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Friday, April 24, 2009

The recession and the Ontario General Contractors Association

Attendance has declined for the first time in the six year history of the Ontario General Contractors Annual Symposium.

Here are two signs we are in a recession. The number of sponsors who paid money and/or services to market their services to general contractors at the Ontario General Contractors Association Annual Symposium increased to record (I think 59 total) levels. But attendance declined for the first time in the event's six year history. And, perhaps more disturbingly, I saw lots of empty seats at the first night dinner. Could this be a situation like a "sold out" hockey game where people with prepaid seasons tickets didn't show?

This blog entry is on the fly and maybe I have things wrong. But I sense the challenge is stress. As OGCA President Clive Thurston told the gathering, he is noticing a surge of bidding opportunities with new and unfair provisions transferring undue risk to the general contractors and/or requesting far too much information and detail at the initial stage of the bidding process. (The OGCA's position is simple: If the job is a fixed price project, does the owner really need to know how the contractor achieves this price, including the costs and names of individual sub-trades and project components?)

So, if you are a contractor and things aren't going quite right, can you justify the cost (even though it is highly subsidized through sponsorship), of a full day's learning sessions on Friday, plus two nights accommodation at the Blue Mountain Resort? The answer should be, of course "yes" -- with high speed Internet and blackberries you can certainly keep in touch with your business while attending this sort of event -- but the practical aspects of business, stress, and economic restraint still stand in the way of attending.

Of course the converse of low members' attendance is higher sponsorship. If fewer contractors are buying stuff (because they are able to sell less of their services, and often only at margin-busting prices), then the businesses which sell stuff to contractors of course have to work harder to find business themselves. So they engage in the rational marketing approach of reaching out to the relevant market through events like the OGCA Symposium.

As today progresses, I'll test the assumptions in this blog entry. Perhaps I'll edit it tonight rather than leaving it as written for posterity.

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