Tom Daniel never received any formal training in masonry construction. Instead, he cut his teeth in construction as a carpenter starting in 1973, and then by working for a concrete contractor.
He worked in concrete estimating and engineering, and then became regional safety manager for the western U.S. for Concrete Engineering Co. of Omaha. There, Daniel received his background in business and became district manager for Los Angeles. When the market slowed in the recession of the early 1980s, a concrete and masonry contractor convinced Daniel to work for him. He has never looked back.
"I never had a masonry background, but through his company, I learned quite a bit. It was a very interesting process to learn about brick, block, and stone, and their different applications," Daniel says. "In concrete, if they didn't like how your slab looked, they wouldn't hesitate to tell you to tear it out. But very rarely would they tell you to tear a wall down. It seems the quality is much higher in the masonry industry. The people were a lot better, and it's more of a down-to-earth approach to construction."
Daniel bought GBC Concrete and Masonry Construction Inc. in Lake Elsinor, east of Los Angeles, in 1993. "It was a small company," he recalls. "We had a good customer base and with my background with national contractors, it started growing." Sales increased from $2 million when he bought it to $32 million just before the recent recession. About half the business is masonry and the other half concrete.
But while business grew and construction was strong, there was a worrisome undercurrent. Serving on the board of directors of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), Daniel and his colleagues talked about the challenges masons were facing. These included a loss of market share and the lack of opportunities for mason contractors to showcase their products and building materials.
"We saw that our market share was dwindling," he recalls. "A lot of it was from competitors telling designers that masons didn't have enough men to do the work, the quality of construction was not there, and that they could build faster and cheaper." So Daniel and others studied markets where masonry was strongest: the Midwest and Texas. "We looked at those areas to see what was different," he says. "We found that folks had gone into the communities and their city council meetings to see why they were picking those products. A lot of it was that they liked the durability, aesthetics, and life-cycle costs. Looking at this, we asked how we could get our market share back. That's how Vision 2020 was created."
For his dedication to the masonry industry and important work on the Vision 2020 initiative, Masonry Construction has selected Tom Daniel, 56, as its Industry Leader of the Year.
In trying to convince architects that masonry would be the best material for a proposed project, the masons would discover that those design decisions were made at the local level, often at city council and township board meetings. "We found out that those were the decision makers," Daniel says. "They would dictate to the developers what was required."
However, to prepare masons for such meetings with local officials, Daniel, who had become chairman of the MCAA, and others discovered that the information and data was scattered in various places around the country. Two years ago, executive directors from state associations and manufacturer representatives met to create a clearinghouse for all of this material, including seismic studies, R values for insulating heat loss, and fire studies. Daniel credits Mackie Bounds, MCAA president, and Bill Holden of Block USA and former president of the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) for developing the Vision 2020 name and concept.
Vision 2020 would become the place for masons to go. The Web site includes tool kits for masons to download information on case studies, ordinances, and sustainability. If a mason is preparing to meet with a local mayor or community building official, he can find such studies or call on a Vision 2020 committee for assistance. "The concept is to put teams in specific area," Daniel explains. "This would consist of a manufacturer's representative, a contractor, and a marketing person. They would go into a market and visit city councils, designers, and so forth." Similarly, such teams have visited the U.S. Corps of Engineers and U.S. Navy to discuss design and life cycle aspects of military construction.
Daniel serves on the Vision 2020 Joint Oversight Committee. The NCMA and Brick Industry Association also has representatives on this committee. Although the name refers to the year 2020, Daniel believes the fight to regain market share and to make masonry the material of choice "is probably going to be a never-ending process. It is something that is going to be in place forever and is always going to need attention. To get work, you have to get out and meet your customers and contacts. You have to promote yourself. You have to continually refine yourself."
What is Vision 2020?
Vision 2020 is intended as a marketing initiative to reclaim and expand the use of masonry in the construction of high-growth communities throughout the United States and Canada. The program is designed to maximize the available resources and workforce existing within national associations, regional associations, and individual companies within the masonry industry. The program strives to redefine the manner in which the collective industry approaches marketing to achieve both short-term and long-term objectives. Achieving community building ordinances or design guidelines that favor masonry will be a targeted objective.
BRICKBATS Leader of the Year: Tom Daniel