Romeo Milano says serving as chairman for the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) in 2014 allowed him to learn about what’s at the forefront of industry members’ minds, with prompt payment taking the spotlight.
"Sitting in on all the committees, it really opens your eyes to what’s important to a lot of the members. It was very enlightening and rewarding at the same time," he says, adding he intends to keep learning as he continues on as chair in 2015. "It’s (prompt payment) very very frustrating to members, because many of the members are subcontractors. That to me was a very loud and clear message. Now they (the provincial government) are talking about Lien Act reform to substitute for prompt payment and all the issues around that. Unfortunately, no matter how much we lobby or talk to the right people it doesn’t seem like we’re accelerating the process fast enough."
TCA President and CEO John Mollenhauer also says while 2014 was a great year for the industry in terms of the volume of work, there were still issues surrounding process as well as cost.
"It’s still the most competitive construction market in Canada by a lot," he says. "For a lot of the companies, it’s still a grind. At best margins are very skinny. I think that margins are out of sync with the high degree of risk associated with doing work in our industry. I’m dumbfounded that our industry doesn’t adjust to that. It’s more difficult now than ever to manage projects. We have more little costs. There are so many process-related changes. We are fraught with little things we have to do."
Milano and Mollenhauer acknowledged the TCA’s challenges, accomplishments and milestones during the annual general meeting and Best of the Best Awards celebration, which took place on Jan. 21 at Woodbine Racetrack.
A principal and senior project manager at Safetech Environmental Ltd., a firm that provides environmental consulting services to institutional, commercial and industrial clients, one of Milano’s key goals as chairman for 2014 was to focus on health and safety.
"They all become passionate about something specific. In Romeo’s case it’s health and safety in our industry," adds Mollenhauer. "He’s trying very hard to effect change. We’re all well aware in this game, it’s just a little bit at a time. Romeo has been a terrific chair."
Reflecting on the year, Milano says he did see some improvements and has had meetings with Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis in an effort to collaborate and reduce workplace fatalities.
But there is still work to be done.
"We’re hoping to get the message out to frontline workers," he says, adding the Ministry of Labour has made strides with its online work and making the message apparent. "It’s very visible. But sadly to say we still had 20 deaths in 2014. That’s disheartening and discouraging. We just have to work harder. I think the building blocks are there. The work’s been done, it’s just getting that message to the workers."
Previously, the Daily Commercial News reported that Milano began his career with the TCA in the early ’90s sitting on the education and career committee. From there, he helped start and sat on the environment committee, eventually serving as the committee’s chair for several years before becoming chairman of the board.
Milano says one of the challenges for the TCA specifically this year is maintaining and increasing membership. While there have been successes in creating a presence online through social media, rebranding and engaging youth, more needs to be done.
"There’s a lot of competition dollars. Every year there seems to be more and more associations popping up," he says. "The TCA represents all walks of life in construction. I think that’s why we have a stronger voice because we can relate all of those messages as one voice, as opposed to self-serving only for one particular group. The challenge is to be able to let members know that there is value in staying on as a TCA member."