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Major Ogilvie talks with yardman Jeff Hill at Block USA's plant in Birmingham, Ala.

Question: What do beef, milk, cotton, and concrete masonry have in common?

Answer: All of these industries have or will have check-off programs, if Major Ogilvie has anything to do with it. Pushing the legislation through the U.S. Congress and talking up its merits to concrete block producers across the country is taking up almost all of his time these days.

It's a major undertaking for someone who is a relative newcomer to concrete masonry. Ogilvie, 53, a native of Birmingham, Ala., which he still calls home, was a star running back for two of the University of Alabama national championship football teams under coaching legend Bear Bryant. He then toiled in the paper industry for 20 years, first for a small company where he was a broker. He then started his own paper company, developing new products and technologies, before joining Block USA in 2003.

Shortly thereafter, three major associations—the Brick Industry Association, Mason Contractors Association of America, and the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA)—formed Vision 2020. The goal: Convince all city planners, communities, and towns to make masonry the primary building material for their communities.

While the effort was admirable, Ogilvie today says it had one major shortcoming. “Vision 2020 was a tremendous plan, but we didn't have any money to capitalize and execute it,” he says. “Leadership of our industry then started to look around to see what we can do to better and more consistently fund marketing, promotion, education, and research.”

He went to the nation's capitol to see if any federal money was available for research and other initiatives, but many members of the associations did not want a government handout. Besides, there wasn't any money available anyway.

Ogilvie then learned about check-off programs which had become popular in the agricultural industry. He became national chairman of the National Concrete Masonry Check-Off Program in fall 2010 and immediately hosted a group of industry leaders called the Champions Group in Dallas in December 2010. “We gained a level of support from people nationwide,” he recalls. “We came up with a game plan.”

For his tireless efforts in promoting and seeking approval for the National Concrete Masonry Check-Off Program, TCP names Major Ogilvie a 2012 Industry Influencer.

Fly-ins

There are already 23 other commodity check-off programs in the U.S. Ogilvie has been instrumental in getting the legislation before Congress which would authorize creating the program for concrete masonry, and he has been hosting “flyins” to gain support.

If both the Senate and House of Representatives accept the plan, which may happen before the end of 2012, the concrete block producers must give approval before the program can be implemented.

“The only real objection is folks not wanting government to be involved,” Ogilvie explains. “I understand that a little, but the check-off programs have helped industries tremendously to better promote and grow their industries, particularly small family-owned businesses with commodity products like our own. They enjoy a strong record.”

Most of the 350 U.S. concrete block producers are small, family-owned businesses. Many are concerned about chipping in 1 cent for every block produced, money that is hard to come these days.

“Some folks have reservations about paying the assessment or establishing the program, but every producing company in the country I have talked to realizes we've got to do something better to promote, market, research, and educate people about our products,” he says. “If somebody has a better plan that will help us do that, I am fine with it. NCMA has a voluntary program, but it's a pittance of what we need to do to properly promote our products.”

Ogilvie estimates the industry is currently doing only one-quarter of the marketing and research it needs. “It's not sufficient, adequate, and consistent to accommodate what many of us in the industry believe we have to do,” he says.

Ogilvie stresses that NCMA and the check-off program would operate independently and have separate boards of directors. (Ogilvie is on NCMA's board.) NCMA and other organizations will continue conducting research and doing lobbying and government affairs work because check-off funds cannot be used for lobbying.

One issuue the program can address is updating concrete masonry design. “A lot of designers are using old technologies from the 1980s and '90s,” he says. “Those designs are penalizing our products today. It's a critical part of what we need to do. There are several areas where I believe a check-off program will make a difference for our industry. Wind and fire resistance, sustainability and life-cycle costs are important values we need to promote to our customers.”

For more information on the Concrete Masonry Check-Off Program and to see a video presentation by Major Ogilvie, visit the program's website at www.cmucheckoff.com.


How the Check-off Program Would Work
  • Congress must approve allowing the concrete masonry industry to establish the program.
  • If a majority of concrete block producers agree to the program, each producer will be assessed 1 cent per unit produced.
  • Government does not collect the funds. A third-party entity accountable to the board does so.
  • An industry-nominated board will manage the money. Major Ogilvie estimates collecting $8 million to $10 million annually, based on current volume estimates. The board will monitor and evaluate the program's results.
  • The industry selects a slate of nominees from different size companies from various regions. The secretary of the agency overseeing the program appoints 21 voting board members from this slate of nominees.
  • The funds can only be used to support research, education, and promotion within the industry and will fund both regional and national initiatives.