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.


During 1970, President DICK LEHMAN and the directors approved a trust agreement creating the Northeastern Indiana Construction Advancement Foundation (NICAF). Established to improve and advance the construction industry, NICAF still actively pursues this goal.


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 (formerly McComb) was promoted to the position of Executive Director. The new millennium came and saw the 23rd BCA Construction Trade Show expand for the third time because of exhibitors' growing demand for more booth space. The "new show" filled the full 108,000 square feet of the Coliseum Exposition Center with a record 490 booths. It continued to be a sold out event in 2001 and 2002.


Milestones for the BCA in the current decade include:

Developing the Safety Excellence Awards in 2000.
Going on-line with its website in 2001.
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.
Creation of a Construction Users member classification for 2008.


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. Also this year to help the organization strengthen its position in areas outside Allen County, the Association name was officially changed to Building Contractors Association of Northeast Indiana.


After nine decades of service, BCA stands strong accommodating the whole commercial construction industry of northeast Indiana - all types of construction firms, general and subcontracting, open shop and union, commercial, utility, heavy, and highway. With an all-time record high membership of 258 members in 2007, BCA's effectiveness in local, state, and federal issues continues to accelerate as the Association continues to expand its membership, services and programs.


Picture of Dick Lehman (left) and Bill Kerr (right) taken at the 90th Anniversary Gala

 

Summing It All Up...


What started 90 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. 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.