Richard R. Fisher was recently installed as president of Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts (ASM), the commonwealth’s leading trade association for the subcontracting industry. He is president of Red Wing Construction, of Beverly.
In addition to his serving as a member of ASM’s Board of Directors, he is a former director of the Architectural Millwork Institute, and a member of the Massachusetts Building Congress and the Lean Construction Institute.
High-Profile had the opportunity to interview him regarding his hopes and plans for the future of ASM.
HP – Tell us about your involvement with ASM and what led you to become president?
RF – I first got involved about 10 years ago recognizing the power of associations to change an industry and provide individual companies with the resources to succeed in their day-to-day business operations. For much of the past decade I have been actively involved in the association’s legislative efforts – in particular, the campaign that led to the passage of Prompt Pay Law in 2010.
RF – After being so active for so long a period, it becomes almost natural to progress through the officer positions. It was a privilege to be asked to serve as President, and I am excited to see what a difference we can make as a board team in the next couple of years.
HP – What would you most like to accomplish during your term? While staying active in ASM’s legislative efforts, as President I’d like to focus on strengthening the association’s educational and technical assistance programs, and its members’ access to business resources.
RF – ASM has been the preeminent organization for subcontractors in Massachusetts for decades, and my goal is for it to become an even more significant presence, and be recognized even further by the legislature, the business community, and the construction industry. Given the importance of the construction industry to the state’s economy, and the critical role that subcontractors play, there’s no reason why that can’t happen.
HP – What are ASM’s top priorities for the membership in 2014.
RF – • We’d like to expand our educational offerings & technical assistance programs – which members have long considered one of the most important services we provide.
Already our Program Committee has a pretty robust schedule in the works for 2014.
• We also want to provide more opportunities for members to network with general contractors and other potential customers and business partners – through our own events and through joint programs with other industry groups. This is an industry built on relationships, and we want to do all we can to provide members with opportunities to further those relationships ,,, and to encourage owners and GCs to look to ASM for the professionals they need for their projects.
• And finally, we want to bring more attention ASM Health Insurance Co-op as the place for ASM members to obtain high quality health insurance plans for their employees at competitive, members-only rates. ASM’s cooperative is one of just five that have been approved in the state to allow group purchasing by small business groups. The co-ops were designed to give small businesses some of the same leverage that larger businesses have long enjoyed, while also promoting wellness and driving down premium costs over time. While the federal Affordable Care Act has changed some of the rules for the cooperatives, our program is still a good deal – and ASM is working to get that message out to the members. We’re also working closely with other business groups to seek a waiver of the federal rules to allow the cooperatives to continue using Massachusetts special “rating factors” to achieve savings. With so much uncertainty in the health care market right now, it’s hard to say what 2014 will bring, but we’re determined to continue offering this good option to our members as long as it remains available.
HP – What about the political arena? What issues will you be dealing with on Beacon Hill?
RF – • ASM has always been known for our strong advocacy for subcontractors, and that tradition will continue. It’s in our mission to do all we can protect and promote subcontractor rights. But at the same time, we make it a point to be fair to all parties to the construction process. Our goal is to restore balance to an industry that has become seriously out of whack, and achieve a fair business environment that makes it possible for businesses at all levels to succeed.
• Specifically, we’ve been part of a group working on reforms to public construction… and we will continue to work to make sure the reforms are reasonable to subcontractors and don’t have harmful unintended consequences.
• We are working with another group on legislation that will fix some loopholes in the lien law and stop the erosion of subcontractor lien rights that has resulted from a string of bad court decisions that are contrary to the intent of the law.
• And finally, our top priority is legislation to fix the problems caused by the standard withholding of “retainage” from payments due to a contractor on private work. Typically, the retainage holdback amounts to 10% of every payment. The work is done and the money has been earned, but it is withheld as assurance the work is satisfactory. But it is typically held for many months after the work is done – and even long after the entire project is done. It’s too much, and it’s held too long. Setting limits on this is our top priority, and is not just an issue here in Massachusetts. It is something that has already been addressed in many other states, and it’s time for Massachusetts to do something about it, too.
HP – What can you tell us about the new ASM Young Professionals Group?
RF – We have been talking about this for a few years now – but it took some of ASM’s “next generation” young professionals to make it happen. A few of them got together this year and are now working to plan their kickoff event early in the new year. They expect to offer a variety of activities that provide an opportunity for both learning and networking – while having fun in the process.
The YP Group follows the lead of other similar groups in the industry, and is an important way to develop our future leaders, and encourage them to develop the professional relationships that are so important to success in this industry.
HP – Can you explain about the first ASM Pinnacle Award that was presented at the November Dinner Gala?
RF – This was an Award established just this year to recognize an individual who had shown extraordinary support and service to ASM over the course of many decades – Atty. Jerrold Olanoff of the construction law firm of Corwin & Corwin. Anyone who knows Jerry knows the unique individual he is – an excellent lawyer as well as a contractor at heart. We wanted to create a special award for a special individual, in recognition of the breadth of his support to the Association – offering legal advice, giving presentations, preparing legislation, etc. – over such a long period of time. No one has done more.
It’s possible that the Award will be presented again, but there are no plans to do so on a regular basis. We want to keep it special.
HP – What are some of the calendar events the association is working on for 2014?
RF – We will have quite a range of programs this year, starting with a program on marketing basics in January; economic forecast in February; and building your project backlog in March, which we are presenting jointly with the Construction Financial Management Association. We’ll also be covering insurance issues, public bidding, contract negotiation and other topics later in the year.New this year will be a panel we’re putting together for the spring, with several general contractors, where they will offer tips and advice to subcontractors on what they are looking for in subcontractors today – what it takes to be considered for their team. We are also planning a repeat of our popular general contractor showcase in the fall, where we invite 20 or so of the state’s leading general contractors to take part in a unique, user-friendly networking event. At the same time, we will be continuing our popular “Safety Roundtables” every two months, offered in partnership with OSHA and the MA Division of Labor Standards.
In short, we will be offering a wide range of educational opportunities for our members, in an effort to serve not just company owners, but all members of their management team.