Our Rich History

 

In The Beginning...
The year was 1917 and the World War I armistice was still a year away, when a small group of general contractors established the Associated Building Contractors of Fort Wayne. Under the leadership of President MAX IRMSCHER, one of the ABC's main objectives was to negotiate several labor contracts with unions that were beginning to form.

Articles of Association for the Builders Association of Fort Wayne, Indiana were adopted in 1925 as ALBERT WEINMANN assumed the presidency. Besides Weinmann, others involved in writing the Articles were GEORGE M. IRMSCHER, JAMES M. MULLEN, ART RODENBECK, FRED H. EROTE, and W. A. SHEETS.

A milestone in the ABC's history came on October 26, 1934, when it became incorporated as the ASSOCIATED BUILDING CONTRACTORS OF FORT WAYNE under the laws of Indiana. One of the activities of the corporation, lead by then President WALTER J. KRONMILLER, was to promote the formation of associations for subcontractors, building supply dealers, architects, and engineers. In fact, a subcontractor had to belong to such an association before eligible for active membership in the ABC.

In 1943, the association was reorganized with JEROME WERSTEIN serving as executive secretary. The association had employed its first staff. A permanent office was located at 406 East Lewis Street, and the value of the furniture and equipment was declared at approximately $1000. The new office was the site for many a card game as well as a bank of slot machines that helped to maintain a low level of dues to finance operations.

In 1944, the organization's purposes were expanded to include legislative affairs, architect and building owner relations, and the promotion of vocational training schools. NORBERT J. SCHENKEL served as president during the reorganization and presided over a thirty-man board of directors.

The General Contractors Association, Inc. was the name adopted in 1953 as the association experienced another reorganization. Any builder engaged as a mason, carpenter, or general contractor could become a member. After an initiation fee of $5, the yearly dues were $20, and $30 if a general hired both carpenters and masons regularly.

In 1965, JAMES N. FOOHEY became the new executive secretary, and the office was moved to 3414 North Anthony Boulevard. The corporation was renamed the Associated Building Contractors. Furthermore, active members were again limited to general contractors while subcontractors were classified as affiliates.

Following are the directors who served on the twelve-person board in 1966: HARRY CURTIS, President; WILLIAM KERR, JOHN LANGAS, HARMON O. HENSLEY, K. JAMES MILLER, RAYMOND KINDER, PAUL E. BERCOT, GERALD G. DEHNER, SENECA TERRY, A. W. KETTLER, JR., DONALD L. PARKER and HOWARD MARTIN.

In 1971, the Association bylaws and membership class descriptions were again revised to drop the differential between general and subcontractors, as both classes were eligible as regular members.

GARY L. LOVELESS assumed the position of Executive Director in 1975, and the organization began a rapid expansion of programs with greater involvement in community affairs. During 1975, the office was located in Suite 126 of the Franklin Office Building on Goshen Road. The First Annual Trade Show sponsored by the ABC at Memorial Coliseum in 1977 attracted nearly 900 attendees and 60 exhibitors.

On February 1, 1980, JERRY GINTHNER joined the staff as Executive Director. An indication of the ABC's commitment to Fort Wayne's growth was the 1981 campaign to obtain finances for economic development that raised $165,000.

The Building Contractors Association of Fort Wayne, Inc. became the new name for the corporation in 1983 and efforts commenced which would result later in significant modifications in the organization. During 1984-1985, a transition committee formulated new programs and internal alterations in order for the BCA to meet the changing conditions within the industry.

1986 found the headquarters being moved into a larger office in Suite 200 of the Franklin Office Building. The BCA took a leap into the future as the Board of Directors approved funding for the BCA's first computer in 1986. In 1987, the 10th Annual Trade Show hosted 126 exhibitors and 4155 visitors, each a record.

In 1990 Jerry Ginthner announced his retirement. One of his final tasks was moving the 13th annual Trade Show out of the basement of the Coliseum into the spacious new Exposition Center. With this move, the Trade Show doubled in size with 170 exhibitors in 380 booths and 6200 visitors.

In 1991 SHERWOOD WILLIAMS assumed the position of Executive Director. The Board of Directors added an associate member seat to its makeup, allowing for a voice from that segment of the membership. The Executive Committee added a fifth office to its roster, that of Past President, as an ex-officio member of the Committee. This change allowed the Executive Committee to continue to benefit from the experience and insight of this retired officer.

1995 was another year of transition as the Board assessed the internal structure of the BCA staff and its effectiveness. Lori McComb assumed the newly created position of Administrative Director. In November of 1995, DOUGLAS W. CARLSON assumed the position of Director. Doug's emphasis was in marketing and increasing community awareness of the Association. Lori's emphasis was in marketing and managing the Trade Show and other association events.

In August of 1997 the Association moved into a larger, better quality office at 1315 Directors Row. With the updated and improved office home came an updated and improved logo. The new logo and facility were designed to represent BCA as bold, strong, aggressive and poised for the 21st century.

In April of 1999, Lori Harvey was officially promoted to the position of Executive Director to allow her, along with experienced staff member, Stefanie Custer, to lead the association into the 21st century.  The 23rd BCA Trade Show expanded again in 2000 to meet growing demand for more booth space and filled the full 108,000 sq. ft. Exposition Center with a record 490 booths.  It continued to be a sold out event in 2001 and 2002.

Recent milestones for the BCA include:

  • Developing the Safety Excellence Awards in 2000.
  • Starting the BCA Construction Career Academy in 2001.
  • Establishing the Excellence in Construction awards in 2004.
  • Adding Spring & Fall Economic Development Luncheons to the calendar in 2005.
  • Adding an Architect / Engineer member classification and a new “architect” seat on the board of directors in 2006.
  • Developing a long-term strategic plan and marketing plan focused on expanding awareness of BCA as a regional organization.
  • Officially changing its name to Building Contractors Association of Northeast Indiana in 2007.
  • Creation of a Public Works member classification in 2008.
  • Surpassing one-half million dollar mark in investments with local economic development organizations in 2016.
  • Reaching a 100-year high in total membership of 285 in 2017, which includes 92 local contractors.

In 2007, the BCA invested in its own building at 536 West Cook Road in Fort Wayne as an indication of its solid foundation and commitment to serve its members well into the future.

The Young Professionals Forum started in 2011 with 50 people and has continually grown with average attendance topping 125 annually. This influx of enthusiasm and youthfulness appears to be breathing new life into the organization to build on its rich heritage for the future.

Summing It All Up...
Much has changed in the construction industry over the past century.  Exponential proliferation of technology has occurred with advances in mobile communication, lasers, Building Information Modeling, Global Positioning Systems, Ground Penetrating Radar, Lidar, project collaboration software, social media, and even drones.  All of these advancements are important, and the BCA strongly supports and encourages the practical application of such technology.  However, one thing that has remained unchanged in the past 100 years is the association’s perspective and emphasis on the people that make up the organization.  By bringing people together to build better, the future of the BCA and its members is indeed bright.

What started more than 100 years ago as a small group of local general contractors with a very limited purpose has expanded and continuously adapted to changes in the construction industry through good times and bad, growth and recession, peacetime and war.  Today, after numerous name changes, the Building Contractors Association of Northeast Indiana effectively represents the interests of a diverse membership comprised of general contractors and subcontractors (both union and nonunion), utility and heavy highway contractors, architects, suppliers, associates, and construction users.  This dynamic and resilient organization is now involved in regional economic development and remains stronger than ever poised well for the next 100 years.  The BCA “exists to serve its members,” and collectively, these members continue to provide a unified voice and powerful influence for the construction in this area – fitting of the association’s slogan – “Building Better Together.”