Associated General Contractors of America records1926-2002
- Associated General Contractors of America (Depositor, Organization)
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The origins of the AGC lie in the increased demand faced by the construction industry during the First World War. In an effort to remediate the situation and further reduce the strain on contractors, a group of twenty-seven men representing the interests of the construction industry convened at a meeting called by the United States Chamber of Commerce on July 15, 1918 in Atlantic City, N.J. Despite having overall responsibility in executing contracts with both government and private industry, contractors lacked any type of representative organization, and thus held no authority over the representatives of the U.S. Chamber. This lack of representation prompted a separate meeting of contractors held in Atlantic City to help further their interests and authoritative voice.
Upon the commencement of the meeting, Thomas T. Flagler, a contractor from Atlanta, was named temporary chairman and F. S. Robertson of Detroit temporary secretary. After adopting a resolution supporting the need for the organization of a national association of contractors, Flagler appointed a permanent board called the “Executive Committee,” which unanimously elected D. A. Garber, president of the North-Eastern Construction Company, as the AGC’s first chairman. The Committee named H. D. Hammond, managing editor of the Engineering News-Record, as secretary.
Garber was subsequently given the authority to invite other contractors to become members of the Executive Committee. Most importantly, he sought to enlist support from geographical areas not represented by members already present at the Atlantic City conference. Ultimately, Garber and Hammond felt it necessary to reconvene elsewhere, where the scope and organization of the committee could be discussed in further detail.
On November 18 and 19, 1918, contractors from twenty-four states gathered at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago, where the newly-organized Associated General Contractors of America held their first convention. With over 165 firms and twenty-four associates represented at the convention, the AGC sought to promote better relationships between private owners and government bodies, while also unifying the construction industry. By June 1919, the AGC had a total of 282 members distributed over twenty-six states and the District of Columbia, with one member from Quebec. By the end of the year, the AGC had developed chapters in several states, which primarily represented road and bridge builders.
The end of World War I promised a substantial market for contractors, particularly with the government’s push for an immense national highway system. In 1920, the AGC established divisions to handle such special projects, which included the Building, Highway, Railroad, and Public Works Divisions. Additionally, steps were taken to increase the AGC’s interest in taking on construction work for the U.S. Army, although little progress was made. Contractors cited government red tape, incompetent and autocratic administrations, inflexibility in interpretation of specifications, and distrust of contractors on the part of government engineers as objections to taking on government construction contracts.
In 1923, membership in the AGC grew to 1,404, with 355 cities represented along with thirty-three chapters. By the end of the decade, the Association extended its reach to the northeast where it organized the New England Branch, launching chapters throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Other new chapters were created in Ohio and Louisiana. Furthermore, the AGC maintained close relationships with other established trade organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1930, the AGC became an affiliate of the International Federation of Building and Public Works, which served to unite the world’s leading general contractors into a single federation. The same year, AGC spearheaded the creation of the Construction League of America, which broadly reported on issues facing contractors and the construction industry in general.
During the 1930s, several steps were taken to help alleviate national economic conditions and increase employment numbers, particularly via nationwide construction projects. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the AGC’s highway construction program by utilizing gas and motor vehicle tax funds for building roads. However, the Depression instituted a developing trend in the use of day laborers to complete public construction contracts, something that the AGC tried to prevent with the institution of a “Code of Fair Competition” through the passage of the National Recovery Act. Overall, the AGC held strong opposition toward most New Deal legislation, and in particular the Works Progress Administration. By the late 1930s, the AGC began adopting modified contracts for the performance of WPA projects, which permitted a limited participation by general contractors.
By 1940, the AGC reported total membership at 2,391 along with ninety-one chapters. Additionally, the year 1940 was the largest construction year since 1931, and the largest residential building year since the economic crash in 1929. The Second World War placed a heavy burden upon the nation’s contractors, as the need for facilities for the production of ammunition, armament, and weapons dramatically increased. By the end of the war, the construction industry had built and installed facilities at a cost of more than $52 billion.
Following the end of the war, the market for the construction industry continued to increase, as demand for residential housing developments grew considerably. By 1947, membership in the AGC had surpassed 4,000 with nearly 100 chapters throughout the United States and Canada; by 1952, membership was over 5,000 and chapters were established in the major steel-producing regions of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, bringing the total to 120. Throughout the decade, contractors took on numerous large-scale projects, including the construction of the Grasse River Lock of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a $1.2 billion contract for the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and the $760 million Colorado River storage project, all of which included member firms of the AGC. In 1956, the federal government awarded the first batch of contracts to general contractors for the building of the interstate highway system.
In the 1960s, contractors experienced a considerable increase in the volume of heavy construction public works projects and highway contracts. As a result, the AGC held its first Federal Contracts Conference to address the growing complexity of federal construction contracts. By the end of the decade, a shortage in competent, college-educated managers prompted increased efforts on the part of the AGC to institute better construction management techniques. Thus, in 1968 the AGC founded the Education and Research Foundation, which used scholarships to boost interest in the construction field and provided opportunities for education.
By the 1970s, the AGC sought to broaden its appeal to other members of the construction industry, such as distributors and suppliers, by instituting National Associate Membership. In doing so, the AGC increased its lobbying power and in 1977 created the Political Action Committee, thereby making the construction industry nearly as influential as other major economic sectors such as healthcare and energy. This proved highly beneficial to the AGC when, in 1982, President Reagan signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which added a five cent per gallon gas tax increase that provided an additional $5 billion for infrastructure projects.
Throughout the 1990s, the AGC began to focus on remedying a number of issues that plagued the construction industry. In 1991, the AGC promoted the concept of “Partnering,” a management technique designed to improve outcomes by creating working relationships, thus resolving any ongoing disputes before projects began. Additionally, the AGC released a strategic plan in 1995, which addressed a range of concerns spanning from labor relations to technological improvement. Five years later, the organization unveiled its “Platform for Building America,” a program covering similar issues as well as infrastructure, taxes, regulations, safety, the environment, and workforce development. In order to stimulate growth in both the economy and the construction industry following the economic recession of 2008, the AGC released its Construction Industry Recovery Plan in the following year. The plan identified measures that local, state, and federal officials should take to improve demand for construction projects on every level.
As of 2018, the Associated General Contractors of America remains the largest organization representing the interests of the construction industry, with over 26,000 member firms and eighty-nine chartered chapter affiliates nationwide.
Series I: Annual convention and board meeting reports, is divided into two subseries, each arranged chronologically within.
Series II: Executive Committee, is arranged alphabetically by document type or subject and then chronologically.
Series III: History, is arranged numerically by chapter.
Series IV: Policy statements, is arranged alphabetically by document type or subject.
Scope and Content
Biannual and annual published board meeting and convention reports document the AGC’s activities through detailed synopses of the Association’s various sub and joint committees. These reports, submitted to the board by both the executive committee as well as each AGC subdivision, primarily consist of directive rulings and resolutions on federal economic policy, effects of legislative changes on future committee actions, as well as policy decisions and recommendations on a variety of other subjects. Basic organizational matters are also discussed. Proceedings from the AGC’s annual conventions are incomplete for the 1930s, but existing reports from the 12th, 13th, and 14th conventions (1931-1933) offer some insight into the organization’s response to Depression Era legislation.
Digests of directive actions taken by the Associated General Contractors of America’s executive committee at their regular meetings document the AGC’s activities in its most summary form. Unlike the annual convention and board meeting reports, the digests offer a more general synopsis of only the executive committee's meetings, which occurred several times per year. A variety of issues and the committee's subsequent rulings on them are discussed, some of which include reactions to economic policy and legislation, financial reports, construction management, membership development, association dues, committee appointments, union settlements, insurance and workmen’s compensation procedures, labor matters, and regional meetings and conventions. Also included with the digests are reports submitted by divisions within the AGC, although they are not exhaustive.
Additionally, there is information regarding nominating committees at each level, including for division officers, as well as board resolutions for contractual bidding and awarding practices. An unpublished typescript history of the Associated General Contractors of America covers the AGC from its organization in 1918 through the year 1965.
Lastly, general policy statements adopted by the AGC on matters such as labor relations, ethics, safety and health, environment, and industry relations, as well as a number of other subjects are included. Internal organizational policy is also discussed. In addition, there is a chronological timeline highlighting the AGC's opposition to the Davis-Bacon Act and its various applications, and includes resolutions adopted by the board in response to extensions of the Act by the federal government.
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- Associated General Contractors of America (Depositor, Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Associated General Contractors of America records
- Clayton J. Ruminski
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