Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association with over 22,000 member organizations. ABC focuses on helping members develop people, win contracts, and deliver their work safely, ethically, and profitably to benefit their communities. The ABC membership represents all specialties in the construction industry, with a primary focus on industrial and commercial construction.
ABC was founded in 1950 when seven contractors gathered in Baltimore, MD to create an association based on the shared belief that construction projects should be awarded on the basis of merit to the most qualified and responsible low bidders. The courage and dedication of those seven contractors – Charles Mullan, C.K. Wells, Jr., Philip Cloves, Ernest Shultz, Edward Colwill, Charles Knott and Edward Dickinson – helped to quickly spread the merit shop philosophy, making ABC the fastest growing association in the United States.
When these seven contractors came together in Baltimore to form ABC, their main goal was survival amidst the Building & Construction Trades Department’s efforts to limit opportunities to union-only companies. The group chartered its first four chapters in 1957 and had about 500 member companies. At the time, open shop contractors only represented about 15 percent of the U.S. construction workforce. Today, as a result of their efforts, ABC has 70 chapters with over 22,000 members and open shop firms comprise 85.9 percent of the U.S. construction workforce.
Thanks to ABC members standing up for their belief that projects should be awarded based on merit, union violence against open shop firms has largely subsided. Unfortunately, regulatory tactics and backroom political deals continue to threaten nonunion construction businesses. ABC is an ally so that no contractor has to deal with its problems alone, whether it’s recruiting and training craft professionals, improving safety performance, advancing local competition legislation, or educating other business owners that merit shop contractors are the preferred source of construction services.
On a national level and throughout the entire organization, ABC’s mission is to advance the merit shop construction philosophy, and encourage open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based on merit alone.
This mission is accomplished several ways. As a foundation, ABC is the industry’s voice in government – federal, state, and local – and the news media. ABC deals with issues on an industry-wide basis through its national office and its 69 member chapters throughout the country. ABC’s activities include government representation, legal advocacy, education, workforce development, communications, technology, recognition through national and chapter awards programs, employee benefits, information on best practices, and business development through an online contractor search directory.
In 1968, a group of local construction association members were finding it difficult to bid on construction projects because their companies were not signed to unions. At the time, over 70% of construction projects were built with union contractors and union labor. Several of these leaders went to Washington, D.C., and met with the national ABC leaders. By September of 1969, the ABC-Florida Gulf Coast Chapter was officially launched with 85 members.
ABC Gulf Coast now represents more than 400 member companies with an elected board of directors and a multitude of committees supported by professional staff. Both membership and the board include general contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, and professional associates, such as attorneys and other professionals who work with the industry. Based in Tampa and one of five regional chapters in the state of Florida, the Gulf Coast chapter spans the west coast of Florida from Gainesville south to Naples and east to Polk County.