It’s going to take a lot more than a global pandemic to slow the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) down. In fact, the organization was not only prepared to face the challenges ushered in by COVID-19, it has found ways to leverage the circumstance in its favor to accelerate change and spur growth.
The National Electrical Contractors Association is the voice representing the $171 billion electrical contracting industry. The organization has a history that spans over a century and it continues to demonstrate its staying power and relevance as it adapts to its new reality. Currently, its staff are working remotely, but the association and its members are more connected and driven than ever before.
Part of the reason for the continued growth and success of NECA is its leadership. Since April 2019, David Long has served as CEO of the association. With over forty years of experience in electrical contracting, Long is no stranger to NECA or the electrical industry and has big plans for the future.
For Long, throughout his career, “Being involved in NECA was just part of who we were as an organization. It not only brought us education, it brought us partnerships from around the country, leadership development, opportunities across the board. It brought us advocacy. As CEO, if I do my job right, being a NECA member is part of your business model. You’re not a member; it’s a division of your company.”
Long endeavors for all NECA members to adopt this sentiment, and to do so, he understands that it will take a lot of work, including a culture shift. He wants the organization to, “take on the life of the contractor members,” something he is deeply passionate about.
“I hope and pray every day that this association becomes our contractor members because that’s what we’re here for. I want to get to the point that we’re so in tune with our contractor members to the point where we really and truly begin to lead our contractor members to change by understanding who they are, not who we want them to be,” said Long.
Long has been where his contractor members have been. He has experienced what they experience and he understands their needs, which gives him a unique perspective from which to lead. This is especially true of his experience with disaster response in the context of COVID-19.
“Coming from the contracting industry and as a contractor where we ran disaster recovery processes with hurricanes and fires and earthquakes and floods, the pandemic didn’t catch me off guard because I had been versed in how to handle a disaster situation,” Long explained, and he got to work right away making sure his team was safe as they adapted to their mobile workplaces and new realities.
Safety has taken on a new meaning in the context of COVID-19. Already a priority of the association, safety measures were enhanced in the wake of the pandemic. A simple tagline that originated with Long but quickly distilled itself in the hearts and minds of the staff and contractor members, “We got this!” has become a rally cry that is being echoed throughout the organization.
Part of the COVID-19 response necessitated the adaptation of the annual convention and trade show. This year’s NECA 2020 LIVE is still coming to attendees but in a less traditional sense – it is moving online in a convenient, virtual form and will take place October 6 to 8, 2020. Moving the convention and trade show online wasn’t a stretch for NECA, since the association already offered resources and online education through virtual classrooms, but NECA 2020 LIVE takes it to the next level with guest speakers and an interactive trade show floor. As Long noted, “Even in this form, it remains the premier event in the industry.”
He explained, “We’re going to have education sessions and seminars like never before, and our members can not only watch it when it happens, they can retain the videos and webinars for 30 days,” enabling a greater number of people within the participating member companies and others in the industry to take advantage of the content after the fact.
Content will run all day during this year’s Convention and come in the form of 24 educational huddles that will last 20 minutes each, 36 educational seminars that will last 40 minutes each, and 24 trade show education sessions that will last 30 minutes each, and attendees will still have the same great opportunities to network and interact with key exhibitors and industry partners.
The move to a digital convention and trade show is just one of the changes the association is undergoing. When it is time to get back to work, NECA’s staff will be returning to a new environment, as it is moving its headquarters from Bethesda, Maryland to Washington, D.C. The D.C. headquarters will enable NECA to be proximate to the policy epicenter, bringing it closer to industry organizations and government representatives and legislators, and reducing the time and efforts spent travelling for meetings.
Logistically speaking, Long explained, “It puts our organization in the position to be relevant at all levels from the legislative level, to the White House, to all the trade partners, to our members – everyone across the country.” It will also serve as a source of pride for its members and its staff alike.
The modern facility will be a place for the revitalized organizational culture to come to life, a home from which its staff and members can thrive and where every aspect of the industry is reflected in the facility design, making it a source of pride for the association. It also makes room for the growth NECA has been experiencing, as an increasing number of companies are recognizing it as an essential service.
Since January, NECA has seen online registration for its education resources skyrocket, with more than 22,000 registrants connecting virtually to take advantage of the resources available to them. That growth has also been reflected in growing membership numbers. With over 4,000 member companies, 118 chapters across the United States and a global presence through its international chapters, NECA has proven its value to its members and the electrical industry, especially during these uncertain times.
As an organization, NECA’s job is to help minimize the risk its member companies face. From Long’s perspective, the association, “helps them protect and project: protect their people and at the same time project the future of their organization.”
Discussing the future of NECA, Long noted, “I want our staff to really understand that we have to be ever-transforming and I want our staff to understand that I want them to dream big because we know change is going to happen. I not only want our staff to be a part of it; I want our staff to initiate change in the electrical industry and in the workplace and the goal is for NECA to be the example.”
The association’s aim is to increase the growth and prosperity of NECA members while growing the industry by an additional 10 percent by 2025. Long credited his staff with being proud, engaged, excited, and ready for what is next. He concluded by saying, “We’ve got this. You haven’t seen anything yet.”