Located in Arlington, VA, The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) is the premier national trade association for the union construction and maintenance industry. TAUC is made up of construction firms that utilize union labor for their projects, as well as local contractor associations and vendors in the industrial maintenance and construction fields. With TAUC’s IGI conference coming up soon, DADO spoke with Todd Mustard, VP of Industry Innovation and Government Affairs to get his thoughts on the direction of innovation in construction. In this insightful interview, Todd shares a little about himself, discusses his approach toward encouraging innovation in construction on a national scale, and provides a prediction on what’s next.
Q: Can you tell us how you first got your start in the Construction trades, and how that path led to your current role at TAUC?
A. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, I got a job at AOL during the Time Warner merger. In effect, my first job out of college was working on a high-tech corporate campus. With the merger came a lot of shifts and organizational change which drove my decision to look for other opportunities. In my search, I ended up at the NEA – The Association of Union Constructors – the predecessor to TAUC -- at a time when the association was in the process of changing both the brand and the organization itself. This pivotal window in time was the launching pad that led to my role at TAUC.
Q. In your role as VP of Industry Innovation and Affairs, what does a typical day look like for you?
A.There really is no typical day. It all depends on the time of year; it depends on when Congress is in session and what piece of legislation or regulation is moving on Capitol Hill. But my top priority on the innovation side is always giving contractors the tools and knowledge necessary to compete and thrive in an increasingly technology-driven industry. Throughout the year, I staff TAUC’s Innovation & Technology Committee, composed of a range of influential companies across the country. And I am often connecting with the Venture Capital community to identify new companies within their portfolios that TAUC members should know about. It’s really all about keeping our folks informed at both the macro- and micro-level.
Q: What is IGI, and what need does it serve?
A. The Industrial Grade Innovation Conference and Expo (IGI) was created by TAUC to bring owners, contractors and labor together to learn and experience both new and existing technology.
I’d like to see IGI become the construction industry’s version of TechCrunch. Every year, the event features forward-thinking keynote speakers, pertinent breakout sessions, and the IGI Start-Up Battle. Our focus is on industrial construction and maintenance, which requires a higher level of skill and typically must be performed quickly in short windows of time. The event is designed to give attendees a well-rounded knowledge base and empower union contractors to compete more effectively.
Our philosophy is rooted in the tripartite concept. Contractors, tradespeople, and owner clients are brought together in one event to create an ecosystem of sharing and fostering new relationships. We love to demonstrate what is out there. The exhibitors and speakers bring fresh content to our members, which in turn increases adoption.
With COVID-19, this year’s IGI conference is meeting the challenges, like many of us, by going virtual. We are going to create a unique boutique experience for the C-suite; it is a Davos-style event for the construction industry. The IGI Start-up Battle is going to have a March Madness-style format featuring 16 start-ups, 8 battles, via social media. Anyone can vote.
Q. With regard to Innovation and Technology, what steps do you take to keep members informed on construction technologies?
A. IGI is the apex of our yearly activities. The event showcases what is out there and how it can be used by our members.
Q. What kind of feedback are you receiving from membership?
A. The feedback has changed since the inception of IGI. Members understand why we are promoting innovation and technology. A lot of our members are astounded by the amount of innovation happening in our industry. They often say it would have been amazing to have this kind of innovation occur when they were at the beginning of their careers. The younger generation knows innovation is happening but often does not have the ability to keep track of it as their time is spent on the critical functions of their own jobs and careers. TAUC is helping to showcase the depth and breadth of what’s taking place, while synthesizing it for our members ultimately providing them with additional value.
Q. Has Covid-19 shifted the importance of adopting new technologies within membership?
A. The pandemic has opened the wallets of some customers to try X, Y and Z if it makes people feel safe.
Wearables have an important role in the pandemic world. If there is an outbreak, we can pinpoint it with accuracy. Adversely, there’s somewhat of an issue with anonymity – people want to take advantage of new technology but also maintain their privacy and safeguard their personal information.
Q: What are some of the more interesting technologies (maybe top 3)?
- Cloud based project management systems.
- 3D Printing
- Building Material Innovation
Q: What are some examples of innovative practices that your members are doing that might be good to share with our readers?
A. Some of the larger companies are creating Corporate Venture arms to help foster and finance the development of technologies that will have true ROI.
Q: What keeps you up at night as it relates to the continued success of your members?
A. I am concerned that the small companies may get displaced due to the tech-related efficiency gains of their larger competitors. There is also the concern that some innovative advances may result in the elimination of jobs. But ultimately, I believe through the strategic utilization of innovation and technology construction and maintenance can flourish along with the people in it.
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