dunham: [00:15:34] Glad to be here. Thank you very much.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:36] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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