Dandrea talks balance and 2021 rebound

By D.Ann Shiffler01 December 2020

According to SC&RA CEO Joel Dandrea, 2020 was the most challenging year of his 20 years leading the Association.

“Covid-19 threw a great unknown, not only to our country, but to the world,” he said.

Three days after Election Day and the presidential election still undecided at the time of our interview, Dandrea described the United States as “clearly out of balance with many divisive issues.”

Lead photo Joel Dandrea

Joel Dandrea, CEO of SC&RA, recently celebrated 20 years with the Association. 

Thinking back to 2001 and the terrible terrorist attacks of 9-11, Dandrea said “the country affirmatively came together on a united, patriotic front to fly the flag, regain traction and stand up.”

Ever the optimist, Dandrea is confident the country will effectively “rebound” in 2021, like it did in the aftermath of 9-11.

“I’ve talked to many business owners in our space, dozens of association leaders, political consultants and lobbyists, and family and friends from all over the country on both sides of the political parties and who have many different business interests,” he said. “While some are well positioned and making solid progress, others are facing considerable challenges. In addition to standard business issues, there is a healthy dose of mental exhaustion.”

What does Dandrea think it will take to achieve the balance that is needed to beat back Covid-19, a struggling economy, a battered political process and a divided electorate?

“We have to have the constitution, resolve and absolution of a prize fighter,” he said. “It’s going to require hope, resolve, faith, patience, perspective and, perhaps most of all, commitment.”

Further, the good news is that the crane, rigging and specialized transportation sector is well-poised to lead the way to a better America and world, he said.

“Our Association is supported by a very loyal, dedicated and hardworking membership,” he said. “Thank God we serve an industry that is so critically essential to the U.S. and the global economy. Our ability to get that essential critical infrastructure designation at the onset of the Covid-19 crises from Homeland Security enabled our industry to continue on two feet and move forward. While our industry has been challenged, many other industries have it far worse and will require much more time and financial resources to bounce back.”

It was a breath of fresh air to sit down with Dandrea and get his take on what is happening and what needs to happen. He leads the SC&RA with an intelligent and informed resolve and a true servant heart.

I think you will be interested in what he has to say about the industry and what it will take for our country to “rebound” for better times.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, how do you characterize the crane, rigging and specialized transportation sector?

On the whole we are doing good. While it could be better, it could be far worse for our members. On the whole, we are doing pretty well. There are some small niches and pockets that are doing extremely well. And there are some companies here and there, for different reasons, struggling and will require more time and support to bounce back. Cash is king; the more leveraged a company is coming back from 2020, the greater the challenge. If you have a stable workforce, you hold the Queen of Hearts.

How do you characterize the general membership status of SC&RA?

We are in a good place. I’m encouraged by the feedback and reports for dues renewal. October, November and December are big membership renewal months, and it’s the time of year when our members are reporting gross revenues from the prior year and recommitting for the following year.

We take pride in being able to get a general retention rate of 90 percent in good years, and we’ve been as high as 92 percent. After 9-11 we fell to 88 percent, and after the financial crisis of 08 and 09, we dropped back to 88 percent. Back then we saw a lot of merger and acquisition activity, and still we were able to bounce back to 90 to 91 percent in a couple of years.

Our membership is comprised of entrepreneurs and people who have the strongest work ethic and take extremely great pride in the work that we do. And they are fighters. There are segments that are hurting – the oil and gas industry is down. Wind power was a strong segment, but it has seen retraction.

There are different cycles and sectors that are challenged at different times. But because of the essentiality of our industry, it is resilient. While we have a lot of competition among members, we are also very united as a group. Members call members every day. There are times that a regulatory issue will create a divide, but it’s only temporary. At the end of the day, this is an industry that comes together.

Can you explain SC&RA’s concrete pumper initiative?

A couple of years ago, we met with representatives from the concrete pumping sector with regard to the synergies our two sectors have in common. It became apparent that we had an opportunity to embrace the concrete pumping segment of the construction industry that often partners and networks with our members.

Whether it’s a transportation or crane and rigging issue, we work with and are aligned with many of the same suppliers and insurance companies. It was an opportunity to open up another membership category and invite them in for education, advocacy, networking and business development. For the most part, concrete pumper operators are operating articulating cranes. In addition to transportation safety, issues they face include overhead powerlines, ground stability and OSHA issues. There are many commonalities.

And NCCCO WiLL soon Offer a concrete pumper certification?

Yes. We talked with NCCCO about concrete pumping becoming a segment of our membership and they recognized, as an independent certification body, that developing a concrete pumper certification would provide this sector with a quality program for certification. They put in place a task force to build the program and we are optimistic that certification will be in place in 2021.

After canceling the 2020 Annual Conference and hosting an online version of the Crane & Rigging Workshop, SC&RA intends to hold in-person events in 2021. How Did this decision evolve?

We’ve listened to many, many different opinions and thoughts from our members in the U.S. and abroad. We’ve conducted surveys and it became clear that one of the greatest values of membership is networking and educational opportunities. A considerable portion of our membership want us to get back to in-person meetings.

After all this dialog with the membership and discussions with our hotel partners, we decided to go back to live meetings later in 2021. We fully recognize, appreciate and respect that there are members who will attend and participate and there are members who cannot yet make the commitment. Because of escalating Covid restrictions, we’re working on summer and fall dates for the Board and Committee Meetings, Specialized Transportation Symposium and Annual Conference.

What is the SC&RA Safe protocol that has been developed for meetings?

To safely hold our meetings, we have to follow CDC guidelines, procedures and protocols. The hospitality industry has been hammered by Covid-19, but we are seeing the needle starting to move back to live meetings. SC&RA Safe is the result of our gathering a lot of information to put together a protocol that will require masks, assure social distancing and a number of other things that are a common thread to moving back to live meetings.

We’ve always taken pride in responding to our members and giving them different options. Going back to live meetings in 2021 affords those members who are comfortable with following these safety protocols with the networking and educational opportunities they need. We all have to move ahead with great caution, and we’ve got to follow safe protocols.

SC&RA is working on launching a new meeting App. What will it involve?

We introduced our first meeting app about seven years ago and utilization has increased with each meeting. Our new app will have the same features as the old one, but it will also incorporate much more information including news, a membership directory and related events information.

What led to SC&RA’s Environmental Policy initiative?

We have over the years dealt with different environmental issues at the federal and state level. Sometimes they have been relevant to the manufacturers and other times more relevant to the crane and rigging and trucking operations. Our leadership determined we needed to address environmental issues consistently and thoroughly. So, we decided to develop an Environmental Policy Committee. Our members have done a great job within their own space addressing and complying with many of these issues. Our Association will focus on being more proactive from an advocacy and education standpoint.

How is SC&RA approaching its advocacy campaigns in 2021?

At the top of our advocacy agenda is an infrastructure bill. We know that once there is an infrastructure package passed, it will be great for our entire industry, whether you are in transportation, crane and rigging or manufacturing. A stimulus bill is another priority, and it’s possible it will be tied to an infrastructure bill.

Politics and divide have held back this legislation. We have confidence that we will see this legislation move forward in 2021. The infrastructure bill has been high on the radar, and Republicans and Democrats see it as critical, essential legislation.

As for UPT2021, we have stayed firm and continued to work with state and federal agencies to ensure that we don’t lose momentum with regard to our initiative for automation, harmonization and permit uniformity among the states. We’ll continue to address the never-ending crane and rigging issues introduced at both the federal and state levels.

Did you pick up any hobbies or past times during quarantine? Any New Year’s resolutions?

2020 has been a mental, physical and emotional challenge. Getting outside and exercising helps clear the head and gain perspective. In the early mornings, late at night and on weekends I’ve spent a lot of time outside – running, walking and playing golf. Family time has been a strong focus for me. I am still blessed to have great brothers and sisters, and my children, who I talk to a lot.

2020 has been a challenge to keep your attitude in check and to fight through the BS. I have tried to read a little more and listen to music more. And to turn off the news.

As far as New Year’s resolutions, it’s pretty simple. Never run for public office, maintain sanity and never give up. I approach the future with words I heard a lot as a kid: Faith is greater than fear. I love my job and the people I work with. I’ve been here 20 years because the people in this industry have been the life blood that have been my source of focus, stability and professional fuel. They provide the balance and passion I need. Our staff and our members get it. They work hard and play hard. We know we serve a critical role in the economy. We are fighters, and right now more than ever, it’s going to require great fight, great resolve and great perspective.

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