AGC Nevada chapter turns 80 years old: ‘As a group, we have a voice’
RENO, Nev. — Back in the 1930s, a group of general engineers in Nevada struggled to get the highway funding they needed from the state.
At the time, the federal government was spreading around Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal money and the Nevada group needed connections and resources from the nation’s capital to gain more clout in the state legislature.
With that, in 1939, this group of men joined the Associated General Contractors of America, forming the Nevada Chapter AGC. Their mission, according to the organization, was (and still is) to improve the quality of construction in the Silver State and protect the public interest with skill, integrity, and responsibility.
Eight decades later, Nevada AGC has not wavered on its pursuit. From fighting for infrastructure funding to creating the state’s charter school program to spearheading charity projects, Nevada AGC has helped build and bolster the state’s construction industry over its 80 years going strong. Moreover, the organization is a backbone of the community.
“We’re just involved in the community and looking out for the community’s interests,” said Frank Lepori, former AGC president (2009) and owner of Sparks-based Frank Lepori Construction. “All of your sewers, all of your utilities, all of your water … every time you want the faucet to come on, the lights to turn on or the toilet to flush, they’re looking at those problems with the counties, cities and states, trying to figure out how we can get this fixed or repaired.”
Lepori said he first got involved with Nevada AGC in the early 2000s when he took its safety program. Instantly, he saw the value the organization brings to a business. Along with job site safety training, the organization offers everything from vocational education to networking opportunities to legislative and regulatory monitoring at the federal, state and local level.
“I think the biggest thing for me is, they’re looking out for the industry,” Lepori said. “(Whether you’re) union, non-union, subcontractors, vendors … they look out for everyone’s best interests. And as a group, we have a voice.”
Nate Roach, current Nevada AGC president, agrees. Notably, AGC presidents have one-year terms that start in March.
“The mission is to provide a place for contractors to voice their opinions and concerns and collaborate on potential solutions to the problems that we all face,” said Roach, president of Gradex Construction Co. “We come together under one roof, put the (proverbial) swords and guns down and collaborate on issues that are germane to all of us contractors so AGC can work towards the solutions.”
As an example, Roach pointed to the fact that AGC was “instrumental” in getting the construction defect laws changed to be “less onerous” on builders. Since the 2015 law passed, the number of construction defect lawsuits has dropped by nearly 90 percent from the 2014 peak, according to Applied Analysis.
“That has gone a long way toward decreasing a lot of the costs associated with housing,” Roach explained. “Back when the lawsuits were rampant, builders were having to protect themselves by increasing prices to provide for all the insurance it required to defend their positions.”
The organization, Roach said, also worked to pass a pair of regional gas tax measures to build new and improve existing roads in the state.
“AGC has long advocated for getting our fair share of the fuel tax dollars so that we can continue to improve our infrastructure,” he added.
There’s plenty more Nevada AGC has spearheaded. The organization worked to build a new engineering lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1987, and started a private campaign to raise matching dollars for a state-of-the-art earthquake research testing facility at the school.
In addition, Nevada AGC does a lot of benevolent work for the community through charitable building projects, Roach said. Some of the projects include John Champion Park, Truckee Meadows Boys and Girls Club, and the Veterans Guest House, among many others.
Most recently, the Nevada AGC rebuilt the entrance to the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Reno — Nevada’s only dedicated Civil War cemetery. The project earned the Nevada chapter the AGC of America Chapter Public Relations Award.
In addition to supporting the companies and crews operating within the construction industry, Nevada AGC is also working to grow the next generation of workers. In doing so, the organization worked with the state legislature to create the state’s charter school program and its first charter school, Academy for Career Education (ACE) High School in Reno, which focuses on construction and vocational curriculum.
“We’re in the middle of a huge booming economy here in Northern Nevada,” said Sandoval, senior project manager at RHP Mechanical Systems. “I think it’s a great time to be in construction right now. Manpower and skilled labor is obviously a challenge. You’re seeing a lot more young people getting back involved in construction; you’re seeing a lot more women in construction. People are seeing that it’s OK to go into the construction industry, and you can make a great living doing it.”
Robert Sandoval, president of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), which operates under the Nevada AGC umbrella, said exposing and educating young industry leaders is especially important right now in the region.
The goal is to benefit Northern Nevada’s agriculture and ranching industries by developing solutions to environmental effects created by current concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.