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GCAA workshop continues to raise the bar

By |  April 17, 2020
More than 650 people participated in the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo back in February, setting a new high for attendees. Photo: Tom Smarch Photography

More than 650 people participated in the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo back in February, setting a new high for attendees. Click to enlarge | Photo: Tom Smarch Photography

Linda Moore vividly remembers the very first Georgia Construction Aggregate Association (GCAA) Management Workshop & Expo she took part in.

It was February 1989, and Moore had just joined the GCAA staff two months earlier. As she recalls, the 1989 event included about five vendors and probably fewer than 50 people attended.

“Everything I put into the show went into one box,” says Moore, who continues to serve GCAA today as member services manager. “It was tiny, and I thought it was big at the time. All we had was a program and name badges – that was it.”

Consider, then, just how far the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo has come in Moore’s 31-plus years. The 2020 edition, held Feb. 19-20 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, drew more than 650 people and featured 88 exhibitors. Eleven exhibitors participated in GCAA’s workshop for the first time.

All of these numbers represented single-year records for the workshop.

“Last year, we had about 575 total attendees,” Moore says. “About three weeks prior to [the 2020 event], we were right around 600. We registered 20 people or so [the weekend before the event] and about 15 on-site. It is a record, and it’s really a lot of people when you think about this small area.”

Jeff Wansley, the executive director of GCAA who joined the association in 2015, attributes the show’s growth to a couple of key factors.

“I feel like it’s a pretty well-run event,” he says, “but it shows you how Atlanta and Georgia have grown. This is the No. 1 state to do business in. There’s a lot of growth and opportunity here.”

If you build it, they will come

Having put in nearly a half-century to the industry, NorX’s Doug Glaze has experienced the evolution of the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo more than anyone. Photo: P&Q Staff

Having put in nearly a half-century to the industry, NorX’s Doug Glaze has experienced the evolution of the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo more than anyone. Click to enlarge | Photo: P&Q Staff

Doug Glaze, the CEO at NorX, has also seen the GCAA Management Workshop & Expo blossom across multiple decades.

Glaze, who has put 47 years into the industry and now sits on the GCAA board of directors, characterizes the event as a true international workshop. That’s high praise for a show whose producer members are confined within the Peach State’s borders.

“Companies from all over the world are represented here – from Ireland, Germany, France, Europe, Spain, China,” says Glaze, a dealer whose company is classified as an associate member of GCAA. “It became an international workshop about five or six years ago.”

Aggregate industry suppliers are ultimately drawn to the GCAA event because aggregate producers see the value. More producers are sending their leaders, particularly the decision-makers suppliers seek out.

“People have classified this as the ‘mini Con/Agg,’” Glaze says. “As an associate member, we want to see the president and all of his VPs, but we also want to see the plant manager, the foremen and the people who make decisions. Once they started doing that, we followed here in time.”

The GCAA Management Workshop & Expo now has so many participating exhibitors that it recently outgrew a Cobb Galleria Centre ballroom that long housed all of the booth spaces. A number of exhibits now spill into a major hallway that attendees navigate anyway to reach the main ballroom.

“We had 11 new exhibitors in one year,” Glaze says. “That’s why we have exhibitors outside the ballroom.”

Finding value

With 11 new associate members at GCAA, the number of exhibitors participating in the expo leapt to a record 88. Photo: Tom Smarch Photography

With 11 new associate members at GCAA, the number of exhibitors participating in the expo leapt to a record 88. Click to enlarge | Photo: Tom Smarch Photography

While GCAA producer members had the opportunity in February to visit with 88 exhibitors, the number of producer attendees has grown largely because of the educational program the association offers.

Hanson’s Scott Dickson, for example, has identified several opportunities at the workshop for his plant managers and supervisors.

“They get a good education, and we’re able to get producer members to put on educational classes,” says Dickson, vice president and general manager at Hanson Aggregates Southeast, who currently serves GCAA as board president. “It’s one of the few industry associations around the country that have the resources coming from the members to put on development programs for managers.”

Dickson values the fact that the workshop is very targeted, providing opportunities for Hanson’s operators to become more efficient.

“As a general manager, I don’t run the business – our plant managers do,” he says. “So we make sure the association helps people at the plant level have success. We want to expose them to the newest technologies and vendor innovations that can make their operations more efficient.”

Wansley agrees those are factors driving producers to the workshop.

“We’ve honed the programs down to quality speakers, quality integration with Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) and then quality time with the people who pay to have a booth,” he says. “I think it’s all of those factors. It’s location. We get good reviews on where we are.”

Word of the GCAA workshop’s success made its way over the years to directors of other state aggregate associations, as well. The director of one other state aggregate association attended this year’s workshop to glean ideas for his own annual conference, and other state association directors have attended to learn what can be replicated back home.

“That’s huge,” Wansley says. “I told my board that I hope you get to meet my [state association] counterpart, because they’re here to see what we’re doing right.”

That other state associations continuously look to GCAA for its workshop success is flattering to Moore.

“We are told all the time that we’re the best association, at least in the Southeast,” she says.

Reaching new highs

Linda Moore, left, and Jeff Wansley have been working together at GCAA since 2015. Photo: P&Q Staff

Linda Moore, left, and Jeff Wansley have been working together at GCAA since 2015. Click to enlarge | Photo: P&Q Staff

Of course, the business-friendly environment of Georgia is yet another reason why the workshop excels. Replicating the environment is one thing other association directors cannot do, but GCAA and its members will continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor within the bustling Peach State.

“The GDOT representative told all of our folks: ‘Are ya’ll going to have the product for all of the projects we’re getting ready to run?’ That’s pretty good to hear from GDOT,” Wansley says. “They want [producers] to be ready for when they’re about to hit you.”

Yes, the good times are rolling in Georgia, but the workshop, as Moore recalls, wasn’t always the destination that it is now. Moore’s earliest years at the workshop were quiet, she says, and there wasn’t much action at the event.

Oh, how the times have changed.

“When we started out, the association didn’t have many committees,” Moore says. “The only committee we had was the membership committee, but then we went to safety and the environment.

“We didn’t always have Tuesday morning sessions, but we wanted to bring DOT in,” she adds. “Then, we thought for the people who aren’t QC (quality control) who are here, that we wanted to do something for them. So we added a second track. This year, it was human resources. Last year, it was industry issues. Sometimes it’s safety.”

As Glaze describes, Moore is “the soul” of GCAA and will be difficult to replace once she decides to retire. Much of the workshop’s growth and success is a testament to her hard work, according to Glaze.

“We’re going to outgrow this place one day,” Glaze says of the Cobb Galleria Centre.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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