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Speak Up

AGC is a better organization when we each engage

By Sarah Lefebvre


y mom never learned to swim or ride a bicycle. These were activities that fascinated her while also instilling a certain amount of anxiety. As children, we could barely grasp the idea of not being able to do either one, and we would pester her over and over about whether she was sure, and why not, and maybe she should learn how.

When any of us think back to our childhoods we can remember what my mom felt—before we learned ourselves. These were skills that were not easily attained and required persistence, and even more exciting, the concept of DANGER! Remember the thoughts of possible drownings (or at least getting water up the nose) and the certainty of scabbed knees and abraded palms? And yet most of us did learn, can do both with confidence, and have only a dim memory of how it came to be.

As Election Year 2022 (finally!) comes to a close, the Associated General Contractors of Alaska, or AGC, is preparing for what comes next. The elections and their dramatic results are just the first step of the full public process, which is “the formulation and administration of public policy usually by interaction between social groups and political institutions or between political leadership and public opinion.” But what does this have to do with swimming or biking? We’ll get to that.

AGC of America was established in 1918 after a request by President Woodrow Wilson, who recognized the construction industry’s national importance and desired a partner with which the government could discuss and plan for the advancement of the nation. In September 1948, ten people met in Seattle to form an Alaska chapter of AGC. As Alaska grew, so did AGC.

AGC of Alaska’s mission statement identifies advocacy as one of our three tenets. “The mission of AGC of Alaska is to advocate for our members and the Alaskan construction industry.”

ad•vo•cate (verb) To plead or argue in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy

Our chapter has a long and respectable history of advocating, of being the voice of the construction industry in Alaska. While we rely heavily on our executive director to engage in ongoing dialogue, member engagement is key to ensuring that the message serves and voices the needs of the contracting community.

Our AGC membership likes to be involved in networking, training, conferences, and committees, but there is a leap from that engagement to our advocacy efforts, and this is where we go back to those childhood lessons.

ad•vo•cate (noun) a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.

Advocacy from the outside instills very similar emotions to those childhood lessons of learning to swim or ride a bicycle—it looks very complicated and there is a lot of apprehension about doing it right and not getting hurt or embarrassed. However, it absolutely is a skill that can be learned, and even more so, one that can be developed through small steps. And AGC is here to hold your hand—no shoving off the edge of the deep end here! (Well, not usually…)

Frequently the ticket to getting involved in an issue is when it has become personal for one of our members—a statute or regulation that impedes or negatively impacts their operation, a public policy that doesn’t make practical sense, an agency specification that has become outdated, and so on. Other issues are addressed because of their global nature affecting the construction industry; and still others are areas where we as an organization recognize the need to be proactive to offset an unfolding challenge.

AGC is structured to step in and be responsive to member concerns, working with us to address these challenges in whatever way they are presented. Sometimes (rarely) a remedy is readily administered, but more often the particulars require the use of public process to move it along. AGC’s committee structure is frequently the first line of defense in determining the path forward to resolve an issue. This is also the easiest way to try on the concept of advocacy for yourself. By joining a committee, you become familiar with the issues as they arise, and within the committee structure others will model the skills required to achieve resolution. Over time, your experience on the committee and in the industry will give you both the confidence and desire to engage on the topics as they arise. Careful! From here it is a fairly easy stride to the more engaged aspects of advocacy.

Some issues require public comment, written or verbal, or making a call or two to advocate regarding the issue at hand. Others are addressed by committees and/or by meeting with public officials or agency representatives to dialogue an issue out.

What can you do to learn this new skill and become part of our collective voice?

  • Become an engaged committee member
  • Attend the Legislative Affairs Committee policy sessions
  • Become a 49er and attend related events
  • Participate in the Legislative Fly-In
  • Review the board meeting correspondence section

Soon AGC will be planning the 2023 Legislative Fly-in, which is frequently perceived as one of the most intimidating advocacy efforts we engage in. I encourage you to consider joining us this year. You can watch, listen, and learn—you will likely be surprised at the value you bring just by being there.

It “takes a village” or rather, an organization, to realize our full potential. When it comes to advocacy, feel the fear and do it anyway. You will be amazed at how well you can ride or swim.